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America the Complacent

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The world we live in today as Americans is one filled with apathy, laziness, and utter complacency. It is troubling that such a patriotic nation filled with so much fervor at its inception can evolve into such a troubled society, one that fosters so little civic virtue or national pride. How have we degenerated to such a low state?

It’s because of our complete disregard for the founding principles of our nation. Such principles include civic duty, education about government, and a moral compass. Without such principles, it is inevitable that our great nation will succumb to the eventual demise shared by all other great empires in history.

In the infancy of our nation, we were reminded of the tyrannical rule of England, so we didn’t take our freedom for granted. Rather we held it so dear that it was, along with faith and family, a part of our innermost convictions and priorities. The inspirational writings of men like John Locke and the patriotic speeches of men like Patrick Henry resounded in the hearts of all Americans of that era. It was a time of spirited reformation that brought together a small group of states that would change that way the world was governed and the way people would live for the rest of time.

We don’t have men like John Locke or Patrick Henry today. Rather, we are so removed from the energetic era of independence and inspirational thinking that we have not even the most superficial convictions about serving our country. In the early and mid 20th century we still had a sense of unity and a felt obligation of civic duty for our nation. This is mainly because of World Wars One and Two. These epic struggles served to bring our country together as a cohesive unit for one cause: to defeat a despot and restore justice and peace to the world. Our nation has not seen such a war since, and has not had the urgent need to come together for a single cause since. It is a wonderful blessing that we haven’t had a terrible war like WWII in the past half century; however, it shouldn’t take an event such as that to bring us together as a nation and give us a sense of civic duty.

Throughout history American citizens have sacrificed countless things to serve the good of our nation, oftentimes the greatest sacrifice of all – their lives. Today, however, we can hardly even sacrifice a few minutes of our time to involve ourselves in the workings of our government by voting in an election, whether local or national, nor will we spend time learning about the principles that our founders built this great nation upon. Instead, we would rather watch American Idol and eat a supersized value meal from Mickey D’s.

I put the blame not on the masses of American citizens, but rather on the leaders and educators of our nation. It is imprudent of our leaders to ignore the education of our people about the importance of civic virtue and participation. In ancient Greece, the great Lycurgus studied that ways of several ancient societies and created the constitution and structure of Sparta’s government. Teaching history and the values of civic virtue was so important that it led to Sparta being seen as having the best constitution and government in the entire world. In fact, it was the Spartan constitution that our founding fathers modeled our own constitution upon.

Civic duty is obviously a very important aspect of nationalism and one that our country is in need of practicing. However, a sense of civic duty is only acquired through the proper education of citizens. If knowledge is power then our nation is in big trouble. It is essential that a people remain educated about its past and about the workings of its government. If people don’t know (or care) how government works it becomes easy for the few people in control of the government to pass legislation that will harm the majority of citizens, while benefiting only themselves and those close to them. Americans need to be better educated and informed in order to make better decisions about their government. As people become less and less educated and competent, government starts to grow bigger and bigger to the point where it is no longer a representative democracy. Our government is supposed to be one of the people, for the people, and by the people, not one that just benefits a few at the top.

It was the Athenians who birthed a culture of intellectual curiosity. Parents would send their children to be taught by sophists, which cost a lot of money. Athenian parents knew, however, that the education was worth the high price because their children would be able to properly govern themselves in the next generation. Americans need to follow the lead of the ancient Athenians and put a heavy emphasis on the education of our children.

Both civic duty and education are important virtues for a society to be built upon, but perhaps most important of all is a moral compass. In our age of plenty you would think that Americans would be content with all that they are blessed with. But this is not the case. America is teeming with harmful vices that shred the moral fabric of our country. Once built upon truth, honesty, and integrity, our society is now characterized by greed, corruption, and various types of immorality. A nation that was once under God is now shoving God out of schools and public places. It is this immoral behavior that will ultimately lead to our nation’s demise. A moral compass is essential for any citizen or leader to make ethical decisions and lead our nation in the right direction.

It will take our nation’s leaders to set standards of civic duty, proper education, and moral excellence in order to bring our nation back to where it was. America has been the “city on a hill” for other countries to model themselves after. If we can get back to our modest roots of unity through civic duty and education and a proper moral compass, our country can once again be an example of success and prominence for the rest of the world.

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About John_McKoy

  • John, while I applaud your efforts to get your compatriots to take their citizenship more seriously, your argument falls down on its central premise.

    The majority of people in any society, including this one, has never been politically active. This notion you have of the American Revolution as some massive popular movement is very far from the truth – as is your assertion that English rule was ‘tyrannical’.

    It was an elite handful of people such as Franklin, Payne, Henry and the like who engineered the rebellion, and they did so largely for political ends. Any majority public opinion in favour of the break with London was slim at best. Most ordinary colonists had little interest in politics – their overriding concern in life was making a living.

    You also forget that whole swathes of the population – both in 18th century America and in ancient Athens – were excluded entirely from the political process.

    Your desire for your fellow Americans to become more engaged is admirable, but it ain’t going to happen. Alas, ’twas ever thus!

  • Interesting insights, John, nice job!

  • Jon, the specific I would offer is raising civilian children in an environment similar to that of the military child; an environment that exists whether the parent assists or not. These children are raised within the structure of America’s foundations whereas civilian children are raised aside from it. The military child’s status as an American, their civic understanding, and their freedom is checked (confirmed, not confiscated) every time they show their ID card to enter a military installation (which is also often their home) and whenever they attend a military family function, their parent’s promotion, and ultimately their parent’s retirement ceremony. Within these contexts the hopes and dreams of a once-budding nation are repeated and answer the question, “For what will I ever need these history classes?”

    John, I agree with Jon that a moral compass and civic responsibility being had only through religious involvement is not true. Mine is a military – and atheist – family. Ours is not as uncommon as many would suppose and is instead living proof that morality and love of country comes from within.

  • A nice call to arms. Now we just need some specifics. My one disagreement, and it’s a big one, is with your assumption that religion is required for a strong moral compass. That’s clearly not true – look here for a few links on that subject.