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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Right of the People (Part 2)

Roots in Ripon
29 February 2016
Chuck Roots

The Right of the People (Part 2)

In an attempt to understand more fully what “The Right of the People” is, it is necessary for us to look at the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. My last several articles have been an effort to better realize the significance of this document that became the written catalyst which launched our nation into a world that simply did not, nor could not understand a concept of “We the People.”
The first paragraph throws down the proverbial gauntlet, not so much in daring the opponents of liberty (Great Britain), but attempting to come to a reasoned understanding of what by necessity must take place – that each group, the British Monarchy and its immense power and influence, and the rag-tag band of colonists, might resolve their differences peaceably. Was it possible to have a peaceful coexistence, or an amicable separation? Apparently not. Great Britain certainly saw no need to bow to any demands by this unwashed mass of renegade British colonists. These colonists, by default, were all British subjects anyway. Britain would not let that go. Plus there was a lot of money being made from these colonists in America. Cotton, tobacco, wood, and numerous other desired and needed products were sailing from the pristine shores of America to the gilded shores of England. The British Empire was cast around the world, boasting in having the world’s most powerful army and navy. The common phrase at the time stated, “The sun never sets on the British Empire,” even though it had not quite reached its zenith as an empire at the time the colonists fomented a revolution. This was another reason why the British came back across the Atlantic some 36 years later, thus initiating the War of 1812 in an attempt to retake the upstart colonists and end, once and for all, this wayward idea of a democratic republic.
The opening paragraph of the Declaration stipulates: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Allow me to offer a laymen’s understanding of this paragraph. To begin with, there are some assumptions made on the part of the authors of this declaration which are stunning. Throughout the course of human history there have been innumerable despots and dictators, monarchs and maniacs who have successfully run roughshod over other people. But these American colonists understood some key principles; principles that transcend man’s laws. First, and most importantly, they were absolutely convinced in the existence of an all-powerful, supreme being who we refer to as God. This simply cannot be denied. All of the writing of the Founding Fathers and the important documents make direct reference to God, and not just as a courtesy, a tip-of-the-hat, if you will, but a deep and abiding belief that God is the end-and-all of creation and beyond. So anything man endeavors on earth should have its origins in God.
The “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” denote that the desire of the human race to experience freedom from oppression and fear, and more importantly to live in such a manner as God would have ordained had man’s original sin not gummed up the works, virtually forces man to push against those who would enforce their will over others, enslaving them either to physical bondage, or emotional/psychological/spiritual bondage, or both. The species of man, Homo sapiens, cannot and will not rest until freed from such subjugation. Our very nature, created in the image and likeness of God, demands freedom. Anything less would be de-humanizing.
So, upon this platform we can better understand that the first settlers and their progeny were God-fearing to the point that they were willing to act upon their belief to be free from the tyranny of Britain – or die in the effort. Is it any surprise then that Patrick Henry so eloquently summed up his personal beliefs about freedom in 1775 when he spoke before the Second Virginia Convention these closing words which burn deep in the soul of all who love freedom. 
“They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Right of the People

