We moved from a tame sea sliding upon a manicured shore on the Kohala Coast to a roaring surf crashing onto a steep incline of beach on Kauai. Both waters were clear, sparkling in the sun. The calm bay was painted in deep to bright shades of blue. The thunderous bay was more gray-blue aquamarine, shaded by black rock formations on the ocean bed, hinting of danger.
The shoreline of Poipu, Kauai drops steeply and suddenly and as we walked in bare feet the waves rose and rolled and descended upon us, at times catching us off balance with their force. Then we would turn and face the sea, legs apart to brace our bodies, sinking into the churned sand, and watch the surf rise, roll, and crash once again upon us.
We were protected from the sea at Kohala. We were exposed at Poipu. The tides pulled and ripped, dramatic but dangerous.
It made me think of the upcoming elections and how we see our world.
Americans are largely protected from the dangerous waters that seethe and pound our shores. We have not been attacked on our own soil since 2001, and the attacks on foreign soil, as recently as last month in North Africa, seem far away, tragedies enlivening the evening news and providing material for campaigns. The economy is not good. Prices are up and unemployment has remained high, higher than reported according to many, as high as 20% in parts of the country. Yet our food and water and gas are not yet rationed, we do not have anarchy in our city streets (yet), police and fire services still appear with sirens screaming, keeping us safe.
Americans will be choosing soon the kind of government we desire. How do we choose it? Most of us do nothing to prepare to vote. Most do not read about the issues, let alone study them. Many of us do not read or speak English. We rely on second hand reports from biased reporters or newspaper recommendations. We enter the polling booth and we study the names and propositions – who are they and what will they do? We don’t really know. Yet we vote, randomly it seems.
The waters of tyranny rage against our shores. How do we brace ourselves as the shoreline wears away, as the floodwaters pour in?
Many of us do not see the crashing surf, but rather see a calm bay. We are soothed by the media, told that all is well, we can slide along, the government will care for us. We need not worry. We do not need to make educated choices, choices that require work, study, even learning English. We are told we do not need to save, to practice self-restraint. We are told that we have the right to do as we wish. The government will provide our bread and perhaps tickets to the circus. The government will choose our date of death. It will ensure that the unwanted will be unborn. We do not need to worry. We do not need to choose.
It is easy, when looking out to sea, to see calm, friendly, soothing waters that undulate in the sun, that foam and slip softly onto the sand. But in the neighboring harbor, the sea churns and crashes onto the shore, devouring the coast and spitting it out.
Now is a time to see with both eyes, to study, to learn about our upcoming choices. It is a time to face the reality of our world, a world with no common authority, no common belief in God, the author of all authority.
We talked about the Ten Commandments in church today – the simple rules of life that help us to live with one another peaceably, etched in stone and given to Moses so long ago. There was a time when this list provided a common authority, but no longer. We, by God’s grace, have not yet been destroyed by the riptides, but if we pretend they are not there, that the sea is calm – if we look away from the realities of our world – we may be pulled under.
I believe it was Alexis de Tocqueville who called America “the great experiment in democracy.” It was and is an experiment to allow universal suffrage, to allow citizens who may be uninformed, uneducated, or illiterate to determine our future. The issues have become complex and even the informed, educated, and literate cannot be experts in their intricacies. So we have learned to vote for character, candidates whom we trust to know, experts in governing.
In the end this may be our best solution – to admit the ocean is dangerous and to hire a trustworthy captain to sail our ark.