Safety First

  • Posted: November 29, 2020
  • Category: Blog
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The world moves on – different days, different challenges. Two weeks ago I may have been exposed to Covid. I had breakfast with a friend on Monday who came down with a severe case on Friday. Was I exposed to the dreaded virus, or did my friend catch it after our shared meal? 

The following Monday I felt under the weather, with a temperature approaching three digits. My head and chest suffered a bit of congestion. But sinus misery is my new normal having dealt with an inflamed sinus for the past six months. On Tuesday, the fever was gone and I was left with the now familiar sinus misery.  

My weekly Retired Men’s Bible Study is on Wednesday morning, a real high point in my week. Should I go or should I stay home? A tough call but swallowing the angry frustration of a thwarted will, I stayed home. Safety First! 

Safety First, the trump card justifying everything and anything. Our constitutional rights, that is those rights actually named by the US Constitution rather than agreed to in the congenial nexus of Supreme Court and faculty lounge, have been rendered null in the interests of safety. Of course our fundamental rights have been under siege for years, but Covid is the battering ram now hammering weakened Constitutional walls. 

History is driven by the judgment of the battlefield, whether the now hallowed ground of Cemetery Ridge or voting booths of Pennsylvania. The battlefield’s decision turns on superiority, in weapons, in strategy, in tactics, in morale. There is a saying, hoary with age, archaic to modern sensibilities, capturing the sense of this reality, “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”. 

For example, WWI was a war marked by bloody stalemate, of bitter trench warfare. The lines were drawn and both sides were reduced to years of futile bloodshed assaulting those burrowed defenses. And then the battle tank was introduced. Trenches could be now be penetrated and battles won. The old generals, experts in their own time, did not understand how to use the mobility of armor, continuing their trench warfare tactics with final victory simply the momentum of final inertia as American doughboys added their bodies to the abattoir.

But younger and more farseeing men, men like George Patton, Heinz Guderian and Georgy Zhukov, saw the potential of the tank and it was they who reigned supreme on future battlefields. The Covid Pandemic has shown our own future generals down in the bowels of their bureaucracies, the would be commissars of the future Deep State, the potential of Safety First. 

Our Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment, has been the keystone of American exceptionalism. Our Bill of Rights provided the definition for the noble words of our Declaration of Independence, our Creator’s gifting to all of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. For over 250 years Americans have enjoyed a freedom unique in the world, a freedom guaranteed by our Bill of Rights as set forth in the US Constitution.  

Our basic rights have been under attack for that entire 250 years. There is something in the hearts of men that longs for the power to order their neighbors lives. We often imagine this passion to rule, to interfere, as something rare, perhaps a disease caught by the powerful. But spending time on the Board of a suburban community’s HOA provides insight into the true hearts of common men and women.

I suspect that few in the Adorable community, the educated and sedated, care overly much about the First Amendment. I suspect that few of us can even recite the freedoms actually guaranteed by the First Amendment. Perhaps the need to enumerate the plethora of rights discovered in recent decades within the umbras of penumbras of emanations of legal theories was thought more important and relevant by our educators. 

The First Amendment enumerates our basic rights in the plain language of earlier generations: 

  • Freedom of Religion from government interference 
  • Freedom of Speech from government interference 
  • The Right to Assemble for peaceful and lawful purposes 
  • The Freedom of the Press, specifically the right to communicate a message through mediums of expression unhampered by government interference 

Only the purposefully obtuse will recognize that our enjoyment of these freedoms now depends on the goodwill of the government and our own “good behavior”. All in the name of Safety First. And we, the inhabitants of Adorable America, have been good citizens, acquiescing in good spirits to this breathtaking loss of what Americans once held dear, what Americans once fought for. But on the other hand, Safety First. 

We, the inhabitants of Adorable America, have a very strange relationship with safety. We have never been nor will probably ever be unsafe. On top of that, we work really hard to avoid the only possible threat to our safety that we might face, ill-health. Of course we don’t smoke, are you kidding? We might drink alcohol, but compared to earlier generations? Did you ever watch “Mad Men”? Sure, we puff a little grass, but that has been proven safe.

One of the most striking differences between Adorable America and Deplorable America is obvious. Everybody in Adorable America is fit. No beer bellies here. We spend a lot of time in our health clubs, working out. We don’t eat carbs, or fats or almost anything that tastes of the taboo, other than our Starbuck’s Mocha Latte. Our food may not taste all that good, but it is healthy because it is artisanal, organic, non-GMO, ethically sourced and sustainable. 

