During a physical the doctor examines and tests various aspects of your health against a variety of standards or base lines that would be ideal. For example, the doctor takes your blood pressure and compares it to what is a normal blood pressure reading. She will also take samples and get lab results for other aspects of your health. Your numbers are either in the healthy range or some may require attention (think weight and the scale). In the end the doctor will give you a “Good Job, you are in great shape.” Or “Well, we are going to have to work on a few items.” Or “I’m sorry I have some bad news for you today.”
It is customary for a person to go in for an annual checkup and get reliable results and then make a plan for the future. But how do you conduct a “physical” for a nation? How can we determine if our nation is “healthy”? One way would be to develop base line readings and then compare where we are today in relation to the base lines. The closer we are to the base lines the healthier we are as a nation.
In this case the base lines would be the standards of government established by those who created this nation and the ideals and values of the people who were there at the time. Then compare what those who followed did to either maintain our national health or to contribute to its demise.
For example, in the beginning the states were independent but knew individually they were not strong enough to protect themselves properly. Eight years of revolution and war indicated the need for some form of federal government. The federal government they designed was to be quite limited in nature. The power was to be in “We the People” not the government. We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What is the state of our national health today regarding our individual liberties and the limited power of the federal government? Hmm, maybe we need more tests to determine how we are doing.
Now, think of the Bill of Rights as being analogous to all those tests with numbers the doctor takes during your physical. For example, have we compromised our freedom of speech? Has the press remained independent in defending our freedoms or has it become complicit with one or another political party? Do we strictly protect the right to life? Do we continue to allow a free expression of religious beliefs in the public square? Do we protect states’ rights? Go through the list. Are we still a nation “Of the people, by the people and for the people,” or are we becoming a nation of the government, by the government and for the government? What is the state of the union?
Oh, what are our baselines for comparison? Here are just a few – there are many more just like them, but these few statements from three of our early leaders give us a good idea of what those who formed our government thought was important to keep us a free, strong peaceful and healthy nation.
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other,” asserted John Adams. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality or religion ...”
James Madison said: “We have staked the whole future of American Civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future or all our political institutions upon our capacity … to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Finally, this, from Thomas Jefferson: “God who gave us life also gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep.”
You read the paper. You watch the news. You know the recent decisions by our secular courts. Based on the parameters of the men who created this nation what is the state of the union?
Finally, consider the “doctor” who delivers the State of the Union address. Considering his performance, how much faith do you have that he has the right prescription for improving our national health?
James Hofmann is a retired educator and corporate trainer. He and his wife relocated to Moab in 2004.