Turning Points for America

By | August 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

A turning point is a crucial event, after which important things are different from the way they were before. Often, however, a turning point is recognizable only in retrospect, and sometimes when it is too late to do anything about it.
Oath on a Koran.
In 2006, voters elected to the U.S. Congress Keith Ellison, a Muslim. He announced his intention of taking the oath of office with his hand on a Koran. This decision evoked little controversy. Many people believed that since the Koran is his holy book, he should use it to take the oath.
Author and talk-show host Dennis Prager objected that oaths of office should be on the Bible, which is America’s holy book, and one of the principal sources of our values as a nation. His opinion evoked great controversy. Prager had no objection to bringing a Koran; he only wanted Ellison to bring a Bible as well. Nevertheless, Prager was called a racist and bigot and was threatened. He thought that a Congress member’s decision to exclude the Bible marked a turning point for our nation.
Prager was right about the oath but wrong about the turning point. Taking the oath on anything except a Bible is not the turning point. The turning point occurred years earlier, when many Americans not only ceased to believe that religion is important for themselves, but also ceased to believe that religion is important for our county. That was the turning point. Only years later, we recognized it by the fact that a public official would even think of using anything but the Bible – and by the fact that most people not only didn’t object, but also condemned anyone who did object.
In my day, nobody would dream of using anything but a Bible. Countless Jews, who revere the Old Testament but not the New, took oaths with their hands on a King James or similar Bible containing both Testaments. Countless agnostics and atheists, who revere no holy book, and probably Hindus and Buddhists, who revere other holy books, also used our Bible – because they recognized it as our Bible.
And in my day, anyone who ostentatiously refused to bring a Bible to a swearing-in ceremony would evoke strong criticism, thereby impairing his ability to serve effectively. He would be seen as being divisive and as having created needless controversy. But those days are over. They have been for some time. We are just getting around to recognizing that fact.
Burning our flag.
In 1989 the Supreme Court decided that burning the American flag was “speech” protected by the First Amendment. Yes, that’s the same court that decided that producing or viewing virtual child pornography is also protected by the Constitution, but that donating to a political candidate of your choice is not protected – and can be severely restricted. Apparently the Constitution protects whatever a majority of the justices feel should be protected, and nothing more. And I thought we had a written Constitution that meant what it said. Stupid me!
Those who respect the flag tried to pass a Constitutional amendment that bans flag desecration, but to no avail. Opponents either revered free speech more, or revered the flag less. When the amendment failed to pass, some opined that this event marked a turning point for our nation.
Again, I disagree. The turning point occurred years earlier, when young people were no longer taught to respect our flag. They were no longer taught to rise and remove their hats when the flag passed by. They were no longer taught never to let the flag touch the ground, and never to use the flag for clothing or advertising. They were no longer taught that the red stripes represent the blood that was shed, and is being shed, by patriots to defend our freedom. For many people today, the flag is just a piece of cloth – rag on a stick. So why not burn it or step on it if you feel like doing so?
In my day, if you desecrated our flag, you needed a dentist, not a lawyer. Someone was sure to punch you. But those days are over. They have been for some time. We are just getting around to recognizing that fact.
Killing babies.
In 2006 the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the official organization of these professionals in Britain, declared that parents or doctors should be allowed to kill babies who are severely ill or deformed. The British respect traditions, as witness the old-fashioned spelling of gynecologist.
One might expect the Brits to hold onto important traditions even more than they hold onto trivial traditions. One would be wrong. One might think that public advocacy of baby-killing represents a turning point. One would be wrong here, too.
Britain has a tradition of science and medicine older than our own. But in one area, the Brits lag behind Americans – church attendance. This has been the case for decades. And something else has been going on for decades. First we aborted early fetuses. Then we aborted late-term fetuses. Then we dehydrated and starved to death brain-injured patients who were in a persistent vegetative state.
Now the Lancet, a leading British medical journal, boasts about the slow killing of a patient who was “very near” a persistent vegetative state – about which I had a few choice remarks. Very near? If a British doctor takes a new BMW that is parked very near his car in the hospital parking lot, he is in big trouble. But if he takes the life of a patient who is very near the condition in question, he is rewarded by being published in a prestigious journal. Now we know what many elite British doctors believe is really important – property. Is this an appropriate attitude for those we entrust with our lives?
Here, too, the turning point occurred years ago, when we ceased to revere the sanctity of human life. The turning point was passed when we stopped seeing human beings as having infinite worth because they are unique individuals created in God’s image, and began seeing them as having worth only if they are economically useful to us. Oddly, this purely economic view of human beings is shared by extreme leftists like communists, extreme rightists like Nazis, and old-fashioned slave owners. These are not people with whom I want to be identified.
In my day, anyone – especially a doctor – who advocated killing babies would be shunned and condemned. His career would be over. He would have to leave town. But those days are over. They have been for some time. We are just getting around to recognizing that fact.
Traditions and symbols are important. They remind us of our duty when it is easier, or safer, to quit. Military service often is difficult and dangerous. Would as many troops carry on if they were not bonded together by the oaths they took? Telling the truth in court often is embarrassing. Would as many witnesses tell the truth if their oath didn’t conclude with the words “So help me God”? I doubt it.
Public officials and military personnel swear to uphold the Constitution, which is the framework on which our government and laws are constructed. But the Bible is the foundation on which they are based. You can’t break up the foundation without irreparably weakening the whole structure – which may be the underlying motive here.
Call it the turning point, the watershed, or whatever. We are already long past it. The real question is this: What can we do now to reverse our downhill course? What can we do to restore our reverence for the Bible, for the significance of an oath, for the meaning of our flag, and for the sanctity of human life? What can we do to restore the idea that anything is sacred?
We need another turning point. Soon.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.
www.stolinsky.com

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