Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

November 18, 2013

“If you like your current government, you can keep it. If you like your current congressmen — your political doctors — you can keep them, too.”

“If you like your current government, you can keep it. If you like your current congressmen — your political doctors — you can keep them, too.”    

Call me old-fashioned, but somewhere between political promises from Washington and Miley Cyrus twerking America, I sense a moral degeneracy in which truth and good taste are being trampled by greed and garishness.

Call me old-fashioned, but when guest speakers at Ivy League schools are shouted down and driven off the stage in the name of social justice and free speech, I see deeply irresponsible students and absentee university leaders.

Call me old-fashioned, but if I want moral perspective on parenting, politics, and proper behavior, I’ll delve back into my own ancestral writings. Impoverished peasants of several centuries ago evidently had more moral macho and manners than the spineless, tasteless, morally-bankrupt elite of today.

David Acheson of Pennsylvania, writing to his parents in Ireland, 1800: “Although far separated from you, I never cease to think of the most beloved and best of parents. When I reflect on the care and attention you bestowed upon me, the pains you took to instruct my youth in every good and virtuous thing, I wonder how it is possible that children should ever be ungrateful to their parents. I can never repay what you have done for me.”

Alexander Burns of Ireland, writing to his brother in America, 1805: “A spirit of indifference and infidelity has turned real religion out of doors. But still let us bless God and look to him to give us an understanding heart to know his mind and will and also to give us grace to make our lives and conversation agreeable to it. Guard against the degeneracy of the times, both in principle and practice.”

Scientists are currently searching for dark matter a mile underground in South Dakota. I would suggest they instead look at ground level in Washington, D.C., or merely turn on their TV set, smart phone, or Ipad — these are often rich sources of very dark matter.

Alexander Burns also commented on the deadly sectarian warfare between Protestants and Catholics then rampant in his neighborhood. I substitute political parties in his pithy comment below.

“There has been great Troubles here between Republicans and Democrats. The truth is there were faults on both sides, and it has brought Trouble on peaceable people. And that is often the case, the innocent suffers with the guilty.”

Not only has Alexander’s insight and wisdom stood the test of time, but he also had the chutzpah and temerity to suggest that we might even consult the Bible for guidance.  

A good starting point might be Philippians 4:8. “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest ... just ... pure ... lovely, whatsoever things are of good report: if there be any virtue and praise, think on these things.”

I would submit that David Acheson’s mother and father were wise and loving parents. And that both the Acheson and Burns families brought virtue and values to a new nation whose very foundation was steeped in wisdom and virtue.

Perhaps we have lost our moorings over the past several centuries. Let light extinguish that dark matter now rampant in our entertainment industry, political system, and even our everyday dealings with each other.    

Call me old-fashioned, but values and rugged individualism made American exceptionalism — not moral drift, massive government, debt, denial and dependency.

As the good book suggests, please think on these things — while we still have time to correct our course.

James F. Burns

Gainesville, Fla.

Burns is a professor emeritus at the University of Florida

 

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