Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Last week, my family of four was on a commuter train heading into Boston from a suburb for a day of sightseeing when the lights inside the train went off.

Based on the reactions of our fellow passengers, this was not an unusual event. When we stopped at South Station, there was little light by which to exit. We got up from our seats and moved toward the front of the car, but our paths were blocked. People who had been seated in the car ahead of us were walking toward us in an attempt to exit through the back of their car.

After a few moments of standoff, one lady piped up, “Exit forward – where the doors are open.” Still there was no movement, only a lot of blank looks from the people facing backward. “Come on Sheeple,” she tried again, “Turn around and go up front.” People began to turn, and progress was made. In the meantime, my husband had opened the side door of the car, and we were able to exit.

After a few moments of confusion, the sheeple had turned back into people.

During that trip to the cradle of liberty, I was reminded repeatedly of the importance of community. Places where people can meet, talk, discuss the topics of the day and determine the best way forward. The Freedom Trail in Boston includes places that played key roles in our path to freedom: the Common, where British troops camped; the Old South Meeting House, where more than 5,000 colonists met before the Boston Tea Party; the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was declared from the balcony on July 18, 1776; and Faneuil Hall, which housed protests to the Sugar Act in 1764.

These past few weeks, the American people have been exercising their rights and responsibilities as citizens, providing their representatives with feedback, and voicing their displeasure when they feel they are not being represented properly. Town hall meetings with representatives have provided citizens with forums where they can voice their opinions regarding the proposed health care legislation.

This pushback can be traced to increasing government spending and government intrusion into citizens’ lives. From stimulus to energy to health care, the current administration appears confident that more government is better. But, just as they did in Boston hundreds of years ago, many U.S. citizens are coming together to reject the will of a centralized authority. They are discussing and otherwise communicating their beliefs that more centralized government is not the answer, but more individual responsibility and action is.

Hope and Change?

Many of these citizens hope that they will be heard and that the health care proposal will be changed, or stopped.

Their voices are increasing the pressure on President Obama. According to a Gallup poll, his overall approval rating has dropped to 56 percent from 67 percent at the beginning of his term. Regarding Obama’s health care proposal, a recent a href=” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124890178435291341.html”> Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported that, “42 percent called it a bad idea while 36 percent said it was a good idea.” This same poll reported that 43 percent now think that the stimulus plan was a bad idea, with only 34 percent in support.

Back home in Atlanta, as I unpacked from our Boston family vacation, I listened to Obama answering questions regarding health care on the radio. The pressure he is under showed up in his disjointed answers, the catch in his voice and his tenuous tone. For someone who is often referred to as eloquent, he sounded choppy and uncertain, clear signs that he is moving from safe ground into uncertain territory.

Perhaps instead of describing Obama as eloquent, the proper description might be “assured.” Historically he has appeared confident that his speech included the right words, that he could deliver it masterfully and that it would create the emotional impact required to move the country toward his plan. Now, he sounds diffident.

The founding fathers fought for liberty, for the right of people to make their own decisions about matters that affect their lives. They knew from their experience with the British that any attempt to control the economy represents an attempt to control people. Every generation has to decide for itself whether to follow the founding fathers’ lead and fight for liberty, freedom and responsibility. Will we understand that the only money that government has to give is money that it has taken or plans to take? Or will we decide to let a large, distant government plan our economy, plan our health and thereby control our lives?

As we try to find the right path, will we act as sheeple, settling for the promise of security under the guise of large paternal government or will we act as people – fighting for liberty, freedom and responsibility?


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.