On Application Over Annihilation

“As we can make progress in science not by the disregard, but by the application of the laws of mathematics, so in my firm conviction we can make progress politically and socially, not by a disregard of those fundamental principles which are the recognized, ratified and established American institutions, but by their scrupulous support and observance. American ideals do not require to be changed so much as they require to be understood and applied…

“Merely to state the American ideal is to perceive not only how far we still are from its realization, but to comprehend with what patience we must view many seeming failures, while we contemplate with great satisfaction much assured success…

“Our country is in process of development. Its physical elements are incomplete. Its institutions have been declared, but they are very far from being adopted and applied. We have not yet arrived at perfection. A scientific investigation of child life has been begun, but yet remains to be finished. There is a vast amount of ignorance and misunderstanding, of envy, hatred, and jealousy, with their attendant train of vice and crime. We are not yet free, but we are struggling to become free economically, socially, politically, spiritually…” — Calvin Coolidge, July 4, 1924

We too often quake with discontent while forgetting how far humans truly, authentically, genuinely have come thanks to the principles (and courage behind them) outlined (and lived) long before we were even a thought to our parents. We engage in too much vapid, empty gesture – the great symbolic act – calling for the latest version of reform and too little of either personal introspection or thoughtful application.  We are too ready as “joiners” of one movement upon another to condemn any currently deemed deviation of the ideal, railing against or joining in the mindless attack and ignorant vilification of values we simply do not understand with any mature judgment. We would do better to expend greater energy to an application of justice to those we know, along an individual and practical measure, jettisoning the crushing weight of building a universe of abstractions others so casually impose as our burden to bear. 

Coolidge had it right, our failure is not in the realm of ideals but in the practice of doing, the call each of us is tasked with to apply what is needed with courage not merely accuse others for falling short. Nor is it to concede principle for what is easiest. Ultimately, we are to realize that we are not in a boat where some are supposed to row for us while we give orders but rather we are all in the same vulnerable place, subject to fundamental truths that require greater application from us all. 

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