Learning from the past is not the same as living in the past. In fact, learning from the past is the only way one can truly live either progressively or conservatively in the present, whatever one’s preference might be. But don’t expect Millennials and Zers to believe such a tale.
Young people today believe our society’s almost daily technological advances make anything from ten or more years ago unimaginably dull and valueless. But truth be told, the earth has forgotten or misplaced more major technologies from the past than any hot-box, hands-free technology we have invented lately in the present. Pre-Christian underground sewers in Rome, smallpox immunization in India 1,500 years before it was “discovered” in England, and democracy by means of the Ten Commandments in ancient Israel all would be pretty hot stuff today if they hadn’t already been invented long ago.
The greatest technology of all, of course, is the art and science of living peaceably together, a thing lost to our understanding in the Dark Ages. If we don’t find a way to have that old engineering at our fingertips once again, we will destroy ourselves, our friends, and all of our cool technologies right along with us.
Peace and justice was partially re-invented in Europe 500 years ago and imported to America 400 years ago. But it slipped away again around the time of World War I and World War II. It is for sure lost to the understanding of the cavemen and cavewomen huddled around a fire pit just off the Capital Beltway near the Potomac River in Washington D.C. in 2022.
Americans of both political stripes, and independents too, clearly have never been given the political version of the birds and the bees talk. Not by their parents, not by their school teachers, not by newspapers or newscasters, not by non-profits or profit corporations, not by university professors or elected officials . . . not by anyone.
So here it is.
In order to live peaceably among equally empowered citizen neighbors in America, we must all go back to school somewhere and get a legal education. That’s right, we need to study our Constitution and the political science of nations. We do that by reading history and by getting off our butts and getting some experience in the public square. In order to accomplish those two tidy little tasks, we first have to distance ourselves from the addictions that currently immobilize us, including things like overeating, video games, porn, and on-line chatting and shopping. We must stop spending 90 percent of our discretionary time entertaining ourselves and spend that time instead empowering ourselves.
In our legal studies, we will need to learn the three main powers of the people in a democracy that must always be exercised exclusively through elected representatives, and not fobbed off onto the executive or judicial branches. Not going to tell you what they are. That is your homework assignment.
We must legislate and enforce term limits for any public official given anything more than two ounces of political power. We must exercise the impeachment process frequently and vigorously to weed out bad apples. We must get our churches back on track caring more about salvation in this life than the next. We must return to “states’ rights” and local home rule in cities and counties instead of trying to solve every problem in those caveman negotiations in D.C. We must find partners we can truly be committed to for a lifetime, so that children can grow up in a thoroughly peaceful and just environment until it is time for them to fly away and spread that form of government to others.
Robert Kimball Shinkoskey is a historian of religion and government, and an advocate for public health, private health, and any other kind of health available to us.