Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Courteous: adj.  1: marked by polished manners, gallantry, or ceremonial usage of a court  2: marked by respect for and consideration of others

A Scout is courteous is the fifth point of the Scout Law.  The word is reputed to have first been used in the 12th century.

A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS: That is, he is polite to all—but especially to women and children and old people and invalids, cripples, etc. And he must not take any reward for being helpful or courteous.
-Lord Robert Baden-Powell

In two weeks my Cub Scout Pack will gather for our October Pack meeting which as recent tradition dictates will be our fall campout.   I think that we are unusual in the fact that we have a fall and a spring campout but I believe the experience for the boys is a beneficial one.  The danger in having a few campouts a year, especially if they are held in the same location, is that they become stale resulting in a decline in attendance.  Fortunately this is not the case for Pack 33.  Planning weekend event is something I find both relaxing and entertaining.  Note I said planning not executing which is never relaxing or entertaining. But I digress. In order to keep the events fresh I set a theme and then design the curriculum and activities around the theme.  This next event is “Return to Camelot”.   Although the younger boys still do not know who King Arthur and the Knights of the roundtable are I know that they will throw themselves into a tale of knights in shining armor with reckless abandon.  The boys will joust, participate in a grande melee, explore family history and art, and launch pumpkins from a trebuchet as they complete requirements for Engineer Pin, Heritages Pin, Art Belt loop, and Good Manners Belt Loop.  But the most important lessons they will learn will be wrapped in the knight’s code of chivalry.

Chivalry, or the chivalric code, is the traditional code of conduct associated with the medieval institution of knighthood. It was originally conceived of as an aristocratic warrior code — the term derives from the French term for horseman — involving individual training and service to others. Over time its meaning has been refined to emphasize more ideals such as knightly virtues, honour and courtly love, and less the martial aspects of the tradition. The Knight's Code of Chivalry was a moral system that stated all knights should protect others who cannot protect themselves, such as widows, children, and elders. [1]  

It is said that Scouting was brought to the United States as a result of a good deed.  According to somewhat fictionalized legend, William D. Boyce had become lost in the dense London fog in 1909, but was guided back to his destination by a young boy.  When offered a reward for his service the youth refused and told him that he was merely doing his duty as a Boy Scout.   Boyce then read printed material on Scouting, and on his return to the United States, he formed the BSA. From its start, Boyce focused the Scouting program on teaching self-reliance, citizenship, resourcefulness, patriotism, obedience, cheerfulness, courage, and courtesy in order "to make men" [2]

The basic principle of chivalry; to protect those widows, children, and elders who cannot protect themselves, and the good deed that inspired newspapermen to start the Boy Scouts of America have one thing in common.  All of these actions are acts of courtesy.  Courtesy comes from the 12th century old French word ‘courteis’ meaning gentle politeness and courtly manners.  Courtesy seems to be a dying sentiment. Of course I am writing this essay from a man’s perspective which I will admit is limited but we are talking about teaching Cub Scouts to be young men, right?  From this man’s perspective feminism is one of the daggers in the heart of courtesy.  

Before all of my readers belonging to the fairer sex organize a lynch mob let me point out that I believe that feminism is symptomatic of the continuing need for the modern women to fight hard for equality in society.  Most of you have heard stories where the act of holding or opening a door, offering up or pulling out a chair, was met with condescension rather than thanks or even general acceptance that it is at the very least a quaint gesture.   A condescending reaction infers that the recipient believes the gesture somehow implies she is unable to open her own door or find her own chair.  Frankly this train of thought is silly.  Men work on basic impulses. Assigning such complex reasoning, negative or not, gives way to much credit to men as a species!  

We are two generations removed from the modern upheavals of the male female relationship wars of the 70’s.  The impact is noticeable as we see men and boys taking the easy way out.  Women young, old, pregnant, or juggling an infant, toddler, shopping cart and a set of keys are ignored.  This complete lack of situational awareness is not just limited to the men of the early 21st century either.  As I walked up to the local shopping mall I observed women in a wheelchair trying to get through a door that was not equipped with one of the ubiquitous “push here” buttons for handicapped access.  Leaning up against the outside wall was a group of young women chatting and smoking.  Not one stepped forward to help.  Even worse I observed another couple leave the store through an adjacent door passing foot from the wheelchair bound women trying to get in.  I did hold both the inner and outer doors when I arrived and I was not met with scorn or derision for assuming a wheel chair and a door could not be managed simultaneously without growing an extra arm.

