By Richard Rowland
On January first and for a few days thereafter every year the conventional greeting will be “Happy New Year”. It seems to me that such a greeting is a bit vacant of meaning. To many it is simply a way to fill uncomfortable silence. Like the check-out person at the grocery store who always says to you, “Have a Good Day” after she finishes the transaction and you are leaving. Strange as it may seem to some of you, such a greeting was rare, if used at all, 50-60 years ago. I sometimes wonder if the phrase is part of a plot to induce helplessness in the public at large. I do not think Ben Franklin would like it at all.
What if it was changed to something that was both true and thought provoking? Like this: ” I hope you make this New Year the best one you ever had”. I already know the answer (at least 90% of the time). There will be a surprised look that will quickly change to a thoughtful processing one followed right away by a smile and “I will try!” To which I always reply; “I wish you great success”
Let’s now have a more detailed look at this from the standpoint of public policy/practice and your and my impact on it. First, “You have a good day or a Happy New Year” implies that the day or year is somehow in charge of you. Yet, unless you are brain impaired, every event of the day causes a thoughtful or thoughtless reaction by you. If it is negative like “it is raining and the picnic must be cancelled, the day is ruined”, you have allowed the day to control you. On the other hand, if you thought to yourself, “What action can I take that would serve me best now that I cannot do the picnic” and you decided to read a book that you have ignored for six months. Lo and behold, you find a gem of an idea in the book that helps you help your best friend save his business from going broke! What a glorious day, it made your year. Instead of being a drag the day was an abundant success. This is not complicated. You took charge of your day.
I once had a good friend, now in heaven, who would say, when he knew I was grappling with a heavy problem: Repeat after me, in a firm, commanding voice; “If it is to Be, it is up to Me!” He would sometimes make me repeat it 6-8 times. I awoke last Sunday morning feeling tired and lacking energy. I had important work to do, but could not face it. Right on my desk was Stephen Moore’s new book, ” Who’s the Fairest of Them All” about the national economy and politics and I decided to read it. What a wealth of new ideas and information were in there. I perked right up. And all because I was about to have a bad day and decided not to participate.
Second, President Barack Obama has the impression that you and I and all the rest of the folks in the nation are out here floating through life with good days and bad days, depending on the flip of a coin or some such.
“You didn’t build that”, he says.
Well, Mr President, don’t worry about our days and years. What you do need to worry about is your own days every year for the next four. We the People are capable of self- governing, meaning we can govern ourselves. We do not need you or want you to govern us. The Declaration of Independence made clear that We the People were to be in charge. We have slipped a bit and now need to re-take the lead. That is why the Grassroot institute was formed. That’s what we work on every day, every hour. We want to empower that grocery store clerk to know that she as well as her customers are self-governors and are in charge of their own days and years. The more we get that done, the closer we get to giving the President and our Governor bad days and years one after the other as they fail in their mission to “govern others” while they cannot even govern themselves.
So, in responding to “Happy New Year”, you say, very pleasantly, slowly and directly: “I am going to make this the very best year of my life and I hope and pray that you work hard to do the same” I have already told you the answer to expect. That is the first step in telling your neighbors, friends, people you serve so well and those that serve you that they have Precious Power to govern themselves, and that We the People are in the process of taking back control. Almost all elected officials want you to have bad days, feeling powerless, so they can “fix things” and seem powerful.
We want you, me, he, she and that fellow behind the tree to re-assume our We the People power and say to elected officials both publicly and in private, often and clearly: “What is your purpose for being in elected office? Specifically, is it to make plentiful room and opportunity for each person to reach UP and strive to accomplish more individual liberty, responsibility, autonomy and accountability as the signers of the Declaration of Independence demanded? Or. Is it to force all of the people DOWN into bigger, more intrusive, expensive, demanding government that those signers so forcefully rejected? Get an answer, UP or DOWN, remembering that 70+% of the American public wants UP. Do not let them ever forget the answer they give. That is your major step toward your own self-government and the elected officials initial glimpse of true service to We the People.
Now you know what those 56 signers of the Declaration meant when they said “… Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. If Rights are to exist and persist they require obligations which means hard work–damned hard work.