I’m a bit of a pessimist. I tend to see the world (and my country in particular) going down the drain right before my eyes. I take a bit of comfort in knowing that everything is a part of God’s plan, and that even the Bible talks about the world becoming more and more evil until the day of reckoning is finally upon us. If we look at history, things have really only gotten worse. Obviously we’ve made tremendous technological advances, but the morals of the world are certainly no better than they were 300 years ago, and many people (including myself) would argue that they’re actually worse.
With all that negative thinking, I still sometimes try to see the best in life, and look for a glimmer of hope. Its hard to find, but I found something. It may not be much, but perhaps its a sign that my country will be able to continue walking in the footsteps laid by our founding fathers for at least another century or so. The hope comes from this – knowing that people change, and that some of the most influential people in Western civilization once had views opposite to what they’re known for.
In particular, I’m referring to John Locke, the philosopher who inspired our Founding Fathers to create a nation based on the power of the individual and his God given rights to pursue his own self interests. During the Constitutional Convention no man was quoted more than John Locke. The idea that men were created by God with certain unalienable rights – to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; this was John Locke. Men are not tools of the government, nor are they tools belonging to each other to create some collectivist goal. They are individuals, who can live their own lives, raise their families as they see fit, and own their own property.
Recently I’ve been reading up a bit on Locke’s life before he became the man we revere today. Before he was sternly against an all powerful government, he was for it. That’s right. During his tenure at Oxford University in England he agued for authoritarian rule. It wasn’t until years later that he worked and reworked the philosophy that we know and love – Americanism, in many respects. He spent many years working closely with the Earl of Shaftesbury, a man who changed Locke tremendously. The two of them bounced ideas off each other, and Locke developed a keen sense for politics and economics, as well as religion and morals.
So, if the man most responsible for the basic principles that America was founded on was a converted authoritarian, then anyone can be converted. After reading this, I thought about other great minds who were once on one side of the aisle but settled along the side of liberty, property rights, and individualism. Among them are Thomas Sowell, perhaps my favorite author. The strong conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was once a devoted statist, looking for government to “right” history’s wrongs. Ronald Reagan, who is often considered the greatest conservative in modern history, was once a democrat. Even a number of local conservative talk show hosts, Vicki McKenna and Mark Belling, were once democrats.
This all gives me hope. Everyone can change, there is no such thing as destiny or inevitability. America is not certain to fall just because “even Rome fell”. We can change our path, change the morals of our country, and allow America to remain the only beacon of hope and freedom that the world has left. It takes work, and it takes sacrifice, but lets remember that we’re no ordinary population. America is the freest, most prosperous nation in the history of the world. We built this country, and just because it needs a little fixing doesn’t mean that we should let it go in the trash.