My Turn: Sometimes we need to go back to move forward

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2002

I have been giving some serious thought about candidates convincing voters that their manifesto is the one that will be healthier for Alaska. We have individuals, and special interest groups, who think a candidate is the one whom we should vote for because that particular character will do such and such for our benefit. We have proponents who want to keep the capital where it is, others would like it moved. We are caught into the idea of providing more opportunities for economic development; the issue of opening ANWR for oil development, invading the Permanent Fund to close the budget gap are stands we also get wedged into. I have even read about folks crossing over party lines to promote the election of an individual. And then we have this particular candidate, we think, is best for Native interests. While all of these are of importance to me, I have yet to hear an aspirant address what the real purpose of government is. Yes, I believe that we should be aware of what governments, whether it be local, tribal, state or federal, should be doing for us.

Check out the Declaration of Independence. It outlines clearly what the founders have commissioned regarding the role of government. It says that this particular government was instituted for the purpose of protecting us.

Protecting what?

Why protecting our lives, our liberties and guaranteeing our pursuit of happiness.

So what does this idea of protecting our lives involve? We should be able to enjoy the freedom to live wherever and however we want without the fear of having our lives and properties threatened or taken from us. Our children should be able to go to school, we should be able to go work, and our families should be able to enjoy life without being shot at. We should be able to protect ourselves to a certain extent, but if we are unable to we elect good people to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

What about this liberty thing? The founders believed that we should be able to do anything with our lives so long as we do not interfere with the rights of others to do the same thing. Native Americans practiced this principle as well. We have the right to say what we want to say. The other day I had the misfortune of listening to someone who said things that I did not agree with. "Man!" I said to myself, "Do I want to fight to the death on his behalf for his right to say that?" And what about this issue of being able to worship whomever or whatever we desire? And then, of course, there's that other stuff the Bill of Rights spells out. What a country!

Now what about the pursuit of happiness part? Of course to be happy we should have the right to provide for our basic needs and our families. This means, in these days, we should have a good education so that we can secure a decent job whereby our basic wants can be satisfied: food, shelter, clothing. Fulfilling these necessary needs helps us to concentrate on other types of advancement that will make our lives much richer and meaningful.

So, as I read it, governments are instituted for the purpose of protecting our lives, our liberties, and guaranteeing ways in which we can enjoy happiness. The declaration also states that when our government no longer does these - that is protect our lives, our liberties, and our pursuit of happiness, then it is our right, it is our duty as Americans, to either alter or abolish our present government and then start a new one that is based upon those same principles. Now, I don't believe we need to abolish our governments yet, however, there is a lot of altering we can do.

Well, one great person I admire said something profound that I think applies here. He said, "Sometimes it is necessary for us to go back if we want to move forward." I think it's time we returned to proven principles if we want a reliable understanding of what governments should be doing for us.

Kadashan is the Tlingit name of Bertrand J. Adams Sr., who lives in Yakutat.

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