and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
June 2004 #2

Changing times won't dim this optimist's sunny outlook
by Barbara Anderson

Second of two parts.

The Salem News
Thursday, June 10, 2004

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by.

I see friends shaking hands saying, "How do you do?" They're really saying, "I love you."

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll never know.

And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

At my friends Darrell and Ed's wedding last month, they danced to Louis Armstrong's "It's A Wonderful World." And I think it is.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by a large painting that hung on the wall at my aunt's house. It was dissected top left to bottom right by a line. 

Above the line, on a gold background, Uncle Danny had painted the good things in life. I recall a field of wheat, and a man, woman and child holding hands. 

Below the line, on a dark background, I remember a man choking a woman, and, I think, a Nazi symbol. This fit into my own religious training that emphasized the ongoing battle between God and Satan, good and evil.

But before that painting, before religious instruction, I had already formed my idea of what the world was like from another painting that hung on my parents' living room wall and now hangs on mine. There is a cottage surrounded by trees; there are swans on a pond in the foreground. That, I decided without words, was what the world was like: Beautiful, peaceful and painted on black velvet with a gold plastic frame.

Maybe you had to see it as a 2-year-old. Or maybe you had to be genetically inclined toward optimism, if not denial. Regardless, once one has decided to be a romantic, not much reality is allowed to get in the way.

My partner, Chip, has about given up on convincing me that the "new world order" is inevitable, and that freedom as we know it will eventually vanish into a big-government, politically correct, cultural wasteland pit.

Watching the daily news, though, I can see his point. And I do understand the social conservatives who feel threatened by Darrell and Ed dancing to Louis Armstrong at their wedding. The world, wonderful as it can be, is changing too fast, and many of the good things are being left behind. Sometimes, they are replaced by things that are very bad. But sometimes we let ourselves get upset by symbols rather than matters of substance.

In all the complexity, it seems essential to focus on a few simple, basic values that cannot be allowed to disappear. We heard some of them mentioned during the recent Memorial Day services - duty, honor, integrity.

If you define God as truth, the Ten Commandments work well for a good society and should be able to hang on a public wall. If someone out there is offended by truth, I'd like to hear why.

There is no downside to personal responsibility; and is it so very hard to distinguish between freedom and license? How about one basic rule: No hitting first.

Marriage is a symbol of commitment to another person and to children; the commitment is possible without the traditional format. Society should firmly state that anyone who brings a child into the world is responsible for its well-being, and be prepared to step in if parents don't grasp the duty-and-honor thing.

Of course, the debate is in the details, but the debate is easier if the broad principles are well-defined and repeated until they are second nature to our society as a whole. There was a time when religion set forth these principles for most of the people in our country, but sometimes tolerance has been missing from the mix. We're better at that now, though political correctness could drag us back down if we're not careful.

Chip and many others are concerned about a "new world order" because it has been generally understood that this would resemble an anthill of government-enforced conformity. But mine is not the old communist vision - "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." That little theory almost destroyed personal responsibility, not to mention actually killing a few million people.

If you believe that freedom is a basic good for all humanity, it's not much harder to imagine a free world than it was for our founders to imagine a free country. If someone can sing about it, we can create it: A wonderful, though never perfect and always challenging, world.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.