I have the privilege to have H. John Lyke as a guest writer today. We’ve connected through social media and have similar passions in the social sciences. As a history teacher and counseling professional, it’s a privilege to have his voice today at Life Beyond the Picket Fence. Thanks, John, for this voice!
What I’ve learned from my life experiences, as well as from writing the book What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?, is that we need others to make our lives complete.
When we are born and go through the various developmental stages of life, we obviously need the help of others to complete various benchmarks successfully. The catalyst for achieving the level of development required of a given stage of life would be the love of adults who made themselves available in helping us master each of those stages successfully. In turn,this provide us with the ego-strength to handle the next challenging task necessary to live happy and productive lives, free of psychological encumbrances and conflicts that prevent growth from occurring.
Even though we may think our need for others stops when we reach the age of 21, or even younger, that is simply not true. We need others to enrich our lives from birth until death. That’s because we are social beings and it’s the sharing of intimacies and our love for one another that raises our joy of life to a whole new level. Growing up, when we did things together as a family, which involved my two brothers, myself, along with my mother and father, I don’t recall many times where intellectual and other kinds of competitive strivings weren’t part of the family dynamics. As a result, there always seemed to be sibling rivalry, antagonism and a general feeling that for every contest, there was one winner and the rest of the participants felt like losers. The only time that was not so, where we enjoyed each other for who we were, rather than trying to out-do one another, was during Christmases and birthdays, for it was during those times when moments were free of rivalry, challenges and conflict.
In what I just described, what was important was being a victorious competitor and winning contests was what life was about. Rather than working toward something greater than oneself by helping and nurturing the younger generations to be good stewards of their country’s resources and of their good fortune, we were taught to assume an adversarial posture of winning for winning sake.
In contrast, the template our Founding Fathers used was to look beyond themselves by helping and nurturing others to be all that they could become, without expecting anything in return.
When I wrote What Would Our Founding Fathers Say?, one of the things that impressed me the most about our Founding Fathers was when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The participants put aside their competitive natures, petty differences and selfish interests for something greater than themselves. They cooperated with one another to write these three marvelous documents, all of which have stood the test of time.
Some of the Founding Fathers, along with fellow colonists, men and women alike, also showed their selfless manner in other ways as well. They did this either by directly fighting in the Revolutionary War or by indirectly supporting General Washington’s Continental Army. At the same time, they recognized they could die on the battlefield, or, if they lost the war, they could have all been hung. They recognized the importance of setting this fledgling nation on sound footing so that future generations could enjoy the bountiful benefits of freedom that they and their fellow country men and women were willing to fight to preserve, even if loss of life resulted. That was a real expression of unconditional love they felt toward future generations.
So, what happened to this willingness to set aside one’s selfish interest for something greater than oneself, which was one of the foundations used to write the Constitution?
Since the advent of political parties, after President Washington left office, the willingness to cooperate with one another for the greater good has become less and less evident. What caused this sudden lack of cooperation between and among politicians? The answer: as soon as political parties were established, members of each party began to look at their adversary with a jaundiced eye. The parties began to invent reasons for disliking each other. They attributed pejorative qualities to the opposing party that often turned out to be half-truths. As the years progressed, so did their differences.
It’s important to not confuse our democratic system as being an economic system. Our democracy is a social system. The reason that’s important to understand is because our Constitution was formed to serve the people, not the special interest groups and the moneyed interests, which appears to be the case when we speak of our political parties today. We need to get our politicians to start thinking like our Founding Fathers did, where they all work together for the greater good and, in so doing, be willing to give up their selfish interests for the greater good, which in this case would be for the good of the country, so that we can once again say, “I’m proud to be an American.”
John Lyke earned his doctorate at Michigan State University. He is a board-certified psychologist and a professor emeritus at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He wrote The Impotent Giant and co-authored Walking on Air without Stumbling. He can be found online through Twitter, Facebook and at his website, lykeablebooks4u.com