- - Thursday, August 7, 2014

With all the turmoil in the world, many people are feeling uneasy, wondering if they should feel guilty for going on with their lives. While it’s not time to duck and cover, there is a reason for this unease.

Russian President Putin is violating a decades-old nuclear arms treaty without so much as blinking an eye. The Kremlin deputy prime minister tweeted an insolent photo of President Obama so belittling that it trended as #SissyBomb. The “I can pick on my family but you can’t” standard applies here. We can criticize our president, but Russian thug leaders can’t. The absence of any response or demand for an apology from our government, which supposedly understands diplomacy better than any previous administration, is telling.

History teaches that when great nations have collapsed, it wasn’t because of one single blow. With a few exceptions, it was a gradual weakening from within that made them susceptible to either invasion or coup. This is happening to America right now. We’re vulnerable to foreign threats because we are weakening our republic from within our own borders.

The list of causes of concern, foreign and domestic, is long and needs no recitation. A glimpse at any newspaper will suffice.

These crises can seem overwhelming and it’s tempting for most of us to choose apathy or intentional disengagement as a coping mechanism.

Just because America’s government may be projecting weakness, it doesn’t mean the American public has to follow suit.

There are changes in our daily lives that we can make to fight American decline. Here are my top three suggestions:

1) Don’t accept mediocrity just because it’s free.

This attitude makes us ripe for government dependency. Dependency on anything except God or the resources of loved ones in community makes us weak and vulnerable to government offers of security-for-liberty.

On a recent trip to Ireland, I met a local man who had severe knee problems. He was boasting that, because of Ireland’s government health care system, he didn’t have to pay a dime for his treatment. He had to wait a year-and-a-half for his surgery, and in that waiting period he had no treatment at all. Now, post surgery he has been content to endure pain and strenuous physical therapy to mitigate some of the damage caused by government rationing-through-delay. When I asked him if this suffering could have been avoided if the surgery hadn’t been delayed, he said, “Of course, but this is the way it is. As long as I am OK with this, I don’t have to pay for anything.”

This willingness to endure state-induced loss of human dignity that a serious health condition and resulting lost time from work creates is sadly not limited to the health care context. Too many of our unemployed neighbors are trapped in the indignity of receiving more through government programs than they would through the jobs available to them in this economy. I’ve talked to several people locked in the catch-22 of so-called “government benefits.” They are struggling with a lack of that self-worth and purpose that only comes from working hard to provide for your loved ones. Yet, our “new normal” of negligible economic growth and flat wages traps our struggling fellow Americans in this cycle of indignity and dependency.

There’s a reason that loving parents have always kicked their kids out of the house after a certain age, that mothers have always pestered their children to get married, that fathers have always encouraged their children to buy a home as soon as they could. What does it mean that fewer and fewer of our young people are able to follow such time-tested nagging advice? What would we say about parents who didn’t fight for those opportunities for their kids? What kind of government stands in the way of these young people, who are the real “Dreamers” deserving of our leaders’ attention?

With government dependency at an all-time high, the collective character of our nation is morphing into one that will accept whatever mediocrity the government provides, one hopeless young American at a time. Blink and we’ll be Western Europe. Blink twice and we’ll be Eastern Europe.

But you can do your part — the character of every individual contributes to the character of our nation as a whole. Don’t accept government mediocrity just because it’s free or subsidized.

2) Don’t coddle your kids: The best contribution to society that parents can make is to raise good, well-informed citizens who love their country.

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