Roots in Ripon
22 February 2016
Chuck Roots

The Right of the People

Several presidential candidates were being interviewed on a television news program where questions were mostly coming from people in the audience. I was intrigued by a response Dr. Ben Carson gave when asked about his running for the office of President of the United States. He said that the first thing any voter should look for in a presidential hopeful is whether the candidate has a firm grasp and understanding of our Constitution. Here’s the rub. A deplorable number of politicians in particular; and Americans in general, evince a dreadful knowledge of the Constitution and American History.
Since I have embarked on this attempt to teach and instruct my grandchildren about our nation and its core values and truths, I have been delightfully entertained while reading and rereading sacred documents that have been the bedrock of our Republic. That’s right – I said Republic. Too many of our fellow-countrymen have forgotten that we are a Republic. We are not a Democracy. We share democratic ideals, but a true democracy would be a simple majority rule. Alexis de Tocqueville called such a government the “Tyranny of the Majority”. This is not how we function. As a free people we elect those individuals we (hopefully) trust to represent us in the hallowed halls of government, from the local dog-catcher to the President of the United States. “We the People” can vote our representatives into office, and we can vote them out of office. We do not operate on the basis of a simple majority which the Founding Fathers knew would be disastrous since a majority can also be quite wrong. Eliminating majority rule removed the danger of elections becoming popularity contests, much like elections of student body leaders in high school.
I enjoy helping in Miss Ballatore’s 2nd grade class at Colony Oak Elementary where my granddaughter, Alyssa, is a student. At the start of each school day each class stands, places their right hand over their heart, faces the American flag, and recites the Pledge of Allegiance. I stand and recite the pledge right along with them. To witness this participation in honoring our nation is truly heart-warming.
You may recall that the opening line in the Pledge of Allegiance says, “I Pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands.” There’s that Republic principle again.
One of the bones of contention over the Pledge has been the short phrase, “under God”, which was officially added to the Pledge during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. Some have said it should not be used since it was not in there from the beginning. Actually, the original Pledge is markedly different from what we pledge today. Originally written by Colonel George Balch in 1887, the pledge went like this:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag, and the republic for which it stands. I pledge my head and my heart to God and my country. One country, one language and one flag.”
The original pledge included a specific reference to God. So it should come as no surprise that President Eisenhower authorized the addition of “under God” in the final revision. It took Congress until 1942 to officially recognize the Pledge for the first time. Now why does this not surprise me!?
In the early paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence we see a direct reference to “the Right of the People.” This statement is so powerful as to be easily overlooked unless we know our World History. With perhaps the theocracy of Ancient Israel (and not even that), virtually no nation has ever been ruled by “the people”. This is part of the reason that the formation of this new nation, the United States of America, was looked upon with utter fascination by the rest of the world, and referred to as that “American Experiment”. And to be perfectly honest, no one really believed we would succeed as a nation. Yet in less than one hundred years the United States was the most powerful nation economically in the entire world, primarily because of our free market enterprise system and a strong work ethic with virtually no government interference.
Next week I will continue with more of the “Right of the People”.

Monday, February 15, 2016

All Enemies

Roots in Ripon
15 February 2016
Chuck Roots

All Enemies

This is one of those articles I’ve written numerous times in my head, but have never put pen-to-paper until now.
Many of us have sworn an oath at some point or another in our lives to “protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Perhaps it was the sudden passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia the other day that has pushed me to finally wrestle with this statement in the oath I first took as a young Marine, and later as a naval officer.
I have entered into a self-made and self-determined program to teach my grandchildren to memorize certain important statements that speak directly to our freedoms and liberties. My first venture was when Alyssa was starting kindergarten two years ago. I taught her to sing the song, “50 States in Rhyme.” At the end of the school year she was invited by her teacher, Mrs. Huff, to sing the song for her class. She nailed it, and the kids all cheered and clapped. Then in first grade I was invited by Alyssa’s teacher, Mrs. Luchessi, to talk to the class about the history of our flag, and how to show proper respect toward our national emblem. At the end of my 30-minute talk, I asked Alyssa to sing the 50 States song with me which she did. Again, cheering and clapping from her fellow students.
This year, beginning last month, I am having Alyssa and Brookie memorize the “Gettysburg Address” written by President Abraham Lincoln on the back of an envelope during the train ride from Washington D.C. to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This brief two-minute masterpiece of writing and English composition is a history lesson of the American people, past, present and future.
Once the Alyssa and Brookie have the Gettysburg Address memorized, we’re moving onto the Preamble to the Constitution (“We the people of the United States . . .”), and then the opening two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence (“When in the course of human events . . .”).
Lest you think I’m having the kids learn something I already know by heart, you would be mistaken. I am memorizing these hallowed documents right along with them. It also gives me the opportunity to teach them about our American History.
It is true that if we do not know and learn from our past, “we are doomed to repeat it.”
So, at the very least, I will have grandchildren who will know what we as Americans ought to know and why.
As Americans we have the right to consent to be governed by those who are elected to office. The question that comes to my mind is at what point do we no longer accept the rule of those who are not ruling well? Protecting and defending the Constitution against foreign enemies I understand. But what about domestic enemies? Who are they? And by whose definition? How do I protect and defend the Constitution against domestic enemies? To rise up against such domestic enemies, particularly if it is your own government, could put you in a most precarious spot, offering the powers-that-be the leverage of deeming you to be an anarchist, a hater, a rebel, a troublemaker, a radical, a revolutionary, or worse.
There are those within our government working hard to remove certain rights and sections of the Constitution. This is frightening. I agree with Justice Scalia when he adroitly declared, "The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living but dead, or as I prefer to call it, enduring. It means today not what current society, much less the court, thinks it ought to mean, but what it meant when it was adopted."
This is what I believe is meant when I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. The brilliant hearts and minds that formed the Constitution thought this through so that you and I would have a solid basis upon which to entrust and exercise our rights and freedoms as Americans.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Hype & Hyperbole

