Sunday, September 11, 2011

Some 9/11 Lessons Ten Years Later

This morning I responded to a letter to the editor criticizing the caucus/nominating process here in Utah. Routinely, I read these types of letters complaining about how intimidating and unaccommodating the physical arrangements tend to be at the grassroots level in politics.

Ground Zero Memorial
I have been watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's tribute to the victims and first responders to the tragedy that befell us as a nation ten years ago today. They have been singing "Amazing Grace" in a moving reminder we are all stumbling and bumbling children of our Heavenly Father. We often don't get it right and need His help to sustain us. In the grace He offers us, we can give as good as we get.

The Jews in the time of Jesus were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from their afflictions. That's not what He did. The changes we all long for in external circumstances rarely happen. George Will observed our self-inflicted wounds are the most difficult to heal, despite all our memorials. Only we can look inside to cure what ails us now. We cannot heal every single shortcoming of America's political landscape.

Instead, Jesus Christ changes us from within when we accept His grace and hope for the future. He never changes. He is constant, ever present and all-knowing. In the immediacy of the moments of crisis in our lives, we sometimes want everything healed and made better in an instant. However, in the struggle in the quiet moments of our misery and greatest need, there is often growth in the grappling for answers. If all our complaints were immediately lifted from us with only the need for a quick whispered prayer, there would be no stretching, no magnification, no growth. When we finally give up asking the "Why?" questions, we are delivered.

Now as they conclude their program, the Choir is beginning to sing the stirring unofficial anthem of 9/11, Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." In his words we found comfort and a pledge for renewal and unity unlike anything I have witnessed in my lifetime. Two years ago I reflected on the meaning of 9/11 in a historical context linked with prophecy. On last year's anniversary the controversy was swirling over the building of the mosque at Ground Zero, and I wrote about the emerging hate speech atmosphere.

When Major League Baseball resumed its schedule following the events of 9/11, the seventh inning stretch was highlighted every game thereafter with inspiring versions of the song as flags are unfurled. It's a fragile feeling that dissipates all too easily if not consciously remembered.

Even when we don't deserve our blessings as a free nation under God and we are often ungrateful for what we have received in abundance, I hope we never fail to remember what makes America great. We have liberty to the degree it has never been realized in the world since its inception.

Unity at Ground Zero
It's one thing to criticize our country and its political processes. I do it routinely when I feel we are being led astray. I must remind myself the world is full of critics. Let's have a constructive conversation about how to improve the process of freedom and liberty. No matter how great we have been, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance," according to Thomas Jefferson. As Thomas Paine said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." I welcome your comments on this page.

And while I'm thinking about that, let me express my gratitude to all of you who take time to seek out this page. Last week we topped 100,000 visitors. Thanks for the love and support!

In the exercise of our freedom here in America, I believe the Utah caucus/nominating convention process is the best demonstration anywhere of representative government in this Republic of ours. If there are tactical inconveniences associated with gathering in freedom and being able to see the blessing of free speech on display, and if it's intimidating to some, then so be it.

Democracy was never intended to be convenient or easy. Often it's messy and uncomfortable. But if you shrink and stay away, fail to make your voice heard, and refuse to participate at the grassroots level, who knows what might have happened if you had been there?

If there is a profound and lasting lesson of 9/11 it is that we must never forget the priceless freedoms we enjoy in this land. Ten years later Osama bin Laden is dead. However, the ongoing victory must never be measured on the battlefield. Freedom is so transitory in its nature, we must be willing to do even the little bit we can, each of us, to sustain it. To fail to participate (and Utah has an abysmal record of participation in the electoral process) is to abdicate and surrender the privileges of citizenship in a land governed by the rule of law where the sovereign is the people themselves.

At Gettysburg, it was Abraham Lincoln who said: "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced." His words are still true today.

That's a blessing worth preserving for our children, even if it's messy and inconvenient.


  1. Read the letter to DesNews, and all the responses. I suppose your response to the complainers would be to go, get involved, don't let yourself be intimidated, and if you see things that need changing, then work towards it, and recruit like-minded individuals who will side with you. After all, it got to where it has now that way.

    I tend to agree. An open primary is too much democracy and not enough republic. It seems that if we're to have political parties, then they must have the basic right to put forth their own candidates without undue interference from opposition. Of course, we can question the wisdom of having a party system. Didn't Jefferson? ( I think he did, I should know)

    That said, there is plenty to fix in Utah politics. But it is not changes in the system, but change in the people that we need. No doubt that many of the "thugs, intimidators, etc." that are complained about are supposedly our good brothers and sisters in the church. How soon they forget that "no power... ought to be maintained... only by PERSUASION, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness and PURE knowledge...". Alas, that's only for Sunday, the end justifies the means.

  2. John, good comments as usual. Yes, you are correct about the early fears about party divisions, but it was Washington who was most concerned. Jefferson and Hamilton were on opposite ends of the spectrum over banking issues -- Hamilton favored a strong central bank, Jefferson worried the government would fall into the hands a few elites and remove power from the people.

    Washington did all he could to hold the factions together for the first eight years while he was president, fearing the infant country would be torn asunder by politcal fights, but in the ensuing 1800 election between Jefferson and Adams, the political divide was defined and codified for all posterity thereafter. It might still be considered the most angry and virulent presidential election in our history. It was ugly and divisive unlike anything we've seen in our lifetimes. (I know that's hard to believe, but go back and read the history and you'll be shocked!) We all know how that early 1800 precedent has worked out as our country's history unfolded.

    The problem with Utah is it is too heavily tilted in one direction and now more than ever the tea party activists are moving to an even more polarized point of view to the far right. One can argue they are justified, given the violent lurch to the left we have taken under Obama, but moderation in Utah seems all too rare.

    For many years I was independent. I voted for Ross Perot twice. My loyalty to party is not nearly as vital as my loyalty to principles of truth I find in the Constitution, and I'm always looking for candidates who reflect my principles and values more than their party affiliation. I finally registered a few years ago as a Republican because they came closer to my views than Democrats, but at heart I have become more libertarian and more aligned with small federal government proponents.

    I value the caucus/nominating process for Republicans (can't opine on Democrats), because it allows a potential candidate with no money to build a grass roots campaign and topple an entrenched well-heeled incumbent like Bennett the last time around. I adamantly support Mike Lee, not because he is Republican, but because his party label is not important to him. I'm hoping another like-minded fresh face can be found to replace Hatch.

    I believe a party that continually sends the same Senator back to Washington for 36 years is badly in need of revision, and that's why I will likely support anyone other than Hatch if an acceptable alternative can be found.

    A few months ago after the annual organizing convention I wrote about the pharisees I see in the crowd in Utah politics, those who would advance a political platform over the counsel of their leaders with regard to immigration. I am deeply troubled by that development.

    I have concluded this: A representative Republic is often messy and unruly, but it's what the founders gave us and I will do all I can to uphold it. I agree with you that an open primary is a bad idea. Majority rule (pure democracy), where participation in the electoral process in Utah is so pathetic, scares me more than almost any other prospect as an alternative.