As I ponder the situation we find ourselves in today, I am amazed just how status-quo-ish the whole world seems to be about looming crises. We go on about our daily business and push down all those nagging worries about deficits, national security, terrorism and the general decline in our cultural values and think that somehow it will all be figured out someday .. some way. But, is that really true? The only problem with that philosophy is that rarely does improvement happen in anything related to human endeavors without at least a few strong-willed individuals stepping out of their comfort zone to take on established practices. Let's take a step back in time to some pivotal points in our history and examine how the behaviors and attitudes of individuals made a positive difference in the course of human events.
Boston Tea Party
The colonists in America had a real distrust of the British government. Colonists felt the Brits were too far removed to fairly govern them, they made no real attempt to seek their consent or opinions, but the final straw was the British Parliament began taxing them excessively for tea. The British wanted to raise additional tax revenues by directly taxing the citizens of the new world, but they weren't interested in giving them any sort of representation in government. The Boston Tea Party was the culmination of a resistance movement among the colonies in America against the Tea Act, which had been passed by the British Parliament. The colonists objected to the Tea Act for a variety of reasons, but especially because they believed that it violated their right to be taxed only by their own elected representatives. Protesters had successfully prevented the unloading of taxed tea in other colonies, but in Boston, Governor Thomas Hutchinson refused to allow the tea to be returned to Britain. He apparently didn't expect that the protestors would choose to destroy the tea.
The Boston Tea Party was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution. These brave individuals who destroyed the tea on that fateful day took the first step in the process that would result in the birth of this nation.
Would we have ever seen an end to slavery if there weren't brave individuals willing to take on the political and economic forces of the day? I was born and raised in Mississippi, so it pains me to say that my ancestors did a very bad thing by owning and trading slaves. I am not aware of any specific people in my family line who directly participated in this horrible practice, but most assuredly, slavery touched many of them in some way back in the day. The plantation owners had a pretty sweet deal with very low cost labor to work in their fields.. they lived in luxury as their slaves did the hard work of cultivating and harvesting their crops. The system was maintained for a very long time because it was the backbone of the agricultural and economic structure of the south, and losing slaves would put an end to the lifestyles of those wealthy plantation owners. But very brave people stood up against slavery at great danger to themselves in many instances. Some of those people include:
- Abigail Adams - Spoke out against the practice of slavery and wrote letters to Congress
- Harriet Tubman - Helped many slaves escape from slavery as a part of the Underground Railroad. She risked her life to help many slaves escape to freedom in the North and Canada
- John Wesley (Methodist Minister) - in 1774, he wrote a tract called "Thoughts on Slavery" that went into four editions in two years. In it, he attacked the Slave Trade and the slave-trader with considerable passion and proposed a boycott of slave-produced sugar and rum.
- Hannah More - an educator, writer and social reformer. She was also known for her writings on abolition and for encouraging women to join the anti-slavery movement.
- Joseph Sturge - secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society in Birmingham in 1826. He thought the London leadership too cautious and argued for greater public agitation. "The people", he said, "must emancipate the slaves for the Government never will."
This is a very short list of the people who participated in the movement to free the slaves. You can read about many more of these people at The Abolition Project.
Rosa Parks was a black woman on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama where the seats were all taken. When additional white passengers got onto the bus the 'whites only' sign was moved back and Rosa Parks seat was now in the newly assigned 'whites only' section. It was customary for blacks to give up their seats to white passengers, but Rosa remained in her seat insisting she didn't think she should have to move. She was charged with a crime and her case made its way to the Supreme Court. This simple act by one woman started a bus boycott -- black residents of Montgomery continued the boycott for 381 days, at considerable personal sacrifice. This boycott dealt a major financial blow to the bus companies. The Supreme Court eventually ruled that the segregation laws allowing 'whites only' sections on buses were unconstitutional.
Here is what Rosa Parks had to say about her decision to remain in her seat:
I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it becameThis act of courage by one woman was the beginning of the end of segregation.
When the Soviet Union was at the height of it's power, the world was in a perpetual state of fear wondering when the war to end all wars would begin. Countries were busy building up their nuclear arsenals and a lot of heated talk between those countries behind the iron curtain and the free world was ongoing. Nothing really seemed to halt the escalation of the threats by the Soviet Union against our country, so we built nuclear fall-out shelters and the status-quo of believing there would one day be a nuclear holocaust was fixed in the minds of most Americans. I was a child during most of this, but even I recall thinking that the end of this world would probably come at the hands of the Soviet Union. I wasn't aware of all the details, of course, but it just seemed all the 'grown-ups' had pretty much given up the idea we could or should find a way to stop the Soviet threat. Then along came Ronald Reagan, and all of that changed.
Reagan was fearless in the face of the Soviet threat. He began negotiations with Soviet leaders in spite of dire warnings by his advisers. His idea for a nuclear defense shield (and it was only an idea, it never was developed) actually put the Soviets on the defense for the first time. Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Soviet Union, met with Reagan and not only did the two get along, they became friends. The events that transpired as a result of Reagan's negotiations with Gorbachev are too numerous to list here, but essentially, Reagan was the catalyst that caused the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The vision and courage of one man, brought down one of the world's greatest super-powers.
It is time for us to step out of our comfort zone. We may not have the political savvy of a Ronald Reagan, but every citizen of this country that really values freedom has what it takes to stand up for the principles that built this nation. We don't have to just accept the norms being forced on us by a godless Hollywood or liberal government. We have a right to be heard and represented. It may mean sacrificing a little personal comfort, but is that really so much to give up? It is time to speak loudly and often and fight back against forces that would turn this country into a failed socialist state. Too many people have worked too hard and many have died to give us this great country. It is simply unacceptable for us to lay down and allow it to be taken away from us without a fight.