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What A 73-Year-Old Reader’s Digest Says About America’s Future


Although I’m no social media aficionada, since Donald Trump was crowned the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party, my newsfeeds have been clogged with editorials browbeating Republicans into accepting this condition.

This particular piece of commentary was exceptionally blatant. It labels the #NeverTrump movement anti-American and hypocritical, then advises me: “We only have two choices for president. We must pick the better of the two. It really is that simple.”

As much of the other political commentary I’ve read regarding Trump’s potential nomination, this argument is specious and dull. Even a cursory rubbing together of a couple brain cells would yield the conclusion that the #NeverTrump movement is neither anti-American nor hypocritical.

In fact, if you’re going to hold your nose and vote for someone to run this country who doesn’t share your value system, you’re the hypocrite. Not only that, but if you believe in the America of the Constitution yet choose to vote for someone in whom you have little faith to uphold its constructs, how in the world can you consider yourself an American?

No, I am not full of sour grapes because “my guy” didn’t win. Yes, I was a member of the #CruzCrew, but to be honest, after years of enduring the aggressive assaults of my more libertarian-leaning friends, I’ve finally discovered merit in their assertion that one guy or gal at the top of the Washington heap is not going to matter as much as 100-something men and women in my state capitol.

In fact, if we were to elect people at the state level who had a clue about the meaning of the Tenth Amendment and were willing to play Johnny Paycheck and tell the feds to take their money and “shove it” on everything from education and day care to transportation, we’d actually see some changes in this country.

The People Are the Problem

While I have been involved in the periphery of enough state campaigns to recognize electing good people can be accomplished, there is one very large, very real reason this plan cannot produce results fast enough to steer Titanic away from the iceberg: the American people. Without question, the majority of Americans today are insanely ignorant, despite all the information we have the ability to tap into every day on just our cell phones, and more apathetic about everything non-entertainment-related than a teenaged boy’s regard for his wardrobe choices.

True, our nation’s history is replete with stories of massive changes incurred by small minorities of socially inclined activists, the war for Independence from Britain representing the clear apex of these. The vast majority of victories occurred before so many of our national institutions had been corrupted to their very core by the communists and socialists who entered America throughout her history beginning as early as the turn of the eighteenth century with the French Revolution.

Although I’ve struggled frequently with my levels of political activism, the fate of the Republican Party, and the trajectory of our country over the last decade, it wasn’t until my mom presented me with a Reader’s Digest she’d picked up from her church’s annual fund-raising garage sale that I starkly realized: No matter what I do at this point, no matter for whom I cast a vote, no matter who becomes president, the Titanic will sink.

‘A Great Upsurge of National Indignation’

This magazine in miniature, now yellowed and faded around the edges, is comprised of 155 newsprint pages and boasts a cover depicting the Betsy Ross flag and the Stars and Stripes, held by a man in a tricorn hat and a man in steel pot helmet respectively. Identified inside the front cover as Vol. 43, No. 255, at a cost of 25 cents, the date reads “July 1943.”
An outstanding source for all kinds of historical perspective, one article stood out unambiguously against a backdrop of go-America-kill-the-Japs reads. It was a ferociously written screed by Harry F. Byrd, a 10-year U.S. senator and Democrat from Virginia titled “U.S.A. Versus the Frankenstein Monster.”

On the few pages it takes to unpack his thesis, Byrd begins by outlining the numbers of federal employees as compared with state employees for the states of Ohio (90,000 to 25,000), Massachusetts (129,000 to 21,000), Pennsylvania (215,000 to 44,000) and Wyoming (6,200 to 1,100).

“With more than 3 million civilian employees—exclusive of the Army and Navy—our federal government now has more persons on the taxpayers’ payroll than the combined total of all the employees of all the 48 states plus all the employees of all the country’s county and municipal governments,” Byrd writes, finally revealing accusatorily that 55 percent of federal employees were not directly engaged in the war effort.

He goes on to say, “Since July 1939, more than two years before Pearl Harbor, the federal government has increased the number of its new employees almost 50% EVERY SIX MONTHS. Despite repeated recommendations to the contrary from Congress, the peak is nowhere in sight.”

Let those numbers sink in just a minute and then tell me that, at this point in American history, the election of one president will suddenly cure a country this out of constitutional whack by World War II.

Byrd closes his monograph with the following words: “It is a matter of no less importance to see to it that, while the war is being won, America—the America we have known and our fighting men believe in—is not lost. That America CAN be lost. Even now I believe that only a great upsurge of national indignation against this Frankenstein monster, and of national demand for a return to representative, responsible government, can save it.”

It’s now 2016. Where was the “great upsurge of national indignation”? There hasn’t been one directly aimed at the main causes of our malaise, and today we’re more worried about who uses what bathroom than putting our country back on its constitutional course.

Confucius is credited with saying, “To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” Maybe it’s time to follow that prescription. Vote—or don’t vote—your conscience and let the chips fall where they may.