Roots in Ripon
8 February 2016
Chuck Roots

Hype and Hyperbole

Boy, are we in it now!
The primaries have begun and the candidates are ramping up the rhetoric and the personal attacks just like always. Nothing new here.
If I were to believe all the slanderous comments candidates declare about each other, I would have to conclude that there’s not one of them that isn’t the spawn of hell, totally inept, incompetent to the extreme, and in all other ways a despicable human being. And these are the Republican candidates attacking each other! They’re supposed to be on the same team! The Democrats are doing the same thing. It’s just that there aren’t nearly as many candidates on their side this go-around to vilify one another. But the intensity of attacks is certainly present.
I’ve been following presidential races since Kennedy/Nixon in 1960. The ugly side of politics raised its hideous head in that election race just as it has done in 2016. If you want a good laugh, go back and see what candidates said about each other in the times of Washington and Lincoln, iconic leaders of our nation, who were painted in the most unflattering terms during their day.
What needs to be remembered is that we are a fallen people, attacking each other for real or perceived flaws in character and belief. Now, I may not agree with any or all of those seeking higher office in this republic. I’d be shocked if I did. But I do look for those whose beliefs are closest to mine. In the 44 years since I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as my Savior I have attempted to craft a strong biblical world view. The more I understand Holy Scripture, the more I understand the true nature of man. In so doing, I’m able to make a clearer choice.
In the months ahead we will be treated to more of this “hair on fire”, “doomsday” hysteria from candidates, the media, and talk shows.
A classic that has already made the headlines this week is none other than Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, scolding women who are not supporting Hillary Clinton’s candidacy by saying there’s a “special place in hell” for women who don’t support other women. Well, Ms. Albright, may I remind you that this is a free country, and as Americans we can vote for whoever we want. And stipulating gender as the reason to vote for a candidate is beneath the esteemed status you have garnered during your storied political career.
I’ve read that Ms. Albright has since apologized for her shameless rant in attempting to bully women into voting for a woman because the candidate is a woman. Then Hillary turns right around and defends Ms. Albright’s remarks. The Albright rant, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” was nothing new. Ms. Albright has used it at least since 2008, when she supported Ms. Clinton’s first run for president against Barack Obama. And feminist Gloria Steinem joined in, criticizing women who support Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders.
Time and space do not allow for a rundown of the various and sordid attacks Republicans are making about each other with the implications that anyone who votes for another candidate besides them is not very bright, not a true patriot, not being serious in their choices, and the list of veiled innuendoes is without end.
Though this quadrennial event of electing a president causes many American voters to yawn in apathy, or roll their eyes in disbelief, it is important to remember that “We the People” have the unique and awesome privilege of choosing our representatives in government by going to the polling place nearest our home and voting (or mailing Absentee, as is the choice of a growing number today). We may not like the outcome, but it is still the greatest system in the world, and is the envy of nations.
We are a scant nine months away from Election Day. Until then, we will be required to endure a seemingly endless array of primaries, each claiming to be the most important one in selecting the next President of the United States. Hang in there!
Cutting through all the hype and hyperbole of an election year, let me recommend that in making your choice you prayerfully consider the character of the candidate, and their past performance in whatever it is they have done with their lives.

And yes, I would say that God is very interested in how we choose our leaders. He blessed us with this nation. He wants to see what we will do with it. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Totally Uplifted

