Can you? Should you? A consideration of Progressivism and Political Ideology

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Captain Jack Sparrow explains to a young Mr. Will Turner, as the latter dangles precariously over the water astride the mainsail beam, in life there are only two things to consider. Those are, simply, what a man can do and what a man can’t do. In the movie scene, Will must decide if he can square with the idea his father was a good man and a pirate or he cannot. Each subsequent decision related to the matter would stem from his  decision.

Just prior to taking a ride on the mainsail, Will challenges Captain Jack

In an exceptional discussion of the political ideology of today’s Progressives versus the Liberal ideology of Democrats even one president past, Greg Weiner in Infinite Ideology points out the basic premise upon which each operated and now find themselves within a self-consuming paradigm of political thought. Weiner writes, “Liberals believe in the capacity of government to do good. Progressives believe that governmment’s job is to push society forward toward ever sunnier uplands.” (Weiner, 2019)

Such an ideology negates the accomplishments of the past Liberal administrations’ accomplishments for they will always be too small an attempt at what could be. It also consumes any current actions of the Progressives. Whatever a Progressive attempts today will be krill for consumption of the humpback whale of Progressive government tomorrow.

Weiner continues, “…the internal logic of progress reject limits, when progress is employed as a system of political thought or a principle of political action. It cannot respect dissent because progress is an inherent good, not a matter of dispute.” What a man can do and what a man can’t do implies limitations on what can be done and such cannot be visualized in the Progressive mindset. Where Conservatism, according to Weiner, “embodies a natural principle of limitation for one must ask what and how much to conserve.” (Weiner, 2019)  He also alludes to Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a Liberal spokesman who understood limitation because one could ask how much can government do? Such a question is not posed in the Progressive handbook.

 One Step Further

Captain Jack Sparrow

We have left Will Turner hanging on the mainsail long enough, let’s turn the ship’s wheel and bring him aboard. At this point in the movie, Captain Jack Sparrow asks young Turner, as he lays supine and breathless on the deck of the Dauntless, at the point of the Captain’s sword, Can you sail under the command of a pirate or can you not?  For the Progressives, Liberals and Conservatives there must be another subset of questions. It goes one step further than what you can do and what you can’t do.

Politicians must learn to wrestle with these questions, more critical perhaps than the first set, for Americans, as a whole, feel the tension without ever hearing or seeing it recognized. These questions are gigantic elephants in a very small room; the room in which the roles of government and bureaucracies among a people are considered. It is not just what you can do and what you cannot do… the questions are: What you should do and what you should not do.

To admit these questions exists is antithetical to each ideology, whether Liberal, Progressive or Conservative when it comes to the professional politician or the life-long bereaucrat. It reeks of restriction and limitations upon those in government. Yet, the people understand there are things with which an individual American simply does not want the government interfering. No doubt, this is best understood by the Conservatives and most loudly voiced by the far-right of Conservatism. Perhaps because it is most clearly or vociferously advocated by the far-right, many mainstream Republicans shy away from such contentious debate. They ignore such provocations at their peril.

These Americans rally behind political organizations with varying central themes, whether it is the NRA or another strong body of voters. With wagons circled over particular issues, these constituents have declared: “Enough is enough!” They will stand their ground as the politicians and bueaucrats circle relentlessly seeking to gain more and more control over individual Americans and their lives.   They have further decreed:  “This is a space where government will not act in our supposed best interest!” Americans believe they do know better and they have the Constitution on their side to give  them authority to call a halt.

No doubt, if members of the Liberal or Conservative schools would debate internally or among the schools of thought,there would be ample difference of opinion as to where the lines of what government should do and what it should not do would fall. However, the questions deserve to be asked. As Americans consider the dogma of the Progressives, who will not even allow such questions to be raised, American voters will turn enmasse away from the Progressive Kool-aid dispenser in haste.

When Your Elephant Drops

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come… I knew when my elephant dropped it was time to get back to work.



When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. That is a wise piece of sage advice that I made up just a few hours ago. I have no doubt it will last for centuries and grace the finest of Chinese cookie emporiums the world over, especially those whose home base is somewhere in upper New Jersey.

“What brought me to this amazing revelation? You ask. Okay, so you didn’t ask; but you are curious enough to keep reading. Perhaps you know my legendary wit; well, half-wit. Maybe, you are hoping that if you read this all the way through you can help my family get the evidence they need for a permanent commitment. Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to read on. I believe it will be worth it.

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. A very simple piece of logic really. All of us need a cue to know when it is time to move on in life. Maybe we need to move on to a new job, a new home, or perhaps, a new fiancé’ (I’d be careful on that one). It might not be something nearly as earth shattering as that. You may need to move on from one normal, everyday task to another in order to try to accomplish as much as possible before the day winds down unto its coming night. No matter the size of the task, it is important to know that when the elephant drops, that is your cue to move on.

Wisdom, the Bible tells us can be found with many counselors. It can be found with age and experience. Sometimes wisdom is born of trial and error, with the emphasis on the error. I have found, over time that I learn much deeper lessons from my mistakes than from my successes. Success seldom requires a review, a debriefing to understand the why of it. Although it is a good idea to do such an evaluation, normally, we accept the fact that if we were successful it is because we were right or good and as long as we are our amazing self then we will continue to be successful. At least that is the reason I don’t re-evaluate a great many of my successes, at least not like I evaluate my failures. The failures I prefer to limit from happening again; so, I evaluate my process to learn how to avoid the same mistakes a third or fourth time. (I did not say, ‘second’ because I usually don’t decide to re-evaluate until I have failed at least twice. My first failures are always accounted to ‘the wrong part’, ‘the wrong instructions’, ‘the wrong day of the week’ – certainly not anything I could have done! After the second failure I grant, begrudgingly, that perhaps it might be something I am doing incorrectly.

