When Citizens Are Ready, Leaders Appear
“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
Attributed variously to Confucianism, Buddhism or Taoism, the phrase resonates in several aspects of my late-middle-age life. As a veteran teacher, I know there’s truth in it. If the student isn’t ready, and many of my charges each year are not, it’s my job to entice, cajole, stimulate, or arouse them - but I cannot force anyone to learn. I cannot successfully impose my will on anybody else either. Using raw power may appear to work temporarily, but if the subject of my efforts cannot be convinced that my ideas are best for him or her, they will inevitably backfire and the situation will be worse than if I had left it alone.
I’ve accepted this only after years of stubbornly trying as teacher, father, husband, friend, and citizen to force things. In the case of young children, the mentally handicapped, the violently insane, or criminals, it’s necessary to restrain them lest they hurt themselves or others, but for everyone else? Best leave them alone to learn for themselves. When three-year-olds say “I want to do it myself!” it’s best to let them - even if it will take longer, won’t work as well and will make a mess. That’s true for citizens as well. It’s always better to let people do for themselves than have government do anything for them.
The Founding Fathers who wrote our Constitution knew these things and incorporated them into their plan of government - which they saw as a necessary evil that should be kept as small as possible so it would interfere as little as possible with the way people choose to live. In the Preamble they said their intentions were to: “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Those “blessings of liberty” were spelled out two years later in the Bill of Rights. Beyond that, government should not go. If the Founders’ intention to strictly limit government weren’t plain enough, the 10th Amendment was their final statement: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Leftist Democrat do-gooders now running our government don’t understand this. They’re determined to “save” us when we want to be left alone. They’re convinced they know better than we do what’s best for us. In his column last Sunday, George Will described them well:
"Even more than the New Deal and the Great Society, Obama's agenda expresses the mentality of a class that was nascent in the 1930s but burgeoned in the 1960s and 1970s. The spirit of that class is described in Saul Bellow's 1975 novel ‘Humboldt's Gift.’ In it Bellow wrote that the modern age began when a particular class of people decided, excitedly, that life had ‘lost the ability to arrange itself’:Exceptional leftists are in power now, and they’ve been vigorously arranging our lives since last January. Now they’re flabbergasted to learn their constituents are pissed at them. Judging from expressions on their faces as voters express exasperation in town hall meetings, they seem to be thinking: “If you only knew how exceptionally smart and nice I am, you wouldn’t talk to me that way.” That’s how Congressman Jim Baird looked when a constituent named David William Hedrick said angrily: “It’s not your right to decide whether I keep my current [medical] plan or not.”
‘It had to be arranged. Intellectuals took this as their job. ... This arranging has been the one great gorgeous tantalizing misleading disastrous project. A man like Humboldt, inspired, shrewd, nutty, was brimming over with the discovery that the human enterprise, so grand and infinitely varied, had now to be managed by exceptional persons. He was an exceptional person, therefore he was an eligible candidate for power.’”
Although invited, my congressmen and senators didn’t attend a townhall meeting organized Tuesday night and attended by 450 constituents in central Maine. Senator Olympia Snowe and Congressman Mike Michaud were “too busy.” Senator Susan Collins didn’t even respond and voters voiced frustrations at photographs.
As I said in my column two weeks ago, something big is brewing out there. It’s grassroots uprising of people telling government “Stop! We want to do it ourselves!” They’re sick of intellectuals arranging everything for everybody with their money. Obama promised to heal red state/blue state divisions, but that isn’t happening. After only a few short months of his presidency, citizens in many states are trying to pull the 10th Amendment out of mothballs and nullify federal efforts to usurp state and popular sovereignty. Texas governor Jim Perry has even mentioned secession.
It’s true that when the student is ready the teacher appears. It’s also true that when citizens are ready, leaders appear. The 2010 elections are going to be very interesting indeed.