The Founding Fathers conceived the United States of America out of their desire to escape Great Britain’s heavy-handed governance. They justifiably felt that the Crown was too intrusive and oppressive. The colonists were – just as they were back in their homeland - heavily taxed, denied the pursuit of freedom and silenced when it came to legislative affairs. They and other Brits had become beholden to their government.
Not wanting to live under such tyranny, and intent on guaranteeing that no one else suffered the same, they founded this great nation under the basic yet utterly profound premise that the people control the government, rather than the other way around. This tenet was codified in the Declaration of Independence through this timeless phrase: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Powers from the Consent of the Governed."
As a direct result of their newfound self-rule, the United States and their citizens prospered. It was the first time in history that a people collectively and officially recognized freedom as a natural right, granted to all by a higher power, something beyond government and beyond Man. Despite being natural and essential to one’s existence, true liberty was in stark contrast to not only British rule but also that of most organized societies since the dawn of time, from nomadic tribes to the world’s greatest empires. Americans were unique because they could pursue happiness and liberty virtually unabated.
Essentially, the United State were, by design, Heaven on Earth.
This position still holds mostly true to this day; centuries later: Despite her flaws (the result of our people straying from the formative tenets of self-rule, responsibility and liberty), our country is still the best exemplification of a free society.
Realize, though, that this is not a guaranteed comfort; there have been and always are forces at work to suffocate natural rights and eliminate “the Consent of the Governed” from the government equation. We as Americans can only maintain this great nation and eliminate those threats through participation in legislative affairs. This does not mean that one needs to run for office. All it means and requires is that the citizens pay attention to how their lives are impacted by government and then - based upon acceptance or displeasure – make their voices heard in the electoral process.
Unfortunately, over the years, many have lost sight of this duty. Less and less people exercise their right to vote, taking Americanism and freedom for granted while accepting the status quo and gradual degradation of our rights. They fail to see that the right to vote essentially dictates all other rights. Such a wayward mindset will ultimately destroy America, taking all of the power from the people and placing it into the hands of the government. Oppressive government rule can and will wipe out all rights, even those identified as being unalienable.
This demise can be prevented – and America saved - with your help. In 2 weeks, during the general election, many people will do the patriotic thing and exercise their right to vote. While this occurs many others will decline their obligation. You will know many such people, those who consider going to the polls a chore and struggle to make to time for it or to put-in the efforts necessary to make an informed decision. You yourself may even be one of these souls. If this is the case, a truer path must be chosen. It is imperative that you exercise your right to vote. It is as equally important that you influence other people to do the same.Not participating in our representative form of government through elections will, in the end, give away the very extraordinary American way of life – one predicated on freedom -- that you, your children, and their children all rightly deserve and should expect.
Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column originally ran in the 15 October 2012 Greater Niagara Newspapers