Bad ideas, character, and American greatness

Having little kids, I think, probably gives one a slightly better understanding of how God sees all of us, if one is prone to that type of thinking. They cry when they don’t get their way. They fight over basically meaningless things. They hurt themselves and each other, sometimes out of ignorance (whether culpable or not), sometimes out of actual seeming malice. They complain WHEN THEY ARE GIVEN WHAT THEY ASKED FOR. They hold their poop in for days until it all comes out in their pants, and act like they don’t know what they could have done differently. Kids are crazy and they make us crazy.

They’re also sweet, and kind, and generous, and loving. All in a perfectly innocent, un-self-conscious way that makes it infinitely more beautiful when one offers her brand new toy to the other because he’s upset. They’re creative, and interested in everything, and they are literally the center of my life and my heart. And it makes it all the more shoot-me frustrating when they get themselves so worked up and I can’t help them. And I do wonder how often God must feel that way about us.

We hurt ourselves, and each other, doing things when we totally know better. We eat crap that makes us sick, we selfishly treat each other like objects, and we allow ourselves to become addicted to things that poison us and destroy our relationships. We’re no less stubborn at 34 than at 4, we’re just better at rationalizing it. And faced with this mess we’ve made of the world, we all come up with our own bad ideas for how to make it work, and then we end up hating each other fighting over which bad idea we should impose on everyone.

But the kindness, the love, it remains too. And this can get us through. No matter which bad idea we go with, nothing will fix anything if we’re being selfish and hating each other. No government program can solve that. At the same time, no matter what, if we all give of ourselves in love, in whatever way is before us, I don’t see any of the bad ideas ending up so bad.

The founders felt this way. John Adams, for example, said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” One can find many examples of the founding fathers arguing that the success or failure of the fledgling nation depended finally upon the character and morality of the American people, much more than the structure of government. But one quote in particular comes to mind today, apparently misattributed to de Tocqueville, but summing up the thought:

“America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Just some tired musings on the eve of yet another imposition of a bad idea.


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