When my wife and I were working for the Youth Behavior Program of the Human Development and Research Center, a part of the Evergreen Partners in Human Development, the Center placed a heavy emphasis on training for those of us that had been selected as foster-parents. They not only taught us the therapy techniques we were to use, but also the psychological and psychiatric principles underlying them. Most of the children we were assigned had SERIOUS problems - attachment disorders, hyperactivity, failure to thrive syndrome, and dozens of other serious problems. Most had come from abusive situations, and many had physical as well as mental disabilities. These children were usually under twelve, and many we dealt with were under six.
One of the key things we learned was that all children want and need limits in their lives - behavioral limits, sociological limits, cultural limits, and economic limits. Much of a young child's behavior can be divided into two parts: exploration of his environment, and searching for the limits placed on behavior. Most of the children we cared for had an abnormal past history. Many were punished for exploring and learning. Others were treated harshly by having the most stringent of limits placed on their behavior, or by not being given any limits at all.
It's important to a society that children learn to accept limits placed on their activities. Some of those limits are man-made, and are imposed limits. Other limits are the natural consequences associated with growth - touching a hot stove, for instance, or slipping and falling on an icy street. Adults usually establish limits to provide for the safety of children, and for their psychological as well as their physiological growth. Children are taught manners and how to be polite to keep from being rebuffed or neglected by their peers and adults. They're taught safe ways to do things to keep them from hurting themselves or others. Parents who establish a curfew on a young teen do so to ensure the child has time to do their homework, and gets enough rest. Children are given an allowance to teach them to handle money, and required to work for anything that can't be purchased on their allowance. All of these things are done to help the child grow up into a responsible, courteous, capable adult.
Limits are an essential part of society. We normally call the limits placed on adults either laws or social mores. Another frequent name for limits are rules, whether legal, moral, ethical, political, social, cultural, religious, or economic. Breaking one of them usually result in negative consequences.
There are many people today that have a hard time accepting the need for limits, or for imposing consequences on those that exceed those limits. Yet children who grow up without limits are usually extremely unhappy, and develop physical, mental, and emotional behavior that limit their social activities, endanger their economic success, and leave them frustrated and lonely. They frequently engage in dangerous or unpleasant behavior in order to attract attention. They make few friends, have a hard time following instructions, and thus do poorly in their work. The majority of such children grow up to believe the world "owes them something", regardless of whether they actually work hard enough or well enough to receive such a reward.
The same behavior exhibited by a child who grew to adulthood without substantial limits being applied and enforced can be seen in today's Democratic Party. The Democratic Party lost the last election. They lost the Presidency, and lost seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Democrats were so firmly entrenched in power in the House and Senate that they forgot how to live within limits. Today, they are a minority, yet they continue to act as if their ideas are the only one that count, and their way of doing things is the only way things should be done. They've surrendered all moral standing by insisting that the Republicans do things their way, yet if they were in power, they wouldn't even think to ask the Republicans for their input. Their former power has made them arrogant, haughty, incapable of compromising, and brutish. They've adapted the persona of the bully. That's a pretty ugly reflection on ANY political party.
The American people aren't very tolerant of bullies. They're also not very tolerant of arrogance. Most Americans understood that the attack on the World Trade Center was an attack on our lives and our freedoms, and that we have some very real vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
The Apostle Paul said, in First Corinthians 13:11,
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Most Americans after September 11th put away their childish things. They understood that we were at war, that it would be a long war - perhaps decades in length - and that they would be called upon to make sacrifices. Many Americans could see - and still see - that many of the things that we've done as a nation over the past 50 years have contributed to the circumstances we find ourselves in today. They know that some things MUST change if we are to survive the attacks against us. They know that we must establish new limits, and stay within them. "Business as usual" is no longer an option.
Most of us know that many things have to change. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party has either refused to accept that any of those changes are necessary, or even that there is anything that would require change. This denial is the same childish behavior a six-year-old has for bedtime ("I'm not tired yet, it's too early, I want a drink of water, I have to go to the bathroom, I didn't get a story").
Nor is the Republican Party much better, although at least they understand that we're at war, and that their actions - or inactions - will play a significant part in winning that war, both at home and abroad.
Both the House and the Senate have engaged in passing laws in the past that limit our ability to respond to an unconventional outside threat today. This must change.
The Senate has approved judges that fail to understand the need to adhere to limits. Both the limits that are set and the consequences that accrue with violating them must be consistent, or there is no change of behavior. Judges that fail to adhere to the law, who fail to be consistent in dealing with those before them, and who fail to understand the need to work within the framework of our Constitution endanger us all.
Our Constitution is the foundation of our nation. How people perceive it matters. Those that see it as "originalists" consider it a foundation of bricks. We can remove any of the bricks and replace it with another, but the entire foundation remains the same, and people can make decisions based upon their understanding of it. People who see a "living" Constitution treat it as water - capable of flowing first in one direction and then another. Water, even if it's frozen solid and quite thick, makes for a very poor foundation upon which to build. No one can know how a judge might interpret a "living" Constitution. No one can be sure the decision would be the same in two different but similar instances.
Young children are given a fixed amount of money in a budget to teach them wise spending habits - to save for the future, and to be careful in what they spend their money on, and to understand how much things cost. Yet many in Congress see no reason to limit their spending, or their establishing commitments that our children's children will have to pay for.
George Bush, as president of the United States, understands the need for limits. He also knows the consequences that can accrue from failing to abide within the limits of an orderly and just society. He knows our failure to adequately respond to terror attacks in the past set us up for what happened in New York and Washington. He understands how the fiscal irresponsibility of many of our current "entitlements" will bankrupt the nation and destroy our way of life. He's intelligent enough to know that things have to change, and it's better to change now than later. He understands the needs for imposing limits in key areas in order to ensure the safety, security, and continuity of our nation. He's pushing Congress to do just that.
The Democrats are pushing back, not because they have a better idea, but because the ideas are coming from George Bush and the Republican Party. The nation be damned - the only thing that counts (in the eyes of the Democrats) is their exercising as much power in government as they can. Consequences are for "other people".
Life doesn't act like that, and neither should our government. It's time those in our government, whether elected, appointed, or employed, understood the limits that are an integral part of their position, and learn to live within them.
Our Constitution established a limited Federal government. It's time we the people insist that those we've elected to serve us stop acting like spoiled children unable to accept limits, and begin to work in OUR best interest, instead of throwing a temper tantrum. It's time we reaffirmed the good behavior and restated the limits we demand Congress acknowledge and abide by. We need to impose appropriate consequences upon those that fail to get the message. Firing them is the best lesson we can give them.