Our oldest grandchild is in Navy OCS (Officer Candidate School) getting ‘authority orientation’ designed to convince him he needs to obey orders! As vets know, basic training is an “in your face” challenge to whatever you thought was your previous self-determined life. While basic training is a learning experience, it makes no claim to be an in-depth analysis of the nature and source of human authority — just a practical application at the level of “Yes Sir!” — “No Sir!”. As the ditty goes, “It is ours do or die… not to ask the reason why!” Finding our ultimate niche in the complex hierarchy of autonomous human authority varies in every culture and with every world view. Coming to terms with when/why to obey (submit), revolt, give orders, or expect obedience takes time and is called “wisdom” because it requires constant adaptation to deal with a myriad cultural “boundaries”. It is impossible to discuss the nature of authority in any culture without getting into religious/philosophical questions. This is because after each person decides whether Ultimate Authority exists, the next inevitable question is, “What is expected, what does He want? The question of faith in God is directly “in our face” for any consideration of authority. If a person decides there is no god — they are still part of the same authority equation when they use the word “should” or “shouldn’t”. Rules and authority are part of every human relationship.
As proof we are all in this together, consider the universal human reaction when someone tries to make you do something you do not want to do. We all experience the feeling called “resentment”. The resentment, just a “feeling”, may or may not generate action. We all must cope with resentment starting from day one, when we encounter tension in relationships starting with our parent or guardian! It makes us smile to watch the “terrible two’s”, but the stakes get higher as each human matures. Some seem more naturally compliant than others, but nobody is exempt. One of life’s first lessons in reality, beyond “Mom”, is the painful realization others may not have our best interests at heart! In fact, military, government, and even family authority can prove to be abusive and profoundly devastating, even lethal. Consider how resentment naturally puts us on a quest to find some authoritative person or standard (rule) to insist or judge on what is “fair” as a fundamental response option next to physical force or revenge. It is simply not ‘human’ to instinctively squelch resentment — to forgive and forget. We must learn a preference for the selfless “golden rule”. Whether you think fairness (justice) is based on God’s law, or some humanistic evolving standard, we all long for equal justice before your approved version of “good” rules when we feel the “excitement of passion which proceeds from a sense of wrong offered to ourselves, or to those who are connected with us” (Webster’s 1828 definition). We rely first on our inner knowledge of good and evil to decide if resentment is a just response, but we also look for the authority of “law” to validate or squelch the feeling.
Keep in mind America was spawned from resentment! The Declaration of Independence includes a robust list of complaints against the King. The fruition of the founder’s resentments include: the American Revolution, the Constitution, Bill of Rights … each allowing more freedom and prosperity than mankind had ever known! Our founders rationally justified defying the authority of Great Britain. They staked out a new national authority by positioning themselves under the moral authority of one true God! This is the way any legitimate authority is honored … “chain of command” to an ultimate authority. The Declaration of Independence clearly references what Jefferson called “Natural Law” sourced in “Nature’s God”. In the ‘cultural moment’ of global history, there was a consensus of belief in a “Supreme Judge” and in “Divine Providence” (also acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence) as the legitimate basis for a constitutional governing authority. Despite the best efforts of many in academia, America still stands on this foundation! The argument stating American government is intended to be “secular” because it was prohibited from “establishing” religion is rubbish. The Establishment Clause is a monument to the founder’s intent to limit the power of government — not to limit belief in God’s authority! America’s future ultimately depends on the faith (religion) of voters … it really is that simple!
In light of America’s official standing, it is difficult to process the resentment we are seeing under the banners of Black Lives Matter, Cancel Culture, Woke, Identity Politics, Defunding Police, Critical Race Theory, even the general intolerance of “intolerance” feels as if the resentment is aimed at America … at ourselves! It is difficult to imagine positive consequences resulting from this round of resentment, but the answer is not to squelch those involved beyond enforcement of our laws. The only valid answer must start with each voter so he or she selects representatives and laws truly “in the chain of command”.
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.