Marching to a Different Drummer

I learned it when I was young.  The saying was so widespread that all anyone had to say was “different drummer” and everyone understood.  In fact, the entire quote, by Henry David Thoreau, is

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

This is a saying by an American which really summarizes not only the essence of Americans as individuals, but of America as a country.  It is an inventive description of our national character.

Americans have marched to a different drummer since before the United States existed.  We had to, to survive in this new and strange environment, with different challenges to survive.  Born into a different world, colonists started to march to a different drummer early on, as individuals and as communities.

When it came time to make the break with England, the system of government formed was the product of intellectual giants—our Founding Fathers.  They looked at everything new and old, as far back as ancient Greece.  They recognized what worked and what didn’t work, what made sense and what didn’t, and pieced together the best of everything. Before constructing us our system of government, they stated a basic belief in the Declaration of Independence:  “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.”

This statement of equality and rights was new as a concept in government, and continues to be as fresh as the day it was stated. The United States was certainly a country unlike any in the world at that time, marching to a very different drumbeat.  The main thing that was new about our country was that it was founded on the basis that its citizens “rights” did not come from any earthly government.   Our rights were recognized to have come from our “Creator.”  Since those rights were not given by anyone on earth, no one on earth—no king, no queen, no tyrant—can rightfully take them back.  “We the people” granted our government certain rights to enable us to function as a society, not the other way around. Francis Hutcheson, one of the philosophers studied by our Founding Fathers, said in his 1725 work Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue: “Unalienable Rights are essential Limitations in all Governments.”  It is something we in America take for granted today.  It is something which the overwhelming majority of governments today in existence still do not recognize.

One of the results of our system of government is the idea of American exceptionalism.  Our current president discredits this concept.  In spring of 2009, our president was touring the world on what has become known as his “Apology Tour.”  On April 4, 2009 when in Strasbourg, Germany, Ed Luce of the Financial Times asked Obama if he believed in American exceptionalism.  The president’s response was,”I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”

He took it one step further in the speeches made on this Apology Tour.  His description of our American approach to the world is “American arrogance.”  He apologized on three different continents for our arrogance.

Obama, along with the other libs that see America as just another flawed country, don’t get it.  It isn’t just us beating our breasts and claiming exceptionalism.  Our exceptionalism is demonstrated by the fire in the souls of the millions of individuals who want to come here to live to be free, sometimes leaving everything behind, sometimes risking their lives.  A Polish immigrant once told me the story of when he was 4.  His family had to escape Poland by walking in deep snow behind a sleigh.  There are perhaps millions of stories just as riveting.  More than our own claims, that is the proof of American exceptionalism.  It is because in this country, more than in any other, the human desire to be free is recognized as a God given right, which no government can take away.

When Obamacare passed, French president Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed us to the beat of the European drummer with the statement, “Welcome to the club of countries that does not dump its sick people.”

We didn’t need to join a club to not dump sick people.  We made it illegal with laws.  No one that walks into an emergency room in the United States that needs medical care can be refused.  The “club” which we joined with Obamacare is composed of countries with socialized medicine.  They can—and do—refuse care to the sick by denying care that is not “cost effective.”  Maybe they don’t “dump” their sick people, but they use rationing, rules, extended wait times, and ineptitude to ignore them or refuse treatment.  Many citizens of that “club” of countries are dumped (by personal choice) in American clinics where they come to take advantage of our system.   Every system has flaws.  I’d rather function with a flawed system that sounds heartless but is sought after, than a flawed system that sounds compassionate but has the inevitable heartlessness that comes with bureaucratic control.

Marching to a different drummer does not guarantee admiration.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Frequently, marching to a different drummer means that you stick up for the little guy that no one else likes because it is the right thing to do (like Israel).  It means calling out human rights violators (like Iran) rather than apologizing for how women are treated in America (no comparison) because you want to make the bad guys feel like we are just as bad as they are.  Marching to a different drummer frequently means that we care less about whether other countries like us and more about doing what is right.

In the Fundamental Transformation that the current administration is orchestrating, our American drummers are being vilified.  First, for the country.  Next (and its already starting), it will be for the individuals.  Let us stand up and object before all of the distant drummers are silenced.

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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