Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 3, 2013

We the People: The Good Old Days?

By Bob Hoyt
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — After the acorns and hickory nuts had all fallen, the old men in faded bib overalls gathered at the big black rendering kettle, stirred the fatback and stoked the fire. Kids brought wood to feed the fire to melt the hog fat down into lard and cracklings. The old men told stories about when they were young and complained about the general incompetence of politicians and government.

Those were the days of mud roads and horse-drawn planters and mowers. They were also the days of polio, poxes and canvas-covered airplanes. It’s astonishing that so many good people these days would like to return to what they imagine were those Good Old Days. And they were good days, in a way, but not the way that backwoods romantics believe they were good. The dogma of the past has filtered reality from their memories. The Good Old Days were times we lived through to get where we are today and not a bygone wonderland sacrificed to progress. Today we are living through another time that will be even more difficult to wash clean of the ideas that become unworkable. But time still passes. Things change, even if people resist.

Democracy is a form of government by will of the people. Dogma is generally viewed as an established opinion about something not always political. A radical political party or an old-time church operates on dogma with no room for deviation and no tolerance for questions. Democracy, on the other hand, works with free and open discussion of ideas that must be voted upon to set policies, operational philosophies and to choose leaders from election to election.

Many radicals say that our government is a republic and not a democracy. Representatives are entrusted to express the opinions of the people. Radicals fear that the conglomerate of the people will not vote the way they want. Radicals believe they know the only truth and that Conservatives should always rule, elected or not. They also know it is easier to influence our “representatives” than to make a convincing case directly to the People.

A good portion of our representative government is now under the influence of money from special interests. The benefits of a republic have been polluted. We have a government paralyzed by dogma and by self-righteous and radical obstructionists.

Some radicals yearn for mud roads, wood stoves and mules. They believe it was wonderful when everyone worked in the fields and no one threw anything away. They loved one room country schools and revival meetings every week in cold and rickety churches. Perhaps we did lose something way back then. But we also gained a great deal as we moved ahead. Now is not the time to recoil in fear of new ways and new problems.

Radicals have no plan to move to a new and vibrant future that will keep the American dream alive. Like it or not, tomorrow will be a time of new sources of energy and astonishing materials to be developed from graphenes and printers that can print out guns and airplane parts. Some say it takes a village to raise a child. We are facing the reality that it will take all the people to run a nation with good and different jobs for all. It will require cooperation from an educated and well-informed populace for us to hold first place in the world. And it will take fewer leaders who pause from counting their campaign funds only to shout, “NO!” to anything that nourishes democracy.