In my previous essay on being “helpful” I referenced the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company™ add campaign.  They ran a series of commercials as part of one of its marketing campaigns called “A helping hand is contagious”.  If you have not had the opportunity to see these commercials on television take a few minutes to view them on Your Tube at this link:     Helpful is often synonymous with courteous and the Liberty Mutual aid proves that the concept of chivalry both gender neutral and trying to make a comeback.  

So how do we teach our young boys to be courteous?  If I may be so bold as to suggest that you use the same tricks that I do as Cubmaster, wrap a lesson in a theme.  Little boys want to be knights of some type whether they are in shining armor or light saber wielding Jedi.  My suggestion let them.  I am in the process of raising three young men ages five, ten, and sixteen.  My oldest was enamored with both afore mentioned types of knights as well as cowboys.  I grabbed onto that.  During bedtime stories (like sitting down to dinner as a family a critical life tool) I enraptured him with tales of cowboys doing good.  Before shutting off the lights we would recite the “Code of the West” which I borrowed from the 1995 Disney movie “Tall Tale” starring Patrick Swayze; “Respect the land, defend the defenseless, and don't never spit in front of women or children”.   Kris always giggled after the “don’t never spit” part.  But it served as an example of courteous behavior and he remembers the code to this day.  

Courteous behavior starts at home!  In my house we have some basic rules for the children which include giving up your seat for an adult at family gatherings; asking for permission to leave the dinner table; again at family gatherings serving the eldest first or your guests when you have them to dinner; talking back or “back talk” is not permitted.  We also have chores which are not optional and do not result in monetary payment of any kind.  These are basic tools for building character.   Our rules are non negotiable.  I get so frustrated when I see parents of any kind, especially parents of Cub Scouts negotiating for good behavior.   If it does not work for the United Nations I have no idea why they think it will work at home.  I recently ran into a mother who is also a child psychiatrist. She developed a theory about raising your children by letting them do anything they want as long as they have been informed that their actions have consequences.  I observed this in action with the Bear aged boy.  When told to go to bed after having been granted an “extension” of bedtime to almost midnight the child threw a tantrum.  The result, he was told he did not have to go to sleep but he would be very tired in the morning when he had to get up to go to school.  Seriously?  On a side note I was horrified at the way that the children in this household spoke to their parents and acted in front of company.  I also noted that the pantry door had a keypad lock.  I guess a tummy ache from eating all of the snack food at the same time was not an acceptable “consequence”.  

I have observed Cub Scouts that will talk back to or ignore their parents while their parents try to placate them.  These same Cubs will not show the same disrespect to the Cubmaster.  Why, because I do not negotiate.  I let them know that if they continue in the behavior I will send them home and the event or activity will be over for them right then.  Their actions will have a consequence, one that carries a lasting impression.  

Our family room has a large L shaped sectional that seats six or seven comfortably.  Two sections have recliners one of which has sort of become my default seat.  If I walk into the room to read or watch TV my children ten and older will ask if I want the seat even if the rest of the sectional is empty.  They do not do this out of fear they do it out of habit, respect, and most importantly, love.

I found a great book which is a valuable resource for raising boys.  Raising a Modern Day Knight:  A Father's Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood by Robert Lewis.  The book is published by Focus on the Family ™ You can pick up the book on Amazon    

Although you may discover several ways to teach you sons and daughters courteous behavior the principle can be summed up in one sentence.  In the Gospel according to Matthew Chapter 7 Verse 12 Christ is quoted as saying; “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”  We used to learn this in school as the “Golden Rule”; “Do onto other as you would have them do onto you”.  We also used to “Pledge Allegiance” sing “My Country Tis of Thee” and stand for a “Moment of Silence” so each could, according to his or her faith, start the day with a prayer.  Teachers and adults that were not members of our family used to be Mr. or Mrs., Ms. or Miss and a surname.  It taught respect and courtesy.  Learning courtesy starts at home, it used to be reinforced in school, and maybe it still should.  That’s a topic for another day.

