I stole that title from William Bennett in his fantastic book: The Book of Man. In it, he takes writings from throughout history and categorizes them into 1) Man in War; 2 )Man at Work; 3) Man in Play, Sports, and Leisure; 4) Man in the Polis; 5) Man with Woman and Children; and 6) Man in Prayer and Reflection. I recommend this book with all my being. I gave it to my two boys with an inscription that I hope they’ll keep for their sons. I recommend doing so for your boys when they’re at least 20 years old. Even at that, it’s a bit weighty.
But I digress a tad. Today’s letter is about how incredible this country is. Still is. It will always be, as long as there beats in the hearts of its people the values we all cherish: freedom, individual responsibility, family cohesion, and communal comity. It is with this idea—love of country—that I write to you every week. It is my desire that you take one idea, a seed of truth, and plant it in your life with all the care and nurturing that you can summon, and grow that into a forest of well-being. That idea—you matter. Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “You must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. We must not drift nor lie at anchor.”
You matter to you. You matter to your current family. You matter to your wife and your children, and their children. You matter to your friends and their children. Your light cannot be muffled under a blanket of insecurity and unmanliness. Your life and all of society’s existence depends on you waking up to your God-given power to nurture your garden into abundant well-being. Overstatement? I think not. When you compare an energized man with an optimism for life versus a drifting man who believes he’s powerless against larger forces, which man would you bet matters more to his world?
There is a phenomenon that has gripped society today that is a negative trend, among many negative trends, that I think will not serve America’s interests. It is man who is like the drifting boat; the Independent voter. Stay with me, because this civics point does serve your interests and isn’t intended to be political. The Independent voter’s mantra is essentially this: “I want to remain neutral until the end and vote for the best candidate.” Unfortunately, the Independent’s values won’t be on the menu at that late date. So they won’t necessarily get to choose among the best candidates that could have been available had they participated sooner.
This point is not a small one. From your perspective, it’s about the scope of things you consider important to your family’s well-being. There’s taxes, healthcare, global warming, the cost of education, foreign affairs – will these candidates present you with acceptable or unacceptable choices? The independent voter says that he is a victim to those issues and is willing to let other’s frame the discussion and decide. That’s because Independent voters can’t vote in primaries where all the action is. By the time the general election rolls around in November, the parties have decided everything and the choice is binary. Candidate A will support Party A on all the issues versus candidate B who will largely do the opposite.
The reason Independents have come to this conclusion, in my opinion, is because the issues are too complex; the media focuses on the latest shiny object; their lives are too busy; the parties promote conflict in order to dispirit the electorate so that they can control the outcome by getting out their base; and politicians will say anything to get elected. Who needs all that aggravation in one’s life? Yup, it’s not easy to decide what’s important at a young age.
Here’s what I suggest: Decide that over the next 4 years, you’re going to inch your way into understanding the issues of society. You can’t just pick one source, like Jimmy Fallon or Fox News, you have to spread it around. I like RealClearPolitics.com because it has a balance of views. Then you need to pick a party to join. Yes, you’ll get stuff in the mail. That’s a part of life. But by picking a team to support, your boat will pull anchor and sail. Your team should reflect your values, of course. You need to observe what their values really are rather than what they say they are or what the opposition says they are. That takes time and it takes the skill of discernment. It takes time to figure out the issues and how you feel about them. I’ve changed my mind a couple times on important things as I have matured and discussed it with a bunch of smart people. You should do the same.
Both parties represent important values. It’s easy to love your team and hate the other team, to think they’re idiots or manipulative liars – and some are, which is why it’s easy. Each party is a big tent that accommodates lots of folks with divergent views. When you vote, you’re not really voting for a person even if that’s your intent. You’re voting for a party and all that goes with it. To think otherwise is uneducated and naive.
Ultimately, you should vote in the primary as a minimum to your civic duty. Now, I’m 53 and have never done it, but have recently come to understand that I need to. If you become particularly impassioned you should volunteer, but at a minimum, you owe it to your future and that of your children to take a stand. Because doing so matters.
To your continued success,