Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"If I were President!" - Part 1 - Overview

How many people say "If I were President, I'd.......?"

I sometimes make the wisecrack that the reason I keep my cell phone close to me is because I never know when the President is going to call me asking for advice.

"Why don't they ask ME?" Surely you've expressed that thought, eh? Many imagine we have the answers that our leaders seem blind to perceive. One wonders how many people think the world should be run from their bumper sticker! At least we are still free to express our opinion.

On what basic principle was America founded?  For my purposes, today, I would say freedom. This might be defined to be the right of self-determination and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness! Little attention seems to have been given to enumerating the price or obligations which this freedom requires for its sustained existence. These are mostly implied inasmuch as, if each person shoots off pursuing his own happiness, there are bound to be some conflicts leading to compromises, and boundaries. This nation's implementation of its ideals is surely a mixed bag, but there is no nation on earth to which so many of earth's citizens look to as the place they'd want to live if they could, or, barring that, where personal liberties are most consistently considered to exist.

Nothing I express here is anything but my own opinion. I do not represent any organization or group of people. Yet, as we are all influenced by one thing or another, my influences include Paramhansa Yogananda (1893-1952) and Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda (1926-2013).

When asked what political party was his, Yogananda replied, "Republican: the party of Abraham Lincoln." How clear was Yogananda's endorsement I cannot say, but he, like billions of others, held Lincoln in great respect (along with George Washington). But I venture to say that there was probably more to it than an admiration of Lincoln.

Yogananda lived in America for most of his adult life, from 1920 to his passing in 1952. FDR (Roosevelt) was president for some 11 or 12 of those years. These years were some of Yogananda's most public and active ones. Yet, he quietly expressed reservations about FDR's New Deal. According to Swami Kriyananda's autobiography, "The New Path," these reservations centered on concern for the increasing role of government in the lives of its citizens.

Yet no one could be as compassionate and giving to those in need as Yogananda. Though his life's work was primarily as a leading spiritual teacher of yoga (meditation), his love and kindness was recognized by all who knew him.

I don't have the benefit of knowing, nor the pretense to imagine I would know, what Yogananda would say of America's political issues here and now today in the 21st century. No question, however, that he, like many of us, would decry the acrimony and divisiveness of political dialogue, action and inaction.

You and I, and the host of our fellow citizens, enjoy the luxury of our political opinions without the burden of manifesting them in the rough and tumble world of politics. We can still say what we please and debate about it to our heart's content.

But if I were that mythical, magical, and omnipotent "President" I would like to see the federal government reduce its entanglement in its citizens' lives. To foster national security, health, safety, and rule of law, while maintaining adherence to our first principle of freedom seems to me the abiding duty of our national government. Much of what has been added to the powers and duties of the federal government has created so many dependents among us that our vote is all too often a vote for "me and my benefits" and not for what is right and beneficial to the greatest number. And this fact is true, I believe, across all socio-economic levels, except, perhaps, somewhat diminished for the belabored (and shrinking?) middle class..

I by no means object to the progressive or liberal agenda of helping the disadvantaged or poor. The issue, for me, is the scope of the role of the national government to do so, and, the effectiveness of its efforts. Underlying that is something basic to human nature. It can be simply stated as saying that lasting and effective individual self-improvement is the consequence of applying personal will power and initiative.

To those disadvantaged by circumstances, will power and initiative can be sparked and nurtured by appropriate encouragement, education and various forms of support. But these cannot substitute for individual effort. There is a subtle boundary between personal effort and support, between rescuring and enabling. Too great the presence and power of outside assistance and the fire of will power can be snuffed out.

In the next two blog articles, parts 2 and 3, I will offer a sampling list of tentative policies based on fostering the personal initiative of citizens....... "if I were President."