Yes, wisdom comes from a multitude of sources. I have found, as a grandfather now for nearly eight years, that wisdom comes to me through the eyes, the insight, the lives of my grandchildren. I don’t think I learned nearly as much from my children for two reasons. First, I still thought I knew a lot about life and things. Second, I was just trying to keep up with them most of the time. The song, “It’s a Wonderful World” sung best, I think, by Louis Armstrong; allows us to see life through the eyes of the song writer and looking at the children, he says, “They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know…” and that is so true. So, our grandchildren can teach us once we have reached an age where we realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. They can teach us, too, when life has slowed enough for times of introspection and taking stock of where one is in life’s journey.  Sometimes such lessons are prompted by a statement, bluntly spoken by our grandchildren. Recently, my eldest told me that I can really take on the role of Santa now that my belly has gotten as big as it has. Good, honest, tongue-biting truth. It’s great!

By now, the number of surgeries I have had in the past fade in memory, overtaken by the pain that arthritis can bring to those same areas that surgeons fixed so effectively decades ago. A police service related shoulder repair, now needing to be a shoulder replacement has enough arthritis to keep Bayer in production; except that a previous perforated ulcer make aspirin a no-no. My spinal fusions from police related injuries and the bone taken from my hips for those repairs now provide plenty of opportunity for creaking and popping as I try to move stealthily through the night on my way to the bathroom for the fourth time, trying not to wake my wife or the dogs. To interrupt either is not good. If I wake the dogs I have to take them outside in the cold and wait for them. If I wake my lovely wife, she doesn’t get enough rest with as hard as she works now without me waking her; so I try to let her sleep whenever she can. Then there is the arthritic knee that the ‘Doc’ recently told me has to be replaced. I tell you that to say that if I could find a way to do all of my work and social engagements, business meetings, phone calls and meals within the confines of my Jacuzzi, I would.

Warm (to boiling) hot water is the only real relief. I am very thankful for the medications and all the other things that are done to keep me functional; but it is the escape in the warm water where my brain is freed up to think. Our thirty year old Jacuzzi hot-tub downstairs gave up the ghost some time back so I am relegated to our garden tub Jacuzzi in our bathroom; for which I am eternally grateful. It is, however, garden sized. As my grandson will tell you, I am built something more like a “Horse pasture –long in the inseam, wide across the shoulders (and belly) with the pasture taken in just a little around the hay feeder” – I will use the garden tub as long as I can fit in it and get out of it. Silly us to allow the design of our bathroom to include steps up to the Jacuzzi tub. When we built it no one needed hand rails or maybe a floor level entrance to step in and out of without trying to go over it like a high hurdler at the Moscow Olympics. Still, if there was a Nobel Prize for pain relief, Jacuzzi get s my vote and that is where the elephant comes into the story.

I share my Jacuzzi with an elephant. I know that sounds a little crazy but, I also share it with two ducks, one rubber one plastic. The elephant, too, I should clarify is a one piece plastic mold elephant about the same size as the rubber duck. I don’t get much time to play with them but from time to time one of my grandchildren will ‘visit’ with me while I am catching up on my Weekly Standard, National Review or NewsMax. I also do many of my Bible devotional readings there, too. As I said, if I could, I would work throughout the day there. Electronics however do not fare well in warm water. Even my revered Weekly Standard et al., have succumbed to the water on more than one occasion.

When my grandchildren pay me a visit and it becomes ‘grab a bathing suit and sit with Papaw in the Jacuzzi,’ invariably along with the rubber duck, out comes the plastic elephant. Known best for his ability to spring to the surface after being held at the bottom, he is an all-around favorite. If we had a large swimming pool, I fear they would want a real elephant to see if he, too, would spring up from the bottom of the pool! When the grandchildren are not around, the elephant stands guard at the edge of the Jacuzzi as if looking forward to the time that the children play with him again.


It would be too easy to escape my on-going pain by keeping myself as long as possible in the Jacuzzi guarded by my trusted elephant. However, there comes a time when all of us have to step out of our comfort and be about the business to which God has intended us.

The disciples and others loved to listen to Christ teach. His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew was a time of great spiritual learning, encouragement and challenge. Eventually, though, they all had to come down from the mountain and be about the ministry set before them. It is a true joy, at times, to remove ourselves from the hectic world of ministry or other life challenges that come before us; work, family turmoil or illness, difficulties with finances, friends, even schooling and preparation for future ministry. All of these things take a toll on us. They can, too, take a toll on our relationships; particularly those involving close family members. Retreating from the daily stressors is sometimes absolutely essential for us to be able to carry on and to prepare to meet the next challenge. The temptation to not re-enter the fray is high. Some of us have the option to completely step away from some of the areas that cause us the most difficulty. Sometimes that is what God intends for us to do but, most of the time, God intends for us to recharge, regroup, and regain our hold on the reins and be about our Father’s business.

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come. For me, today I knew it was time because, my elephant dropped. I never saw him move on his own, but somehow, that little gray plastic elephant worked his way to the edge of the Jacuzzi and plunged trunk first into the water. I knew that when my elephant dropped, it was time to get back to work.

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