A letter to the editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald suggested that “the first and primary purpose of the government is to protect the people.” Agreed. But are the implications of this statement, as it subsequently suggests, “very straightforward”?

What is involved in the protection of the people? Funding of police and armed forces? Fencing off our southern border? Or perhaps something more substantive, such as easily affordable health care (protection of existing life) or continued subsidies for higher education (protection of future well-being)? Might we think in terms of protection for, not just protection from? Also, what exactly does it mean to “live within the law”? Is it enough to protect those who follow the letter of it, or should we also seek to chastise those who circumvent its spirit?

In reality, there is very little about these questions that is straightforward. And herein lies our problem. “Straightforward” keeps us from effective and repectful dialogue, which is what we desperately need in order for anyone’s interests truly to be protected. Ultimately, “straightforward” ensures we will learn nothing, because it makes us believe we know everything. Perhaps what is really lacking in our society at this moment is a little more “confusion on government’s responsibility.” Or at least a greater willingness to admit that we all have questions, and someone else might just have some answers.

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