on Knowledge

“For no people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign invaders.” Samuel Adams (1722-1803), American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Thanksgiving Forum, a Republican Debate hosted by Frank Luntz in Des Moines. All Presidential candidates, with the exception of Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, were there. I arrived early, as I wanted to sit near the front. Attending a debate live is quite different than one that is televised, as the closer you sit, the better the opportunity to watch the facial expressions of each candidate as their opponents answer the questions. Body language can be quite telling, and you very rarely have that insight when you allow others to control the focus.

I believe that voting is both and honor and a duty, and I take it very seriously every election cycle. Rather than voting blindly for a particular party or platform, I research every person and item on the ballot. Knowledge is power, and the more places you go to seek knowledge, the more opportunity you have to control your destiny. If I am going to give other folks the power to make decisions regarding my family’s future, I want to have the knowledge of both who they are and where they stand.

Many folks rely on either on the news media, friends, blogs, gossip, associations/organizations, their political party or even their gut to help them make decision about how to vote. As for myself, I get busy and do some research. First, I check out whom these folks give their money to, or what spend their money on. Nothing reveals more about what a person values than their checkbook. I find that campaign ethics websites like http://www.iowa.gov/ethics/viewreports/index.htm are a good places to
start when I don’t know the candidate personally.  There you can look up any person or organization and see who or what they gave their money to or received money from in the last few electoral cycles. I have used it to check out judges, city, state and national candidates, as well as corporate and political organizations. Next, I look up all posted third party surveys filled out by the candidates. On these the candidates are asked direct questions and are required to give yes or no answers (If they don’t bother to answer the survey then I generally do the same thing – I don’t bother to vote for them). Then, I check out their voting record, if they have one, and if not, I check out who they worked for or what they lobbied for or against. Finally, I watch them being interviewed and view debate not only to hear what they have to see but watch what they do. When one’s body language is in conflict with their words I then have a tendency to question their answers. Basically, all of my efforts are to seek knowledge and truth. Does this person or policy line up with my belief system, are they consistent, does the policy make sense, or are they all just lying to my face with pretty words in order to get my vote? As sovereign citizens we will never have the luxury of trust – not with the future always on the line.

Americans who vote in ignorance or out of party loyalty have put us where we are today. We have only just begun to unravel the mess the last several decades have brought us. It will take a few more electoral cycles before we can get a clean slate of folks who understand where their true duty lies. In order to do that though, the American electorate must educate themselves not only on the people that are running, but also the impact of any policies that present themselves on the ballot. Can we really complain about government spending if we continue to vote for people or initiatives that support higher taxes because we refuse to do a bit of legwork? Ignorance of the law will not help you in court any more than ignorance of politics will help our nation. We must become an informed people or we will continue to be ruled over by fools.

I believe that our future lies in the hands of ordinary Americans because we have both the gumption and the “right stuff” to “get’er done”. However, we can only do so if we stop believing that the government knows best and begin refusing to take their sugary promises at face value (or for that matter, believe all their doom and gloom if we don’t do what they say). You know, come to think of it, ordinary Americans are not the only ones that need to be educated. Our politicians need to learn a few things as well – like how the real world works for those of us who actually live in it.

As you celebrate your Thanksgiving this year, let us not forget that the greatness of America comes not from her government, but from her people. That knowledge is the true power.

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right” Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Richard Price, January 8, 1789 

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