Works Cited

Wikipedia, "Chivalry," 15 October 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 17 October 2012].
J. A. Petterchak, Lone Scout: W. D. Boyce and American Boy Scouting, Rochester, Illinois: Legacy Press, 2003.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Friendly: adj.  Of, relating to, or befitting a friend: as a : showing kindly interest and goodwill.   b : not hostile c : cheerful; comforting

I went to a picnic on Sunday that was held at the home of some friends from Church.  It was a good old fashioned get together with good food in vast quantity, liquid refreshment to satisfy the child and the adult, music, games, swimming, and a plethora of friends of the type that you want to spend time with.  The motivation for this particular event was the celebration of thirty five years of service to our church by the Rev Michael Hintze and his wife Ann. 

With a cold Sam Adams in hand and my children and wife all off socializing I had the opportunity to observe the interaction of the guests.  It occurred to me that relating the details of this event would make a fine start and provide ongoing color in the fourth installment of my series on the twelve points of the Scout Law.

Within this crowd of a hundred or so people were men, women, and children, of wide and diverse backgrounds.  If you were to group them by material wealth they would be both diverse and representative of much of America with individuals and families on both sides of the spectrum and many in between.  More than seventy years separated the oldest from the youngest.  No one worried about the whereabouts of their children.  Some parents and young adults self appointed themselves as lifeguards and stood fast by that duty and responsibility.  No one complained they were “stuck by the pool, serving, or cleaning up” No one gossiped, or fought, or bragged.  They said grace with heads universally bowed.  The assembly was not comprised of teetotalers nor was anyone drunk.  Babies and youngsters were passed about allowing mothers a respite.  Everyone was friendly.

A Scout is friendly is the fourth point of the Scout Law. The word dates back to a period before the 9th century.  The word friend in Modern English is based on the Middle English frend and the Old English frēond.  Friend cognates, has a common origin, with the Old High German friunt , and the Gothic frijōn which means  to love.   Being a friend means loving.  I would point out to the younger, and maybe a few of the older readers of this essay that love or loving behavior does not truly manifest itself in a stolen peck on the cheek in a playground or a hurried intimate experience in the back seat of your father’s car.  One of the problems with modern society is our failure to use words in the manner by which they were intended.  This represented a challenge for me when I tried to resolve how I would expound on the definition of friend and what it means to be friendly.

In an age of “friending” even the most casual and peripheral of acquaintances in the ubiquitous social networking setting the act of being friendly has lost its true intent.  To really understand why friendly was considered a critical behavior worthy of inclusion into the Scout Law you need to understand how the word was used 100 years ago when the law was written.  Lord Robert Baden-Powell defined the fourth point thusly; 
A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other scout, no matter to what social class the other belongs.
Society in the British Empire in the early 20th century England was still very much structured by class.  Baden-Powell thought it critical that a scout must never be a snob.  He defined a snob as “one who looks down upon another because he is poorer, or who is poor and resents another because he is rich”.    Further he instructed scouts that they must “accept[s] the other man as he finds him, and make[s] the best of him”.  The theme is one of equality, not in position or stature but in treatment and interaction.  The mandate was not directed specifically at behavioral standards between Scouts but between Scouts and everyone with whom they came into contact.  Baden-Powell specifically addressed Scouts responsibility to strangers delivering the following charge;
“ If a scout meets another scout, even though a stranger to him, he must speak to him, and help him in any way that he can, either to carry out the duty he is then doing, or by giving him food, or, as far as possible, anything that he may be in want of.”
A scout is Friendly, a noble sentiment but hardly original.  Let’s take a step back about two thousand years.  12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  These verses are from the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, again not a new concept.  Earlier in his ministry Christ both referenced and summed up the Ten Commandments when a local religious leader tried to throw him a curve ball. 
28And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12)
Only God could paraphrase God so succinctly.   Verse thirty sums up the first three commandments, verse thirty one the remaining seven.  All are based on love, love of God and love of one another.  Baden-Powell recognized this and with his firm grasp of the English language incorporated friendly into the Scout Law.  For those that may doubt that this was Baden-Powell’s intention or questions the corollary I offer up one final quote Baden-Powell from a pamphlet he authored in 1917. “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity”

