Vail Daily letter: Dangerous thinking
Each time I read the Rev. Dr. Jack Van Ens’ columns, I am baffled both by his moniker and his writing. While Dr. Van Ens calls himself a Presbyterian minister, one would be hard pressed in reading his columns to see him as anything other than a mouthpiece against “conservatives.”
Time and time again, Dr. Van Ens picks some inane topic for him to preach about the virtues of liberalism, big government and the evils of conservativism. Trust me, I am neither a conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican. I choose to make decisions based upon facts rather than political party affiliations. But Dr. Van Ens sees no gray area. His columns seem to be a “you’re either with liberals or against them” series of diatribes, all the while cloaked in his position as a minister. Pardon me, but didn’t we seek to keep church and state separate? If so, why is Dr. Van Ens presumably running a charitable organization, all the while making political statements? And given that his columns are all political statements, with an occasional Bible reference thrown in for good measure, what is the relevance of his position as a minister?
But I digress … in Dr. Van Ens’ recent column, he seeks to demonize conservatives on the “myth” of the “self-made individual.” Pardon me, but I believe that Hillary Clinton made clear in her 2008 campaign (despite her flub in saying that “corporations don’t create jobs”) that she believes in the American dream of hard work leading to individual success. In contrast, Dr. Van Ens reaches back to 1800s to refute the idea of the self-made individual. The 1800s? Surely he could have at least tried to argue this point with something closer to the 21st century.
However obtuse his argument, I believe that Dr. Van Ens is trying to say that without government, no one would succeed in life. I will readily concede that we need government. We need police, and fireman, and roads and bridges and tunnels, and our armed forces. But do all of these bodies of government lead to one’s success? Why do people reach the heights they’ve chosen in their fields (be it in business, sports, nonprofit or government) if not for the hard work (and breaks along the way) that they’ve invested? Is Dr. Van Ens suggesting that no one is in control of their destiny, hard work does not lead to results, and we all owe everything that we are in this life to our government? I’m truly trying to figure out what exactly he was trying to say in this column. Our government is here to provide a societal structure so that individuals can succeed, businesses can grow, and our rights as citizens can be protected.
For anyone to suggest that any self-made individual owes a debt to its government is to somehow confuse the role of government. Government is an instrument of the people, for the people and elected by the people. Dr. Van Ens would have you believe that government is almost a higher deity than mere citizens, hovering over and above all of us, leading us down a path and determining our destiny. This is not only dangerous and misplaced thinking, but it denigrates the hard work that we as Americans value and the dream we all believe that anyone can succeed in America.
John Kennedy famously said “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” I believe that what we can do for our country is to wake up each morning determined to succeed — as individuals, in our chosen profession and U.S. citizens. Our belief in ourselves and our ability to determine our own outcome, under the framework of a supportive (not determinative) government, is what has made us and our country great.