Nearly five years ago, shortly after retiring to the Montana mountains, I began writing a biweekly Op-Ed column for the local newspaper. What passes for news in recent months has caused me to modify one of my early pieces for posting here. Maybe some good will come of it.
It seems to me that, in view of the vitriol from all across the political spectrum and the violent protests from various interest groups we too often hear about, our country could use a tune-up for our collective moral compass, a realignment of our societal pole star. I know that some of you will be dismissive of this, and that is your right. Nonetheless, I propose an American Creed to keep in mind as we go about our daily activities.
So, what would that Creed look like? As a reference point, there are codes of the American West from days long past that prompted a disgusted Wall Streeter originally from Texas to compile his own version. For those of you who might be interested, the book is Cowboy Values; by James P. Owen; The Lyons Press, Guilford, CT. 2008.
You have probably heard about many other Codes of the West as well. Space limitations prevent a detailed discussion of them here, but you already know bits and pieces of them anyway. And it really doesn’t matter since the curious among you can easily find those old principles via the Internet – and I urge you to do so.
A quick read of these Old West beliefs show that they have a great many commonalities. They all contain words worthy of note even today, and it would be difficult to prefer just one from among the many. However, most speak, in one way or another, to the following ideals:
• courage to do the right thing when it isn’t easy or popular;
• determination in the face of adversity;
• openness in one’s dealings;
• self-reliance over dependence upon others;
• yet a helping hand or kind word for those in need;
• a sense of duty and doing what needs to be done;
• integrity in both purpose and action.
The ideas enumerated in these beliefs are not just for yesterday’s cowboys; they are for all of us in the here and now. These thoughts, by the way, are not political or religious – they transcend the boundaries and limits of any ideology or theology. Equally important, these thoughts are larger than the wants and desires of any one individual. They even surpass the aspirations and objectives of most groups of people.
These thoughts are certainly superior to what motivates roving bands of thugs and rioting mobs of citizenry. These thoughts shape us into strong and worthy citizens. They are what make us good people, no matter where we come from or what we do for a living.
Despite feeble-minded opinions, intellectually-lazy posturings, and politically-correct rhetoric to the contrary, there indeed are moral absolutes in this world. Right now, I think we could use some, and I contend that these thoughts are a damned good place to start.