Hoping that I have successfully argued the definition of friendly I will take the liberty of expounding on intimacy of its impact.  First and foremost, for the Face book generation, being my “friend” does not necessarily mean you are my friend but it does ensure that I will treat you in a friendly manner.  Are you confused?  Not to worry, I often am I and I am authoring this essay.  You know the old adage that talking to yourself is ok as long as you don’t expect or get an answer.  That adage apparently does not apply to me.   I often take two sides in a discussion with myself when I am trying to work out a particular problem.  One of these recent discussions centered on placing myself in mortal danger in order to save another person.  I am convinced that I would “take a bullet” for my wife and children, a bit less certain when it comes to another family member and even less so for a friend.  Of course this internal argument is situational and in the end my actions would not be instinctive rather they would be the product of who I have grown to be as an individual and my perception of the immediacy of the mortal threat.  

For many years I served as a soldier, firefighter, urban search and rescue specialist, rescue diver, hazardous materials response technician and emergency response team member.  I have been in situations which were in retrospect both life threatening and a direct response to the endangerment of both friends and strangers.  These situations lend themselves to reactionary behavior.  Instinctive behavior is to seek safety.  In any of these jobs you train constantly to respond quickly and appropriately.  But this is different than taking action when one has time for thoughtful consideration.  The life of Christ, as always, provides the best example.  When approached by the soldiers and mob in Gethsemane, Christ stepped forward even though he knew the result was his crucifixion.  He had a choice; his disciples were ready to resort to bloodshed to get him away.  He also had all night to dwell on the prospect, the anguish of which caused him to sweat blood.  

I am most certainly not as Christ like as I should I be.  I have, on behalf of complete strangers, put myself in a position where serious injury or death could have been the result.  This gives me reason for pause.  If I am willing to take risk or accept personal sacrifice on behalf of a stranger in extraordinary circumstances how far should I be willing to go in my behavior to “friends” in ordinary circumstances.  Baden-Powell laid out the behavior that would regulate the interaction between two boys with nothing more in common than being scouts.  Is this any different than the behavior that should be expected of me with regard to one of my “friends” on Facebook?  One could argue that some of my Facebook friends are more acquaintances than they are friends.  I wonder if the term “friends” was chosen to imply an intimacy that may not really exist in order to encourage people to share their information and grow the size of the network and its inherent value to the advertisers who drive the associated revenue.  Do you think this train of thought is pessimistic or pragmatic?  Frankly does it really matter?  When it comes to being friendly are we not simply referring to a behavior that should be both selfless and universal in its application?  

I started this essay relating the celebratory picnic for our Church Pastor.  The celebration was not so much one of thirty five years of service to his congregation but one recognizing the friendship he and his wife Ann willingly offered to the hundreds of people who have had the good fortune of stumbling into their pastoral ministry.   I mentioned in my opening that everyone was friendly.  This was not luck or the result of careful selection of the guests.  This was learned and adopted behavior reinforced by the cornerstone that is Mike and Ann Hintze.   Theirs is neither a feigned affection nor the result of an assumed persona required by position or title.  Theirs is an honesty born of an easy and comfortable acceptance of the command to “love one another as I have loved you” and their wholehearted willingness to carry it out in a most literal sense.   Their lives and their example are contagious, an immunization if you will against the worldly and selfish attitude that infects the human condition.  It is beholden on us who are fortunate to be influenced by such people to let this spirit grow within us and not be shy in its cultivation or demonstration.  It costs billions of dollars to eradicate a disease like smallpox or force one like polio into submission.  Friendly is free, its implementation easy and painless if undertaken with a selfless spirit.  Accept the charge to be friendly with all of the underlying meanings.  It will not change the world overnight but it will certainly change you.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Helpful: adj.  Of service or assistance: useful

A Scout is helpful is the third point of the Scout Law.  The word is reputed to have first been used in the 14th century

The Liberty Mutual® Insurance Company ran a series of commercials as part of one of its marketing campaigns called “A helping hand is contagious”.  If you have not had the opportunity to see these commercials on television take a few minutes to view them on Your Tube at this link:     

