Citizen Responsibility

“For the generations to prosper and to leave a better life for our children than we inherited, government must perform its role to provide opportunity for freedom.”

At his inaugural speech in 1961, John F. Kennedy rendered the timeless words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county.” These words were more than just a platitudinal phrase. It was a call to national purpose for the generations. 1961 was a time that the United States was beginning to feel the stress of its new global obligations. We were now unquestionably a world super power. Following Bretton Woods, the dollar had replaced the pound as the world’s reserve currency. We were the manufacturing center of the world. The United States military was the preeminent presence among nations. The Vietnam War, the anti-establishment movement of the sixties, and the sexual revolution, were on the horizon. The United States was in transition from a participant in a European-based society to the leader of the free world. It changed everything.

Society became divided along lines of government programs and protection versus self -sufficiency, states’ rights, and limited government. Moral standards were challenged. Families struggled with the rising need for two-income households. The role of the church in providing basic services for education and health care came into question as the debate raged over the imperative that government should be responsible for all social services.  President Kennedy was a visionary in that he saw the problems developing, he sensed the stress fractures, and he admonished the American public to reflect upon our citizen responsibility. He may not have known to what consequences these pressures would lead. But he knew that part of the answer for solutions lay within us as individuals and nuclear families.

Today we realize and feel the extent of these same pressures on families and society, only intensified. The government strains to meet the ever increasing demand for services. Under any form of government, when the people ignore their citizen responsibility, the government fails, often ending in revolt or revolution. We discuss nationally the ineptitude of government, the fallacy of socialism, and the hypocrisy in purpose of well-meaning do-gooders. However, we discuss minimally a citizen’s responsibility to help his or her country. Part of the solution lies primarily in helping ourselves and providing leadership for our families.

What are citizen responsibilities?

For yourself, it would include getting an education, graduating from high school, and acquiring a skill. Finding a productive role in the work force helps not only yourself, but your nation. One may be quick to challenge this assertion for those living in poverty stricken areas like West Baltimore or Ferguson. Yes, some people have not had the benefit of the support of a family or neighborhood. They feel they are in cultural conflict. You can make the argument that whites have had a 400-year head start on minorities. It is a salient point. But it belies the question – what does a citizen living in a poverty stricken area want for themselves? Education through high school is available to all citizens without impediment. It may be more difficult for some than others, but it can be achieved with commitment. If society demanded standards from its citizens, then provided support as a nation for those citizens to achieve said standards, individual economic situations would change.

For your family, it would include committing to your spouse and/or your children your full support. If you have fathered children and you are not providing for their support, and you are not trying to provide for their support, you are increasing a burden on the state that is unjustified. There is no moral excuse for perpetuating the poverty of children. There may be extenuating circumstances, but it is the intent that must be manifested, that it is not just the government’s role to care for children, if this country is to survive.

For your Constitution, it would include support and recommitment by citizens to the rule of law, due process, and the equal right of the pursuit of happiness for all citizens. This right of citizens also includes those who pay taxes for the benefit of support of government programs. Government programs are necessary. A social safety net must be maintained for all citizens. Yet seeking government programs should not just become a way of life. They should be a stepping stone to independence. The United States was founded on the premise of freedom. The Constitution of the United States has set the foundation for the governance of society as a process to protect freedom and provide for the order and stability of society. Since 1787, no other form of government on the planet, existing or proposed, has challenged our system of government as a different structure of statism to provide for greater freedom or order for its people. Quite a record when you think about it….and worth defending.

For your government, it would include revisiting the words of President Kennedy. Those words are as relevant and penetrating today as they were in 1961. Are you being absolutely honest in your application for government services? If you are partially disabled, is there something you can do as a volunteer to defray costs at the city government level? Are you taking care of yourself physically to minimize or delay the need for government health care? Are you contributing to or volunteering at local charities and the United Way to help meet the demands of those most in need? It is time to consider and discuss the option of structuring a two-year service program for every citizen for the support of our country. There are at least two countries in the world that require every citizen to serve two years for the good of their nation: Israel and Switzerland. Both countries are small, reasonably indigenous, and may realize special circumstances. But the program promotes identity as a citizen and unifies the population in service to the government. I would suggest, for the purpose of the discussion, that you have already served your country if you are in the military, on any police force, a first responder, or a classroom teacher. Everyone else should make some sacrificial service commitment to our country for two years. It could be phased in over a generation. People at or near retirement, if physically and financially able, could continue to work and forego Social Security, which they are owed, for two years for the good of the country’s budget. Young people at the age of 18 would have an option over a ten-year period to complete a two-year commitment. It could be before or after college. It could be part-time during college. It would of course have to be flexible. The essence of the objective is the commitment to give back, to understand that someone must “pay in” for someone to “take out.” And to make it socially acceptable to believe, that with all our problems, this is still the greatest country the history of the world has ever known. It would unite us in principle.

For your faith, it would include the realization that the government owes you nothing but freedom. And let’s make sure in the discussion that full comprehension is taken that every person has a faith. One definition of faith is believing in something that you cannot prove. I believe in Christianity and a personal God who created the universe. I cannot prove it, except through logical debate. If an atheist, you believe in a natural order that exists for an undetermined purpose. But you cannot explain how the natural order of the universe always was. For there to be existence, something always had to exist. You may believe that the great uncaused cause is gravity. But there is no explanation or theory for how gravity always existed in the first place. You may be haunted like Stephen Hawking by the question, why does the universe exist? But your faith lies in the fact that there is no explanation and only theory to explain your premise. It cannot be proven. Your citizen responsibility is to apply your faith in societal application in such a way that it does not violate, impose upon, infringe or restrict anybody else’s freedom to believe as they choose, and in all matters, to adhere to the full axioms of citizen responsibilities.

The principle of life, simply stated, is to love one another as you love yourself; care for your family; do not seek governments program as an entitlement for a way of life, but as an opportunity to be independent.

For the generations to prosper and to leave a better life for our children than we inherited, government must perform its role to provide opportunity for freedom. To support government in that cause, we must make every effort to give more than we take.

My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?