Saturday, July 17, 2010

From Sibling Rivalry to Socialism

Ever notice how the partisan squabbles in Washington, DC, and even the political divisions within our country, have many of the same characteristics as a sibling rivalry. There are struggles for control, a deep desire to be appreciated, attempts to make sure everyone is treated fairly, disparate perceptions of the same event, distrust of others, and distinct people with different ideas and motivations. Sibling rivalries are considered unhealthy and most parental units spend an inordinate amount of time trying to eliminate, or at least, mitigate the rivalry between siblings.

The Bible says, “Blessed are the peace makers,” but does that mean everyone must come to agreement, or can we sometimes just agree to disagree? And does the peace maker necessarily have to take a side to fulfill their responsibility? Is peace possible in every circumstance? Doesn’t the Bible also say that, “Steel sharpens steel.” Could it be that some level of disagreement is actually healthy for siblings and a nation?

In most cases when a sibling rivalry has gone bad, one can usually find a parent or parents who went out of their way to try to treat both siblings equally. The parents wrongly believe that equality will lead to peace. This approach almost always fails because of parental failure to recognize the individual and unique strengths and weaknesses of each child and to appreciate their diversity. The best approach parents can take with competing siblings is to ensure that each child has the opportunity and environment in which they can maximize the benefits of their unique strengths.

Viva la difference! At a dining table in Paris several years ago, one of the French guests commented to my wife that “America has no culture.” The French are intensely proud of their culture and indeed much of the world enjoys the benefits of French architecture, art, cooking, and wine. Over the past few decades, the government of France has gone to great lengths to protect that culture by outlawing the use of non-French words—how do you say iPod in French?—and more recently by banning the wearing of head dresses and veils worn mostly by Muslims.

My wife bristled at first, but then calmly stated, “That America has a very strong culture and that culture is deeply rooted in our diversity.” And it is true. Diversity is our greatest strength and Americans can be uniquely proud of how our diversity has helped this nation to become the economic and social powerhouse of the world.

Owing to its liberal immigration policies and low birth rates among the native French, France is now a much more culturally diverse country. But, unlike America, which was founded on the principle of accepting and embracing diversity, the French are fighting it all the way.

During the first 200 years, the United States of America was known as the melting pot of the world. People emigrated from every continent, religious freedom and tolerance was the norm, and in that environment, people were assimilated. Nobody needed Affirmative Action, income redistribution was not necessary, and social welfare programs did not exist. There were, however, expectations. You learned English, your loyalty was to America, and you became an active participant in our citizen-led form of government. Notice the difference? No laws outlawing the use of your native language. Nothing prohibiting you from sharing your homeland’s culture thus American cuisine includes Chinese, Italian, and Mexican, even French cooking, to name a few. Our government did not take it upon itself to equalize the different people groups; we just provided them a place to flourish and maximize their individual strengths.

America grew to be the envy of the world in it first 200 years because we stuck to the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence. The first among these is that we cherished liberty over life itself as when Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” But, then there is that principle of equality wherein the Declaration says, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, where did we go wrong? Why shouldn’t our parents and our government work to make sure we are all treated equally—that the playing field is leveled, so to speak? The difference is that the Declaration of Independence says we are all “created equal.” It does not say we will all become equal or are all to be equalized. What the Founding Fathers were trying to say is that we all enjoy the same inalienable rights, that we all start with the same opportunities, and that we are free—enjoying the freedom to succeed and to fail. To believe that we are all born with the same strength, mind, and heart, and therefore, we should all end up equal is the utopian delusion of egalitarianism and it just does not exist in the real world. Europeans have fixated for decades on egalitarian principles and this has led them down the path of socialism. We are now witnessing the end result of these unsustainable economic policies as European governments collapse under the burden of their national debts. How long will it be before we will wake up here in the United States?

Family dynamics are like a microcosm of our society. As parents, we would do well to recognize that trying to level the playing field for our children and micromanaging their lives to try to achieve an egalitarian outcome exacerbates sibling rivalry and often results in the break down of the family. On the macro level, forcing equality where it does not exist and manipulating the economy to achieve an egalitarian society will lead to our economic failure and the break down of our society.

Let us instead return to the principles articulated by our Founding Fathers. We should recognize that we are all created equal, share the same inalienable rights, of which the chief among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Let us return to a government that protects our individual rights and liberties and fosters opportunity, but does not try to micromanage the outcome.

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