This commercial series by Liberty Mutual ® has the tag line “When its people doing the right thing, they call it responsible.  When it’s an insurance company, they call it Liberty Mutual. Responsibility -what’s your policy.”    The series received such a overwhelmingly positive responsive the company launched a website called “The Responsibility Project”.  You can check out that web site at   

Watching a commercial like this tends to give me that warm a fuzzy feeling as my faith in humanity, especially in America, is restored for the brief moment before I remember it is a commercial.  A quick look at the “Responsibility Project” web site brings me right back to reality with topics like forced sterilization, animal abuse, and the return of adopted children.  Frankly the site is rather gutsy for a publicly traded corporation, or any large company for that matter.  If you Google® the phrase “Liberty Mutual Slogan” after the ubiquitous Wikipedia® entry, the next ten hits are sites focusing on the negative aspects of the insurance company and their failure to live up to their own add campaign.  A Google® of the words “liberty mutual” will give you about a fifty/fifty split between complaints and accolades. 

Personally, to date, I am a Liberty Mutual fan.  This position is based entirely on the personal, detailed, and caring service I get from my agent.  For example when my daughter with her newly minted driver’s license went off the road he actually beat me to the scene!  Fortunately for her and my insurance premium the “accident” was written up by the police as “no fault” and there was no damage to the car or the occupants.
Although the original Boy Scout law was phrased somewhat differently than the modern version, Robert Baden Powell still covered “helpful” our third point.  

A Scouts duty is to be useful and to help others. And he is to do his duty before anything else, even though he gives up his own pleasure, or comfort, or safety to do it. When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, he must ask himself, "Which is my duty?" that is, "Which is best for other people?"---and do that one. He must Be Prepared at any time to save life, or to help injured persons. And he must do a good turn to somebody every day.

I have six children, all of whom live at home.  Living right next door are another six nieces and nephews.  I also happen to have started a small sustenance homestead farm last year which has grown to encompass an organic garden, some fruit trees and almost 150 assorted poultry.  Many of the children and teens are supposed to have responsibilities with regards to the care and upkeep of this operation and they all know it.  One of my favorite object lessons is to go outside to work “on the farm” making sure everyone knows I am heading out but without directly asking for any help. Then I wait to see if anyone shows up to assist me.  Think of it as a pop quiz for life.  Let’s just say that no one in my household has an A average and my loving nieces and nephews are looking at summer school.  You might ask yourself, is this test rigged.  Sure it is if you consider my “free time” is on nights and weekends. My hope for help with “chores” occurs when I am competing with television, video games, friends of the opposite gender etc.   Failure to “pass the test” does not result in complete escape from responsibility.  I just want to see how the kids are progressing in the development of their sense of responsibility.  In my house chores are NOT optional.  Other households have their own rules.  

According to the American Time Use Survey Summary for 2012  83% of women and 65% of men spend a portion of their day on household activities [chores].  Women average 2.6 hours and men 2.1.  Our leisure activity takes up twice that amount of time with activities like watching television, socializing, and exercising [really?] taking up 5.8 hours of a man’s day and 5.2 hours of a woman’s.  The biggest chunk of leisure activity being enjoyed is television at 2.8 hours per day.  (US Dept of Labor, 2012)

How many parents require that their children clean their rooms, pick up their dirty clothes, put their dirty dishes in the sink, and hang up their wet towels?  How many just do these things for their children because they believe that children should not be forced to have chores or that is causes to much confrontation in the home to require them.  The four previously mentioned chores provide the most common chore related household tensions according to a Arizona State University study.  As it turns out only 12% of household chores are done by kids between the ages of 6 and 18, this according to “Parent Further” a search institute resource for families.  

I do not buy the argument that it causes to much tension in the household to enforce a shores policy.  For me this falls under the “Honor thy Father and Mother” commandment written b y a father far more knowledgeable then myself.   Another common excuse for not enforcing chores include Chores take away from homework, schoolwork is a priority.  I only buy that argument if your child is not one of the majority of American children spending more than twenty eight hours of week in front of the television.  This figure does not include all of the other media distractions which add up to a whopping 53 hours per week according to the Nielsen market research company.  Of course the popular reasoning, it’s easier to do this myself, or, I have to do it myself to ensure that it is done correctly may be your poison of choice.  I would humbly suggest that you take the time to both teach the “proper” method while opening up to novel and sometimes creative idea’s presented by your children.  They do have flashes of brilliance you know.  The alternative is to sculpt an irresponsible child into an irresponsible adult.  People do not “grow” out of bad habits.  

