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Standing on the shoulders of giants

I won’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed in the results of Tuesday’s presidential election. It’s not that I had confidence Romney would restore our nation to its original greatness, but I know for a fact that Obama is moving us away from our constitutional roots.

Ironically, on the night of the elections, my Scripture reading consisted of 1 Samuel 8, in which Israel demands an earthly king because they rejected God. In 1 Samuel 8:10-18, Samuel gives a blistering prediction of what kind of king they would get; yet the people wouldn’t listen.

Similarly, America won’t listen to the predictions for our future made by those who have experienced the past. For some reason people always think “It can’t happen here” before enthusiastically embracing ideas that have spectacularly failed in other nations.

Why is it people resist returning to our constitutional roots? The rock-solid foundation upon which this country was built has yet to be improved. Indeed it has served as the model for endless other modern nations. Yet all our politicians (and apparently citizens as well) can think about is how to increase the size of government and the amount of entitlements it hands out. Apparently, our national lust for free stuff (redistributed from the wealth-producers) has overcome our history of independence, hard work and disdain for government “charity.”

I believe this is because our country’s leaders are no longer standing upon the shoulders of the giants who came before them.

When we stand on the ground, our vision is limited, blocked by all the clutter of buildings or trees or other stuff around us. But what happens when we’re elevated in height, as upon the shoulders of giants? We can see clearly. The seemingly random pieces in the landscape begin to make sense. We can comprehend the Big Picture.

Compared to other countries, America’s history is short. Yet even that relatively brief national memory is no longer studied in school (except in an inaccurate and revised format). Therefore much of our past is ignored or forgotten. America prefers to live in the here and now, to the point where we disassociate ourselves from the past. We climb down from the shoulders of the giants who came before us and stand on the ground.

Today we spend so much time ignoring and even devaluing what generations of Americans did to make this nation great, that we begin to think we aren’t great. Despite the unique opportunities for anyone to become successful through hard work and smart decisions, people begin to think America is unfair and oppressive.

This is because we are ignorant of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. We have forgotten the blistering and devastating war that resulted in the birth of our nation and the personal sacrifices made by those who created it. We are ignorant of the unique freedoms and liberties from oppressive government interference, freedoms that pushed America ahead of other nations in opportunity and hope.

If we forget – or know nothing – of our past, how can we be confident of our future? We can’t. We will let our government take away our freedoms bit by bit, by pretending our past isn’t important. By claiming the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence are quaint and archaic documents, utterly unsuited to our modern world, we fall off the shoulders of the giants and get mired in the mud on the ground. We can no longer see the Big Picture of what America is meant to be.

The study of history – looking at the road traveled by others – is also the only way to see the path ahead. Who has trod this road before us? And what became of them? If we don’t know or don’t care about the past, we will make the same mistakes and fall into the same pitfalls as others have.

It’s the memories of past events that form our national sense of identity. But there is an active effort to wipe away the memories of the greatness that once defined America, leaving us without a sense of pride, identity, or elevation to see the future that lies before us. Some people call this “progress.”

We need to once again climb up onto the shoulders of giants so we can see the Big Picture and thus accurately predict what our future holds … and how to change course when needed.

Who are the original giants of America? It’s easy to tick off a string of famous names: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, as well as European philosophers like Locke and de Tocqueville. These giants are the foundation, the rocks that support everything else. But there are other giants standing upon their shoulders as well, often faceless and nameless: pioneers, entrepreneurs, inventors, spiritual leaders, teachers, parents and grandparents – in short, anyone who was willing to take risks, strive for improvement and build up their own small corner of America. Our unique freedoms allowed these common everyday giants to grow and bloom. Generations came after them, climbed onto their shoulders, saw the future and became giants in their own right.

Needless to say, not everyone was (or is) a giant. There are always those who are more interested in knocking down than building up, in taking rather than giving. These are the people who kick the shins of the giants and cause them to flinch. This makes those who are standing upon their shoulders topple and fall. These saboteurs prefer to yank others down into the mud rather than make the effort to climb up on mighty shoulders and enjoy the view.

Personally, I don’t like wallowing in mud. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of modern giants such as Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell and Joseph Farah, who firmly stand on the shoulders of those who came before them.

Now I ask you: On whose shoulders do our current political leadership stand? What future are they seeing and planning for America?

Once upon a time, Americans stood on the shoulders of giants. Now we stand in the mud with Marxists.

Something to think about as we head into the next four years.