Most of us have heard the story about the little boy who was tossing back into the sea a starfish he found stranded on the beach. A man asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was saving the poor stranded starfish. “But,” said the man, “there must be thousands if not tens of thousands of starfish lying on this beach. What difference can you make?” The little boy picked up a starfish and tossed it into the surf. “I made a difference to that one,” he said.
Paul H. Dunn translated that principle into failing to cast our vote on Election Day. He said that some of us argue that a single vote or voice would make no difference anyway. They say: “I am only one. I have no impact on this society—why should I bother?” But consider these cases. In 1645 one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England. In 1776 one vote determined that English, not German, would be the official language of the United States. In 1923 one vote put Hitler in control of the Nazi party. In 1941—just two weeks before Pearl Harbor was bombed—one vote saved selective service. Imagine what it would mean to have been “only one” in any of these situations! (Paul H. Dunn, “Horizons” p.31)
We must remember that there are people working actively for a way of life we might not want; and unless we actively oppose them, we may have to abide by their decisions. By the same token, those people and principles we very much favor require our support, not our silence. Indifference can squelch the greatest of ideas and encourage the worst. Edmund Burke said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
I remember a school bond election in which several thousand people voted. Millions of tax payer dollars were at stake. It ended in a dead heat—tied. The election had to be held again. One vote would have made the difference one way or the other. I felt strongly about the issues being decided and was disappointed that I had not encouraged more of my friends to go to the polls.
Most of us are guilty of walking into the voting booth poorly prepared, and so we mark at least part of the ballot by guessing. “In fact,” said Paul Dunn, “in most local elections it is almost predictable that the candidate whose name falls first in the alphabet and is therefore probably listed first on the ballet will be the winner. That’s not government by People—it’s more like government by alphabet soup.”
I am fond of telling my wife that she can handle all of life’s “small” stuff and that I will take care of the “big” stuff. She can balance the checkbook, take care of the grandkids, weed the garden, move the furniture around, cook, clean and take out the garbage. I will worry about the big stuff such as how to deal with the problems of the Middle East, poverty, whether or not there is such a thing as global warming, and the Texas drought. The truth is that she can deal with her end of the bargain while there is really precious little I can do at my end.
So, where can we do some good in our complex, fast-moving world? How about starting where we have the most influence--in our own community? The world’s greatest problems have their counterparts or perhaps even their roots in our own communities where we DO have a chance to help. Crime, juvenile delinquency, quality education, child abuse, unemployment—all are national ills that have their manifestations in our own towns. No matter where we live, there is some public issue that needs our attention.
One thing is for sure, we must maintain our liberties and our independence from government encroachment in our lives. We must be ever vigilant. William Miller admonished that “any government which gets so big that it can give you everything you want will also be so big that it can take everything you’ve got!” Dwight D. Eisenhower said that “Every step we take toward making the State the caretaker of our lives, by that much we move toward making the State our master.”
“If men were angels,” said James Madison, “no government would be necessary… In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” In this great country we may achieve government self-control by making sure that the Constitution of the United States of America, which specifies what government of, by and for the people, can and cannot do, is held inviolate. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
I am only one but I can and will do something…