Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Yankee Doodle, Keep It Up! (a thank-you note)
You'd rather stay home and mind your own business, like you used to, and not be called the foulest names they know. Instead, you crowd into town meetings and make your point with as much civility as circumstances will permit. When they sling mud at you for your trouble, you happily make mud pies. I salute you.
The month isn't quite half over, but I make bold to declare: August 2009 is a great month to be an American!
Yes, the economy, the Constitution, and other essential things are in peril, not that any of that is really new. The recession may have hit bottom, or perhaps just a plateau. The government is taking over banks and car companies and heaven only knows what next. They're printing money by the truckload, fairly begging for brutal inflation down the road. And the people who made the mortgage collapse possible are begging to be allowed to do the same things again, in the name of "fair housing" as before. So why am I more encouraged now than I have been in more than a year, where the welfare of my country is concerned?
This summer, and especially this month, tens or hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans, who are usually quite busy with their jobs and families and PTA meetings and church work, are wrenching themselves out of their routines and finding time to communicate forcibly to their elected representatives. Many of them have never done anything like this before, but they think they are being lied to about health care reform, among other things, and they are sick of it.
You know who you are. The opposition calls you angry and desperate, a lynch mob, extremists -- and that's just for filling the room and refusing to swallow the pablum. How dare you disagree with their schemes for your welfare? They say you are dupes and un-American. They compare you to Hitler's brownshirts and the Ku Klux Klan. They brand you as political terrorists, even dredging up the spectre of Timothy McVeigh to illustrate how thoroughly rotten and ungrateful you are for speaking your rebellious mind. They ask their friends to forward to the White House anything you may write which diverges from the party line on Obamacare, so that your errors can be corrected. They shut you out -- admittedly, somewhat reasonably -- when the crowded meeting rooms are full, and in a case or two so far -- not at all reasonably -- they send union thugs to rough you up. You know perfectly well that if some fool or hothead on your side or some ringer from the other side instigates physical violence, all of you, not just the perpetrators, will be blamed for it. But you keep coming, in larger numbers today than yesterday, and still more tomorrow.
They call you a street gang, but instead of bristling, you playfully think up gang names for yourselves, in the best tradition of the first Americans. When mocked by a British song, "Yankee Doodle," they adopted it as their own and sang its nonsensical stanzas proudly, as they forcibly extracted themselves from the mighty British Empire.
Somehow you seem to sense that the real issue here is not health care policy, but the essential American balance between personal freedom and government power, which traditionally has leaned heavily toward the former and has been highly suspicious of the latter. Can it be that what is still most American in Americans burns brightly in us once again: a visceral and philosophical love of liberty, and an unwillingness to trade it for anything?
You would rather stay home quietly and be conciliatory, kind, and uninvolved in partisan politics. But the times now require you to stand up and speak, perhaps even stridently, to leaders whom you would rather respect and mostly ignore, if only they would act in a manner which would allow you to respect and mostly ignore them. It doesn't feel good or comfortable, this thing you must do, but it feels right and necessary, so you go and speak your mind, and in doing so you prompt them to call you publicly the foulest names in their repertoire.
To be sure, the battle is not yet won, and if it is finally won someday soon, it will not be the last battle of its kind. But in August 2009 the tide is turning, and there is hope. It is not the empty, counterfeit hope on which many voters seem to have been drunk for the better part of a year, until lately. It is real, sober hope that the things which used to matter still matter. There is hope that what is essentially American about us will survive and flourish. It was not dead or dying after all; it was merely asleep or preoccupied with other things. Now it is awake and attentive and causing our noble class to tremble in its overpriced shoes, indeed, to fear for that which means most to most of them: their powerful jobs. Hope and freedom belong together; both are enemies of tyranny or, in other words, of excessive government power.
If the roles were reversed this August, the Left would be praising itself ad nauseum for the honorable act of "speaking truth to power." I dislike the condescension and smug self-congratulation which usually attends that phrase. So let us say rather that, where the shoe fits, you are speaking wisdom to fools, which is a noble thing; and speaking freedom to tyrants, which is an outright heroic thing. Let both those unfortunate demographics, along with whoever is left over, paint you in diabolical hues, if they feel they must.
Meanwhile, we kindred spirits honor you. We thank you. We note that there are more of us than of them.
We say, "Yankee Doodle, keep it up!"
Copyright 2009 by David Rodeback.