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GUEST VIEW: Democracy, liberty and sacrifice – Greenville Daily News

Saturday, October 23, 2021
Since 1854 — News from Montcalm County and Ionia County, Michigan

As a high school student many, many years ago, I fondly recall one of my best classes: Civics, taught by Mrs. Weingartz, which focused on government, politics and good citizenship.
Lou Kitchenmaster
Included was instruction on nationalism, and how Americans patriotically banded together to end the horrific polio epidemic of the time. Stories of how many voluntarily left their jobs, home and family to enlist and go off to war, etc. Commitments to democratic ideals, personal responsibility, and sacrifice for the common good. Things much larger than one’s own self.
Today we witness an erosion of many of these character-counts principles of the past. An alarming number of us have clearly endorsed the “Age of the Anti-Hero,” where high-ranking political scoundrels, con-artists and outright law-breakers are shockingly admired, exalted and defended. On the flip side, during this COVID-frenzied time where Montcalm County (as of this writing) now ranks among the top 15 in new cases per capita out of 83 counties, we see public health officials and school personnel — trying to support and protect our children and our communities — intimidated and bullied.
While a lot of the national conversation focuses on personal liberty, or one’s freedom to act and speak freely, it’s abundantly evident that far too many of us are immersed only in ourselves (“my rights” / “my liberty”), with little or no concern for others, or for the common good. Arguably, it has much to do with character, or just plain lack of it.
As we cry for unrestricted freedom, with little or no accompanying personal responsibility, we embrace democracy only when fits us, and flatly reject it when it doesn’t; we haughtily support strict law-and-order mandates for others, but not ourselves; we constantly cite the Constitution without really knowing what it says, while trying to nullify the votes of those not politically aligned with us. In the meantime, too many of us have relegated civility, empathy, honesty and other positive personal traits to a far-distant second compared to party-power and the state of the economy. Even while an excessive number of those aforementioned “leaders” have been criminally charged, indicted or jailed.
Nineteenth-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill states that freedom should be absolute when our behavior does not endanger or affect others. However, when it does, it’s outside the province of personal liberty. Pure and simple.
No doubt, Mrs. Weingartz would likely be aghast if she were with us today. Regardless, I believe she would be calling for mandatory-core civics classes in all our nation’s schools, required military/public service, and a sense of renewed personal sacrifice.
In closing, we would be wise to consider the profound, cautionary words of Charles Colson, former Nixon adviser and reformed Watergate participant: “Societies are tragically vulnerable when the men and women who compose them lack character. A nation or culture cannot endure for long unless it is undergirded by common values such as valor, public-spiritedness, respect for others and for the law; it cannot stand unless it is populated by people who will act on motives superior to their own immediate interest. When even one individual lacks the character and inner restraints necessary to subject his or her own passions to the common good, society as a whole is threatened.”
Thank you, Mr. Colson, for eloquently stating what so many patriotic Americans already keenly feel. Spot on.
Lou Kitchenmaster is a Montcalm County resident and a Vietnam-era veteran.
The opinions expressed in the Guest View do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Daily News.
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