Roots in Ripon
1 February 2016
Chuck Roots

Totally Uplifted

There are moments in life when you are simply caught by surprise in the events or the actions of people. This past weekend Isaura and I were in the middle of one of those surprises.
We had driven to Reno last week to attend the Mid-Winter Barbershop Harmony Convention, held at the luxurious Peppermill Resort Spa and Casino. We had a terrific time with barbershop singers from all over the world. We also ran into friends we’ve known for years, as well as making new friends in this hobby we all love and enjoy. But, alas, it too came to an end late Saturday night. Sunday morning we awoke to find a significant amount of snow had fallen and accumulated on the ground. It was beautiful and brought back fond memories of snow in New England where I was born and raised. But I also remember shoveling the walkways around the house and the sidewalk, and the driveway. And I remember digging my brother’s 55 Pontiac Chief out of a snowbank when I was learning to drive. That’s another story for another time. Ugh!
The question we faced was whether we should leave Sunday in the midst of a snowfall which was projected to last until ten o’clock that evening, or wait another day, driving home Monday. That seemed like a reasonable idea until I looked at the weather forecast for Monday. The temperature was to drop well into the 20s. So, did I want to drive home in falling snow which was building up on Highway 80, our route back to California; or did I want to drive back on potentially icy roads, or at least the likelihood of “black ice”. I prefer driving on snow to ice. So we packed our luggage and set out to find a place to buy tire chains. Finally got the right size at the second Walmart we went to. There was a run on snow chains, which came as no surprise. After lunch at Applebee’s, we headed for home, figuring the early/mid-afternoon time period would be the best time when the temperature would be at its warmest in the day and might be enough to make the roads passable without having to stop and attach the snow chains. In our case they are snow cables. The tires on the BMW are fitted for cables, not chains. Though my thinking was sound in leaving during the snowfall, the weather did not cooperate.
We cruised along heading for Donner Pass, increasingly encouraged as each mile of cleared roadway slipped behind us. But, alas! T’was not to be. We were driving on a couple of inches of snow when it seemed as though everyone pulled to the side of the highway to don their chains. We followed suit. This is when the first surprise occurred.
The vehicle that stopped in front of us was an SUV and had a number of young adults inside; and the car that pulled in behind us had two young Latino men inside. I got out, opened the door to the backseat where I had placed the box with the new snow cables, and began the arduous task of putting snow cables on the rear tires. I no sooner had them in my hand when one of the young men asked if I needed help. I guess my once svelte body and gray hair caused these two guys to think I needed assistance. I said “No thanks” and went about the business of preparing the car for a bumpy ride on cables. I guess I didn’t do a very good job because these guys pulled up alongside of me as we were poking along, informing me that my cables were sliding off the tires. So, off to the side of the highway again to check things out. They stopped as well and joined right in to help reattach the cables. I began thinking these might be guys out to make a fast buck. I soon discovered that was wrong thinking.
Since we were driving the BMW, which is very low-slung, putting the chains on is a bear. Cold hands, pants and jacket wet from lying in the snow wrestling with the cables, all made for a less than pleasant experience for all of us. The two guys took the initiative and completed the job with me basically watching. One of the guys went back to their car, so I chatted with the other guy, discovering he had just recently completed his enlistment in the Army where he had served as a diesel mechanic. As he finished reattaching the cables I handed him a twenty dollar bill. He steadfastly refused the money even when I tried a second time to have him take it. I had planned to also give him one of my personal challenge coins from my time in the military. He was pleased to take that.
Earlier, after we had stopped, a Caltrans worked had told us to stay where we were because snow plows would be coming the wrong way on our side of the highway. So we sat and waited. About ten minutes later, a Nevada Highway Patrolman stopped by our car, asking us if everything was okay. I assured him we were fine, but that we had been instructed to wait before moving until a Caltrans person or Highway Patrolman authorized us to continue.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the concrete divider the eastbound traffic was a mess. A huge pileup of 29 vehicles, which included numerous cars, some pickups, and several semi-trucks, had brought that side of the highway to a dead stop which extended for miles. I had already seen one ambulance go by. Then I overheard the Patrolman mention four more were on the way.
Then the next surprise took place. Several of the big rig drivers had climbed out of their cabs and were walking around chatting with one another. One of them called over from his side of the concrete barrier to me asking if Isaura and I might need some bottled water. We thanked him for his gracious offer, but we had plenty of our own in the car. He then asked the two young men in the car behind us. A total stranger offering a drink of water to total strangers. The Bible says such an action will bring about a blessing from God.
Two fast moving snow plows roared by at which point the Nevada Highway Patrolman had us follow him until we were back on roadway that was cleared of snow. Once again we pulled over to remove the cables. Our young friends behind us did the same, once again offering to help me. As it turned out, they were a big help. Both cables had been somewhat mangled, making it very difficult to remove the offending contraptions. We freed one of the cables at which point I told them I appreciated their help, but they should go on ahead. You see, they had been traveling with the folks in the SUV I found out. Instead, they had stopped three times to help me. I shook hands with both guys, thanking them for their kindness.
I will admit that as I settled back in the car to continue our drive, I was blessed in my spirit, having seen the best in people, going out of their way in a difficult, challenging situation. They could have easily kept right on going.

So don’t give up on this tired old human race just yet. I have this experience that has lifted my soul, knowing that God is still very much at work in the lives of others.