Americans are by in large part helpful by nature.  When disaster strikes we are at our best helping our neighbors, or are we?  As a nation we contributed 2.8 billion dollars in the wake of 9-11 according to the Center for civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  I have heard many stories of the truckloads of donations that arrived at ground zero from friends and colleagues who were part of the response.  Blankets, sweat shirts, cigarettes, and tractor trailer after tractor trailer of everything to include diapers!  Many of these truckloads were turned back or redistributed to other charities.  My point is that the donations reflected our need to feel good about ourselves as much as they reflected our altruism.  They did not in large part represent the willingness to surrender comfort, pleasure or even safety.  That sacrifice, real help, was that offered by the first responders who responded and died on 9-11 as well as those who risked life and limb on the pile in the aftermath.  

As a country we have not been asked to really help since World War II.  Even though we have been at war for nearly ten years the average American has not been asked, or required to help.  We have not draft, again we are served by a small minority of truly helpful men and women.  We have no need for rationing of food, fuel, clothing material, anything at all.  We live in a world focused on “me”, how “I” feel; instant gratification, instant information, and few commitments.  The modern world has given birth to “supersizing”, “friends with benefits”, “instant messaging”, “reality TV”, and “family planning” none of which is helpful by any stretch of the imagination.

Robert Baden Powell instructed a Scout to “Do a good turn to someone every day”.  The Liberty Mutual® commercial illustrates how a good turn can snowball.  But good turns are not the foundation of being “helpful”.  We need to take another look at ourselves, our communities, and our society and ask the question; “am I truly being of service”.  We really do have a duty to our fellow man, a message that has been increasingly lost over the last few decades.  The attitude that the government is responsible for everything is a byproduct of this loss of message.  If it comes out of my paycheck before I get it I really won’t miss it is the growing convention.   With some it is a blind eye or plain ignorance to the fact that Government money comes from your pocket.    Walking in this fog is far easier to deal with than giving up a vacation with the family so that you can write a check to help someone who is really in need. 

Ask yourself; is the help I am willing to give meaningful to the recipient or is it just meaningful to me?  The answer may surprise you.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Loyal:  adj.  : Unswerving in allegiance: as a : faithful in allegiance to one's lawful sovereign or government b : faithful to a private person to whom fidelity is due c : faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product 

A Scout is loyal is the second point of the Scout Law.  The word is reputed to have first been used in 1531 and was defined by Baden Powell in the following manner: A SCOUT IS LOYAL to the King, and to his officers, and to his country, and to his employers. He must stick to them through thick and thin against anyone who is their enemy, or who even talks badly of them.

I am going to address loyalty in two venues, loyalty to family and individuals and loyalty to country.

The practical


In my previous essay on “Trustworthy” I used marriage vows as an example.  This also applies to loyalty.  My wife Tracy knows that I am absolutely loyal to her.  In Baden-Powell’s terms I will stick to her through thick and thin, against anyone who even talks badly of her, to include myself.  Yes that’s right, myself.  When I find myself angered or speaking ill of my wife, usually in my head, I remind myself that I am, above all, loyal to her, to the oath of marriage I took, and to the promise of our growing old together.  This debate in my head between anger or frustration, and loyalty usually resolves quickly and quietly.  However in other relationships my loyalty though professed, and held deep down, is often a strain to my personal moral and ethical breaking point and I vent.  It is not loyal to speak ill of your family members regardless of your feelings on specific issues or their lives in general.  Further it is not a very Christian attitude.  For these reasons it is unhealthy and can only serve to deepen your personal angst.  I have often told my children at the dinner table not to gossip, or speak in a negative manner about someone both because it is hurtful to that individual and harmful to the one whom so speaks.  Family can be contentious, but family is love and love is the ultimate loyalty.  Loyalty must overcome petty differences and major ones but loyalty is always about being truthful most especially in those things you know to be most important.  Reciprocal loyalty is being open minded and accepting of the well intentioned and loyal openness of a loved one. 

