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.   

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