A pleasant good morning to one and all on this first Sunday in November 2008, as we experience the return to Eastern Standard Time. Some of us, undoubtedly, missed the news to turn the clocks back one hour, and even now are considering whether or not a mad rush will accomplish getting to Sunday school and church services on time.
The first Sunday in November, my Catholic friends tell me, is the Feast Day of Saint Eustachius. The saint’s name might have lead this old Protestant boy to think he had something to do with ears and hearing, but it seems that Saint Eustachius is the Patron Saint of firefighters and hunters.
And, as the return to Eastern Standard Time always gives me a moment to reflect on other standards, I’m poignantly reminded of the firefighters and other rescue workers who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Without hesitation they put themselves in harm’s way, seeking to rescue those trapped in Manhattan’s Twin Towers as the horrific aftermath of the terrorist attack on America continued to unfold that day.
And I’m reminded of those serving in America’s military, currently in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, hunting for those who perpetrated not only the despicable, dastardly, cowardly and treacherous attacks against innocents in our nation, but who continue to carry out demonic attacks on third world nations today, even as they seek safe haven from whence to plan future attacks upon freedom loving peoples everywhere.
So today I find myself thinking on standards, not only for the keeping of time, but for the administering of choices. Not only choices at the ballot box, which every American should consider a sacred duty to those who gave their last full measure of devotion to ensure that we can vote. But for governing decisions right on down the line, as to what we expect our nation to be, how it will be governed, whom we will think of as honorable and decent human beings, whom we will do business with in the aftermath of this election, literally with whom we will associate, and to what standards we will hold our elected representatives.
Come we now to the first Tuesday in November, the day America votes for our next president. Election day, officially 12 hours extending from 7am to 7pm — Eastern Standard Time in this neck of the woods — will help cement the standards to which the majority of American voters hope our nation will adhere.
Every town in America has important positions of service to the electorate up for grabs at the local, state and federal levels.
To what standards will American voters hold those who claim a desire to serve us? More money has been spent on campaign advertising than can be counted, or even imagined, by someone old enough to remember buying Coca-Cola for a nickel, or gasoline at 25 cents per gallon.
How much good could have been worked in this world with the money spent by politicians and their political parties on ads smearing the opposition? How many meals for the homeless? How many mosquito nets for third world nations still in the overwhelming, grisly grip of malaria? How many fresh water wells could have been dug for villages around the world? How many hospital ships could have been built, in their entirety, completely outfitted and staffed for service to humanity?
Once upon a time, the standard to which politicians were held in this nation was simple: they were to serve the people in our representative democracy. Those whom the majority of the people elect are supposed to do what we, the majority of the people, want them to do. They are supposed to enact law or repeal statute, according to what we, the majority of the people, decree by our vote.
But somewhere along the way, along about the early 1960’s and the Lyndon Johnson entitlements era, America lost our way. We stopped adhering to standards which had made America great. Instead of expecting people to work for a living, we grew to tolerate living on welfare as a normal thing. Instead of expecting men to be responsible for raising children they’d sired, we accepted as normal young men bolting for the door and never making child support payments. Instead of swiftly bringing to justice and executing criminals who perpetrated horrific crimes against humanity, we accepted decades of appeals at taxpayer expense to keep death row inmates alive on the public dole.
As we adjust to Eastern Standard Time, America’s voters now have to distinguish exactly which standards our nation will adhere to as the first decade of the 21st Century unfolds.
No less an authority on liberty than Sir Winston Churchill, urging citizens to immediate action, said:
"It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time."
What choices will you make on Election Day 2008? To which standards do you hope America clings?
I’m pretty sure that Saint Eustachius, along with those 9/11 firefighters and patriotic servicemen and women, who gave the last full measure of their devotion to give you the right to choose, will be watching.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.