My kids are still developing their loyalties.  At one time I was a single dad with three children.  In part due to that experience my oldest three children are very loyal to me on a fundamental level.  But more superficially but not diminished in importance is their demonstrated loyalty on a day by day basis.  This is proven out in their day to day behavior.  All in all my children, all six, are very loyal to the family.  A family night, game, or movie wins out 99% of the time in a conflict with an event with friends.  They complete their chores, with some reminders and a minimum of fuss, and this is a demonstration of loyalty.  They fulfill their obligations to those individuals, institutions, and entities they have made commitments to time and time again.  All of this demonstrates a well learned, not innate, since of loyalty. 
Loyalty is learned.  It must be taught in the home and it must be grounded in the faith and principles of the parents or those that run the household.  Loyalty is also taught in organizations like the Cub and Boy Scouts but is worthless without reinforcement from those that love and care for the student.  When taught, loyalty must first be addressed as a mind set, a principle that is not specific to a subject.  Loyalty is not blind, so must be taught allowing for logical consideration of position.  Once professed loyalty must be tenacious and a decision to remove or change loyalties should be onerous.  True loyalty is difficult but imminently satisfying.

The Political

This past weekend I had the opportunity to reflect on matters of national loyalty.  I am a re-enactor focused on the Civil War period.  This is a rather new hobby for me but one that I have embraced whole heartedly.  I am joined in this activity by my father who recruited me, my seventeen year old son Kris, my almost ten year old son Zach – the company drummer boy, and my eighteen and twenty year old daughters Tori and Beth.  You have to experience this to really appreciate it.  There is nothing like sitting around a fire out under the stars in the midst of an 1860’s era military encampment singing period songs accompanied by banjo, guitar, fiddle, drums, washboard, bones, spoons and a baritone horn.  Time halts in 1862 for a few days.  There is no light pollution as the camp it lit by campfire, and candle and oil lanterns close to the ground to illuminate company streets.  No cars, iPods or Coleman lanterns to break the reverie.  “We’ll rally round the flag boys we’ll rally once again, shouting the battle cry of freedom”
As I am sitting quietly by the fire smoking some pipe tobacco, an indulgence I allow myself once a month at these events, I had the time to reflect on what it would take to cause me to turn my back on my country in favor of some higher calling or truth.  This past weekend I camped as a member of the 4th Alabama Volunteer infantry.  Times were different back then, politically speaking, right? 

Many people are not aware that the members of the US Senate were appointed by their State legislatures prior to 1914.  The 17th amendment to the US Constitution provided for the direct popular election of members of the senate.  Senators were originally appointed because one of their primary functions was to represent the government of the States they served.  Strong state government was a foundational principle during the creation of the United States.  Dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation that were placed into effect in 1781 led to the 1787 convention in Philadelphia. Every State with the exception of Rhode Island sent delegates to that convention. 

The fundamental problem that had to be dealt with at the convention was the split between the states that favored a strong federal government and those that preferred the strong state governments provided for by the Articles of Confederation.  Within this debate as a major difference in opinion in how the States would be represented.  The division was between the “large state” Virginia or Randolph plan, and the “small state” New Jersey or Patterson plan.  In the end, a compromise, the Connecticut plan also referred to as the Great Compromise called for a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house and equal representation in the upper house.  This settlement still did not assuage detractors to the drafted constitution. George Mason, a Virginian, opposed the ratification of the constitution because it contained no guarantees of individual rights.  This debate led to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.  The ratification fight also led to the famous Federalist papers authored by Hamilton, Madison and Jay, the historical and legal impact of which to this day effect our country. 
Against this backdrop started the age old argument still fought today, that of the amount of power of the Federal Government.  The Republican Party led by Thomas Jefferson fought the Federalist Party led by Alexander Hamilton.  Before you start to compare Jefferson to modern republicans you should know that the parties were alike in name only.

The Federalist Party was formed during the Washington Presidency by a network of Hamilton supporters, largely urban bankers and businessmen, to support his fiscal policies. These supporters grew into the Federalist Party committed to a fiscally sound and nationalistic government.  By comparison the Republican Party often referred to by modern historians as the Democratic-Republican Party felt the fiscal policies of the federalists, especially establishment of a national back would lead back to a monarchy.  Federalists favored strong states rights and the primacy [more important] rights of the Yeoman farmers [family or sustenance farmers]. 

