We the People – Memorial Day 2011 – Not on My Watch

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America reads as follows:

We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America.

The famous second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Memorial Day 2011 is upon us.

We are an Industry in crisis in a Nation in crisis.

As we remember the sacrifices of soldiers, aviators and sailors, as we think about those who protect life and limb from harm, foreign and domestic, let me invite you to consider the following.

  • Will we let freedom perish in our land? Not on my watch.
  • Will we extinguish justice in the name of security? Not on my watch.
  • Will we lose our economic prosperity to foreign powers? Not on my watch.
  • Will we allow the younger generation to be raised with less opportunity than we enjoyed? Not on my watch.
  • Will we be so busy with our own affairs that we will not take the time to understand and act as needed in American political action? Not on my watch.
  • Will we let free enterprise be regulated to death? Not on my watch.
  • Will we allow our businesses to be regulated out of existence by perhaps well meaning, but I’ll advised politicians and regulators? Not on my watch.
  • Will we forget that caring for our customers is the life blood of any business or industry? Not on my watch.

The history of the signers of the Declaration of Independence has often been embellished. We do not need a lot of hype to recognize this reality, that there is no free lunch. We all have to work for freedom. That is economic as well as political freedom. It will not be handed to us on a silver platter.

We can lose our economic and political liberties simply by doing nothing.

We cannot abuse customers, without expecting them to react.

But if we partner with our customers, if we work for their success, many in turn will work for our success.

We will not always be recognized for the good that we do or seek to do.

But we should do what is right and good, precisely because it is right and good.

We hold these truths to be self-evident. Our Industry at its best serves a purpose that no other type of housing can provide as well as we can! Our industry at its worst is fodder for negative media stereotypes.

We must strive, therefore, to be the living example of our Industry at its best.

We cannot control what the bad actors in our industry may do. But we can by example and exhortation show them why they are better off doing what is right. Nor should we defend what is wrong.

The principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity brought renewed freedom to Eastern Europe. We are not in the shape they were in under Communism. Solidarity and subsidiarity are elements of what made America great in our founding documents, too.

Let us understand these ideals:


One definition from Wikipedia:

Solidarity is social cohesion based upon the dependence individuals have on each other.

The Free Dictionary says:
A union of interests, purposes, or sympathies among members of a group; fellowship of responsibilities and interests: “A downtrodden class … will never be able to make an effective protest until it achieves solidarity” (H.G. Wells).

Other quotes using the ideal of solidarity:

“Unlike solidarity, which is horizontal and takes place between equals, charity is top-down, humiliating those who receive it and never challenging the implicit power relations.” – Eduardo Galeano

“Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition of our most expansive self-interest. From the recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable.” – Aurora Levins Morales


Wikipedia uses this definition:

Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority.

The 10th amendment to the Constitution is an example of the principle of Subsidiarity. This quote will help express the ideal of this principle.

“Will the American people never learn that, as a principle, to expect swift response and efficiency from government is fatuous? Will we never heed the principle of subsidiarity (in which our fathers were bred), namely that no public agency should do what a private agency can do better, and that no higher-level public agency should attempt to do what a lower-level agency can do better – that to the degree the principle of subsidiarity is violated, first local government, the state government, and then federal government wax in inefficiency? Moreover, the more powers that are invested in government, and the more powers that are wielded by government, the less well does government discharge its primary responsibilities, which are (1) defense of the commonwealth, (2) protection of the rights of citizens, and (3) support of just order.” – Reid Buckley

Alexis de Toqueville wrote a book, Democracy in America. Over 150 years ago he described the principles that helped make America the freest, most productive and successful society ever known in the world. Associations were part of what de Toqueville remarked upon and extolled. Make your association(s) the best it can be by taking an active part in making it the best it can be.

Associations at their best are solidarity at work!

We may have never thought about how vital solidarity or subsidiarity truly is. We may never have thought that we must care about our neighbor as well as ourselves, or we may lose our rights and blessings as we watch the same happen to our neighbor.

Solidarity and subsidiarity are not political parties. They are ideals! If we learn and live these ideals ourselves, we can reclaim and make better than ever that which made America the best place to be in the world.

Will we let divisions and labels divide and conquer us?

Not on my watch!

Let us not posture.  Let us not merely moan, sit on our hands and do nothing.

Let us act like free people who respect each other.

Let us lead, follow or get out of the way of those willing to lead us back to brighter days.

Let us seek to understand, and come together in solidarity. Let us work for subsidiarity. When all politics are local, we can access and monitor that which exists to protect us.

When we follow these principles, we will see our business flourish.  We will see our Industry and this great country flourish anew.

Our best days need not be behind us.  If you and I set an example of doing our best, of caring for our customers and our fellows, we can reap the rewards that solidarity offers. # #

Michael F. B. Barnabas (a pen name) can be reached at michaelfbbarnabas@gmail.com.

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