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CONNECTIONS: Surviving the next four years

'An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.' -- Winston Churchill

About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.

Recently, I was asked for advice about how to live through the next four years. I am sorry to disappoint, but I don’t give advice. I believe what Josh Billings said: “Advice is like castor oil; easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take.”

However, many others far wiser than I, do give advice. Here is a sampling.

As I see folks wondering what to do – rise up or sit down and wait it out – I am reminded of another quote from Josh Billings, “Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things that ought to be done.”

Somehow so many say they are waiting to see. When has one seen enough?

Winston Churchill warned, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, criticizing everything but yourself, may not clear the air or drain the swamp, it could cast a people adrift and leave them without anchor or touchstone.

Put another way, Churchill advised, “A love for tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.”

And Lady Astor, in a rare moment of agreeing with Churchill, advised, “The only people to fear are those who want to change everything…or nothing.”

Maybe this four years is a tough-love way of reminding everyone what our forefathers fought for and why certain rules and restraints were put in place. What, for example, is the value of freedom of speech, an unfettered press?

Berkshire humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw (Josh Billings).
Berkshire humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw (Josh Billings).

In 1787 Jefferson advised, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

What is the importance of placing a civilian over the military as Commander-in-Chief and as Secretary of Defense? Why, if a military person is considered for either post, must he or she have been retired from the military for more than seven years?

Eisenhower’s advice was clear: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

We demand good character in our leaders, but what is the most important character trait?

According to Churchill, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

Taking bows for success and blaming others for failure is as reprehensible as hood-winking the public by claiming a failure is an accomplishment.

Perhaps we need to be reminded what can be detrimental about appointing billionaire businessmen to run the government. Aside from the fox guarding the henhouse, it may be how they made their money.

Warren Buffett warns, ”Derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction.”

In an email purported to be from the Queen of England, Elizabeth advises: “To the Citizens of the United States, In light of your failure to elect a competent for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence. Effective immediately, Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties.”

Warren Buffett.
Warren Buffett.

Much advice is aimed at the voters rather than the elected officials. For example, Warren Buffett advises, “Honesty is a very expensive thing – don’t expect it from cheap people.”

Will Rogers warned, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Finally, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “’We get the government we deserve.”

Possibly the biggest problem in America today is not a clash of opinions; we can deal with a divided country and a two party system; we always have. What we cannot deal with is that we no longer know fact from opinion; we can no longer distinguish the truth from spin.

As Will Rogers advised, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble; it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

William Shirer, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” advised, “No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it.”

Finally, this piece of advice: “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Winston Churchill


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