Enough history you say.  The old adage that those that ignore history are bound to repeat it is time tested.  Things have not changed all that much.  More than two hundred years ago we had one party that favored a strong federal government that would take care of everything, and another party that essentially wanted the common man to be left alone with some of his needs addressed by state government. It is as true then as it is today.  We fought two wars over this, the revolution to throw off the yoke of an all powerful government and the civil war which would set our future course.  In my lifetime only one president has espoused strong states and smaller federal government in a meaningful way.  Ronald Reagan said “the beauty of our system is you can vote with your feet” meaning if you did not like the laws in one state you could move to another. I really think that voting with your feet is a special ability that you could only find in a country like ours with sufficient size and diversity.  But when the federal government increasingly standardizes everything overruling the laws put into place by voters in individual states we lose that ability.  This is a trend I have seen over the last twenty years, one that strains and makes me examine my inner loyalties.

Once upon a time I swore to follow a code that in part stated “I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”  I also took an oath stating “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

So I return to try to answer the original question, reframed in light of the oaths of Loyalty I took as a soldier.  Is there a point where being prepared to give my life in defense of my country and our way of life conflict with obeying the orders of the president?  The oath of enlistment which has had only one revision, in the 1960’s, since its inception in 1789 places defending the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic before following the orders of the President and Senior officers.  This is by design not accident.  It is easy to see, especially when supported by large numbers of people regionally, how opinion and interpretation of “way of life” and “defending the Constitution” could cause fission of loyalty.  Did Robert E. Lee see things that way?

It is no secret that I am not a fan of the current administration.  I do not feel that the Obama administration is the root of all evil, nor do I place 100% of all of the blame on his administration for all of the troubles we face as a country.  I will leave statements containing absolutes to partisan politics.  I do feel that the revival promised on the campaign trail has failed and that the man, not the office, has failed to live up to the standard of Trustworthy as defined in my previous essay.  Economically things will get much, much, worse before they ever get better.  The trillion dollar shopping spree did not deliver the expected or promised results.  You wonder why my family started a small farm (see yeomen farming)?  Still I live in the greatest country in the world and I am not ready to “vote with my feet” top Canada, not that they would have me, or “with a plane ticket”, to anywhere else. 

Will things change?  Has it gone too far already and what could be next?  I am increasingly frustrated at concessions made to minority groups that fly in the face of the opinion of the majority.  Before you start to gather wood to burn me at the stake I am not speaking of equal rights.  Equal rights was the most important concept in our countries development since our country was conceived.  I am speaking about “special rights”, when the pendulum swings to the other side.  When equal rights become special rights we are no longer equal and the discrimination becomes a scourge of the majority and loyalties are questioned.

Allow me to give you an example, prayer in a public place.  When I was a child in school we said the pledge of allegiance sang “my Country Tis of Thee” and had moment of silence where most of us bowed our head in prayer.  Over the years that moment of silence has gone away as a small minority somehow takes offense to the prayerful actions of others.  Christian youth groups have been told they cannot meet in public schools, invocations and benedictions of even the most Universalist types fade away.  Why, because some parent does not want their child to be influenced by other children who believe in God and they have taken it to court and won on the basis of separation of Church and State, another essays topic.  So thousands must alter their daily life and belief to avoid offending the sensibilities of one or two?  This is a philosophical question around which we must someday come to grips.  Where is the line drawn?  Unfortunately it is not as simple as Star Treks Vulcan proverb “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”, nor should it be.

With health care it always has been a matter of voting with my feet.  Of course I live in Massachusetts so when mandatory health care was passed I did have to weigh what was most important to me, remaining on the family homestead to raise a sixth generation, or moving someplace where health care was not mandatory or regulated.  I stayed but took solace in the fact that I could leave if I felt so strongly about the issue.  Along comes Obama-Care and today’s decision by the Supreme Court that the law is not unconstitutional.  My foot vote is gone and that bothers me far more than the law itself.  It is still not sufficient to cause me to turn from my country, my loyalty is intact.