For A Bowl Of Stew




Jeff Kouba



One of the great stories of the Old Testament is that of Jacob and Esau. Twin brothers, they struggled with each other literally from birth.

The pivotal moment in their rivalry came one day when Esau returned to the tents consumed by hunger and asked Jacob for something to eat.

Jacob, the younger of the two, and ever the schemer, demanded that Esau first sell his birthright. Esau did so, and for this act the Book of Hebrews describes Esau as godless.

Esau's sin was his profane rejection of his sacred birthright. As the oldest son, Esau was heir to the family name, and to the greater portion of his father's possessions.

But even more important, Esau was heir to the covenant God had made with Abraham and Isaac. That covenant promised a blessing to all people would come from this family line. Instead, Jacob became the father of the twelve Hebrew tribes and the nation of Israel.

And Esau gave it all away for a bowl of stew.

He sold his birthright to alleviate the temporary discomfort of hunger. Rather than endure the immediate agony, Esau focused only on his desires of the moment.

Like Esau, we the people of these United States are heirs to a nation. The founding fathers bequeathed to us the greatest system of government this world has ever known. And also like Esau, we have sought to wriggle out of the responsibilities of being citizens of this country.

The Framers of the Constitution endeavored to create a federal government that would be accountable to the public. The 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 hammered out a series of checks and balances to ensure the federal government would not trample on the freedoms of individuals.

But we are ultimately responsible for what goes on in our government and in our country. We are not subject to unaccountable oligarchs. That is the genius of the republic the founding fathers left us, the power of our vote and the right to speak our mind.

Sadly, I believe we are numb, even apathetic in exercising our duties of oversight. In the past year, our President committed perjury, and the public barely yawned. Instead of expressing outrage at the President's criminal behavior, the public was more upset with the independent prosecutor.

We allow politicians to lie to us about economic matters. Reductions in rates of increase of spending are mendaciously called cuts. Tax cuts are characterized as taking money from some nebulous pool and giving it to people who already have too much, instead of emphasizing that tax cuts mean people will keep more of their own money that they earned themselves. Too many people feel they have a right to retire at age 65 and expect the government, via taxes on working people, to be their primary source of retirement and pay their medical bills for the next 30 years.

There are metal detectors at the entrances of many public schools. Yet if you walk past those security measures, down the hall and into a classroom and try to hang a copy of the Ten Commandments, which tell a child not to kill someone with the gun they are not supposed to be bringing to school, you face a confrontation with the courts, which feel such a seditious display is a threat to the Constitution.

We have completely forgotten the important role religion has played in our history. We accept the utterly mistaken notion that separation of church and state means religion should be barred from the public arena. We forget the First Amendment specifically allows the free exercise of religion.

There is a coarsening of our standards, with foul language becoming increasingly prevalent in all manner of movies, TV programs and books, as well as in public conversation. Try walking from one end of the MSU campus to the other between classes without overhearing some profanity. It is not easy to do.

Esau wept when he realized what he lost. He begged to get his birthright back, but it was too late. I hope we don't reach a point in this country where it is too late to get back what we are losing.

We have forgotten from whence we came. We are failing to protect our heritage, and in so doing we are forfeiting that which makes America unique.

So enjoy your bowl of stew, America, for it will never be as sweet as the precious birthright you are giving away for nothing.