Though we have no experience with anything that might be dangerous, we remain human beings. We know in our hearts that there is danger in the world, but we have no real experience with anything that might actually be dangerous and so we are naïve. To gain entry into the Adorable world, we strove to be good students in school and to maintain our standing in the Adorable meritocracy, we strive to be good employees of the bureaucracies we work in. We have what earlier generations would describe as “a touching faith” in “responsible authority”. 

We are well educated.  We know a lot of facts. We are rivers a mile wide and an inch deep. We operate organizations of almost unimagined complexity, but our focus blurs on the second line of a text message. Our common sense lies dormant, an atrophied sense with no reason to exist other than to guide us through the mazes of social media. 

I often wonder why I am the one apart, the Deplorable in the land of the Adorables. I have so much in common with those who seem to experience a different reality, a reality so strange to me. I think that the twists and turns of my life experience, interpreted through my Christian faith, explain much. 

Every time I engage the PTO on my garden tractor, I am reminded of my grandfather. A man I never knew bled to death in a lonely field, his arm ripped apart by his tractor’s drive shaft not so different from my own. At odd times, I remember the sudden flash of orange flame against the blue Bakersfield sky, its sudden heat hot against my face while the scream of tortured metal from a turboexpander pushed beyond its red line deafened my ears. I can still remember briefly wondering how it would feel to be burned to death in the seconds before the emergency shutdowns operated. I sometimes flashback to the scene of an accident at a power plant. I remember gazing down upon the body of my employee, crushed under a forklift, seemingly small and fragile under a covering white sheet. 

As I age, I find frequently myself walking through the corridors of remembered Scripture. In those times I find myself returning again and again to a verse in the Book of Proverbs, the first chapter, the 7th verse: 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (sometimes translated as knowledge)” 

I sometimes think that our Evangelical need to witness, to bend all in service of hermeneutics and eschatology, blinds us to the wisdom Scripture offers for everyday living. There is something missing from our culture because we no longer speak it, even among ourselves.  

To fear the Lord is to be put in my place, to understand my ability to control my future. Only the fool acts foolishly, but only the fool believes himself the master of his own fate.  

Common sense is simply another name for everyday wisdom. Our common sense should tell us that there are some things we can control and others we cannot. The world is big and I am small. My life is not such a big thing in the scales where the future is weighed.

Such thoughts immediately bring to my mind another useful verse, this one from the 46th Chapter of Psalms: 

“Be still and know that I am God” 

 Again, useful advice for both the believer and non-believer. Contrary to popular opinion, particularly in Adorable circles, you do not need to be heard. Most of the time, I have little to say worth hearing and I often find myself embarrassingly wrong, shockingly insensitive and blind to the true state of affairs. As my mother used to say, “When my mouth opens, my ears (and my mind) close”.  

In the stillness, we begin to understand we are subject to blind chance, to fate – or put another way, God’s will. Nobody, including God, is asking me to act in a foolish manner. But in that stillness, in the presence of something infinitely greater than myself, I also recognize that there are more important things in this life than the years with which I have been gifted. Going back to that wisdom thing, wisdom is knowing what those more important things are. 

Instead of the sound and fury generated by the media and our near sighted leaders, we might remember a greater leader, Benjamin Franklin. However the state of his complicated faith life, he was deeply influenced by Scriptural truth. He had this to say about the idea of “Safety First”: 

 

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” 

2 Responses to “Safety First”

  1. Brad Smith says:

    That reminds me of the words of another great leader whose faith life is the exammple for us all. He said “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find (or save) it”. Good ole Ben thought liberty was more important than safety but Jesus takes it to an eternal level were the risk of being undeserving is so much greater. Jesus didn’t demonstrate or elevate the value of safety in this life. I suppose steps of faith are inherently risky and without faith it is impossible to please him. Perhaps putting “safety first”, or comfort, or dignity, or control, or whatever you want to call it is actually the riskiest thing we could ever do!

  2. Judy Hoxworth says:

    Listening to the current news of continual insanity this morning…I felt led to pick up the phone and called Senator Sasse’s DC office. As usual a 20 something answered and not being in a charitable mood, the last thing I said to him was…you children running this country are going to bring it to its end! Why…because you have absolutely no comprehension of the history you are going to repeat and it’s not a history you will enjoy! I think it was Patrick Henry who said…Give me liberty or give me death! Sadly, I am to that place!

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