Conservative political and social commentary
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First they came for the communists,
but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists
and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they
came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they
came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.
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|Trading a Chevy for a Yugo - Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Trading a Chevy for a Yugo
David C. Stolinsky, MD
When I was a boy, my father bought me an electric horn for my bicycle. The only horns I knew were operated by squeezing a rubber bulb, so to discover how this horn worked, I took it apart. I still had no idea how it worked, and I couldn’t put it together again. I expected my father to be angry, but he said nothing. Later I realized why − he knew I had learned a valuable lesson:
Don’t take apart what you don’t understand and don’t know how to put back together.
Years later, I owned an old car. It ran well but idled a bit roughly. I tried to adjust the carburetor, but as a result the car hardly ran at all. It took an hour of strained back and skinned knuckles to return things to the way they were when I started. I contemplated my dubious mechanical skills, but then realized I had learned another lesson:
If something is working reasonably well, be satisfied with minor improvements and don’t try to achieve perfection − you are likely to make things much worse.
There is an old saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good. In our search for the perfect, we tend to reject the good, or even to belittle and disrespect it:
· Rather than accepting what we have and being grateful for it, we are perpetually dissatisfied because we feel entitled to something much better.
· Rather than comparing what we have to what others have, we compare it to some imaginary ideal − and thus always find it deficient.
· Rather than making minor improvements in what we have, we attempt major transformations − and often make things worse.
· Rather than fine-tuning what we have, we take it apart − and wind up with a pile of parts we are unable to reassemble.
· Rather than going to couples counseling and working on our marriage, we dump our spouse and run off with a new lover − and find ourselves more unhappy.
· Rather than renovating our house, we step up to a bigger one every few years − and end up in foreclosure when the market drops.
· Rather than repairing our old car that we are accustomed to, we buy a new one we can’t afford in order to impress others − and find ourselves even more dissatisfied.
· Rather than accepting the limitations of the religion of our youth, we wander from one new one to another − and find ourselves even more lost and confused.
· Rather than loving our country despite its imperfections, we focus only on the imperfections − and find ourselves even more rootless and adrift.
All this is relevant to the current political situation. America has faults, as is recognized by citizens from all parts of the political spectrum. We disagree on precisely what these faults are, but we all agree that there are faults. The key question is this: How big are the faults?
If, as I believe, America’s faults are minor, what we need is the equivalent of an automotive tune-up:
· We need to assure that our armed forces have adequate personnel and equipment for current needs, and for likely future needs.
· We need to assure that our missile-defense system is perfected before our enemies have nuclear missiles.
· We need to improve the efficiency of our counter-terrorism agencies, and certainly not to hamstring them with unrealistic restrictions.
· We need to regulate our financial system enough to prevent wild speculation, but at the same time to eliminate governmental pressure to make loans to those with poor credit. That is, we need to regulate wisely.
· We need to tone down our vicious political rhetoric. Those who disagree with us may be mistaken, or naive, or even foolish − but not evil, or anti-American, or even Nazi.
· We need a two-party press and media. Currently ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and almost every paper from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times parrot the same viewpoint. This is dangerous to democracy. If liberals succeed in muzzling conservative talk radio, things will be even worse.
This may seem to be a wide-ranging agenda, but in fact it represents a series of minor adjustments. It resembles the “to-do” list I give my auto mechanic when my car needs service. It embodies suggested improvements in a good system that could be even better.
On the other hand, if you believe − as do leftists and many so-called liberals − that America is deeply, fundamentally flawed, then a “to-do” list, even a long one, cannot suffice. You agree with Barack Obama that America needs to be “fundamentally transformed.” If you were taught in school and university that America has done more bad than good in the world, you come to believe that we must do to America what I tried to do with my electric bicycle horn − take it to pieces and rebuild it from scratch.
But the very real risk is that we will do to America what I actually did to my bicycle horn. We will dismantle it piece by piece, as we are already doing. Then, at some point that will surely come, we will remove one more piece and the whole thing will fall apart. We will be left staring at the disassembled parts, no wiser at understanding what made the thing work, but unable to reassemble it. We will learn as adults what I learned as a child − not to take apart what we don’t know how to put back together. I was left without an amusing toy. We will be left without a great and good nation. I was left sadder but wiser. We will be left only sadder − the lesson will come too late.
We could have taken our Chevy to McCain’s Auto Repair. The gray-haired mechanic might not have gotten to all the items on our “to-do” list, or even most of them. But he would have made minor adjustments and gotten our car running more smoothly. Instead, we took it to Smiling Barack’s Used Car Lot, where the smooth-talking young man persuaded us to trade in our Chevy for a Yugo. The Yugo rarely runs at all, as Europeans could have told us after decades of experience. But it was made according to academically approved socialist principles, so we will be told not to complain.
But if we still wish to complain, to whom should we direct our protest? We did it to ourselves.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.