Every holiday table has one. It may be composed of large bright blossoms artfully arranged in a golden vase. It may be a woodsy display of fall foliage. It may be a single elegant candelabra. But whatever its particular color and composition, it has been carefully chosen for display by the hostess of the feast.
The rest of the table and room decorations are then selected with that centerpiece in mind. Each thing is either included because it both complements and coordinates with the chosen centerpiece, or rejected because it does not. Anyone entering the room is immediately aware of it, for the centerpiece establishes the room’s atmosphere, and therefore affects whatever occurs within it.
Lives have centerpieces as well. The difference is that most of us do not take the time to actually examine the object or person that we have placed at the center of our existence. Our lack of examination, however, does not diminish the significance of our internal centerpiece. Each of us still arranges the rest of our life around it, including those elements that enhance the effectiveness of our internal centerpiece, and rejecting those that interfere with it.
Over the past few years, America has been engaged in a national discussion about whether the centerpiece of our country should be changed.
Throughout our history, our national centerpiece consisted of the philosophy explained in our Declaration. In simple terms, it said that there was an authority higher than the State, that each individual was endowed with fundamental human rights by that higher authority, that those rights began with life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (or property), and that the only legitimate purpose of government was to preserve those fundamental rights.
That centerpiece resulted in the creation and growth of a nation that an entire world recognized as unique. In fact, people of every ethnic background came, embracing a culture that first acknowledged their worth and followed that acknowledgement with opportunity. It wasn’t perfect, but our history has been a growth toward a more complete fulfillment of the promises contained in our centerpiece.
But in the last election, those who advocate changing that centerpiece came into power. They have a very different idea of the proper role of government. And while they paid lip service to the ideas that government is not the highest authority, and that our individual rights to life, liberty, and property cannot be legitimately cancelled by the state, the policies and programs they advocated belied their assurances.
That there are those who are intent on re-defining America is not surprising or even alarming. What causes concern is that the citizens of this nation willingly handed the reins of power to the re-definers.
Did they do so knowingly? There are three possible answers. The citizens of this county actually want to jettison the centerpiece of America. The citizens of this country don’t know that there IS a centerpiece and therefore don’t understand its importance. Or, the citizens of this country were not aware that the “change” being promised would be of such a fundamental nature.
No matter which possibility, or combination of possibilities, is actually correct, the result of this election offers us an opportunity. America was born, not because people lived somewhere, but because people believed in something – something that changed the course of world history. That belief system is just as valid and persuasive today as it was two hundred years ago.
The question is, will we rise to its defense?