The machinery of America

Published 10:52 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015

by Randy Forbes

An elderly farmer owned a tractor that, as the tractor aged, looked about as old as the farmer. Each year, the farmer nurtured that old tractor through yet another season. One year he replaced a fuel pump. The next year, the tires and transmission. One cold winter he even overhauled the engine.

At the dinner table, talk of the tractor always seemed to stir more emotion from the farmer’s wife than any other topic. To the farmer’s two sons, it seemed their mother hated the tractor because she so often complained they could never buy anything new around the house. Any extra spending money went towards maintaining the tractor.

Not long after the father died, the two sons came home one day with smiles on their faces. They told their mother they had sold the old tractor and bought her new furniture for the house. To their shock, the mother sat down at the kitchen table and began to cry. One of the sons said, “You just don’t like change. But you are so much better off today than you were when we had the old tractor! You have all this beautiful new furniture.”

The mother looked at her sons and said, “Don’t you realize how foolish you have been? That old tractor required a great deal of care. But it fed and sustained this family for decades, and it would have done the same for you. Now that it is gone, we can never afford to replace it.”

If you look closely at the frustration of many Americans today, you can see a hint of sadness, because they realize that some in government seem to be selling off or dismantling the very machinery that has sustained us as a nation. That sadness exists because these Americans know the shortsightedness of the voices that declare with smiles on their faces, “You are just afraid of change. Look what we bought for that old machinery! Don’t you see how much better off you are now?” They also realize the enormous cost to replace it.

The machinery sustaining America may not always have been as tangible as the metal bolts found on the tractor, but it is just as real. We have felt it in the rule of law that rejected the notion that law should be dependent upon the personality and politics of the individual wearing a judge’s robe. We can see its reflection in a work ethic that believed the individual –not government – had the responsibility to get up each morning and put America back to work.  We see it in the dependence upon a military that, while not perfect, can and would answer the call to defend freedom throughout the world.

And finally, we found it wrapped in a principle of religious freedom that placed a high value on individual choice, especially when it came to determining where they would find meaning and purpose in their lives. To some, it is in wealth, or power, or fame, or in the joy of nature’s beauty. To others, it is in pursuit of their faith. For many choosing faith, a partial commitment is like no commitment at all, which is why our Founders fought so hard for religious freedom. They would not allow it to be dictated by any legislative committee, any agency bureaucrat, or even anyone wearing a judicial robe.

We may complain about the price of protecting America’s machinery. We may be tempted by what we could get in exchange. But we would do well to remember it has nurtured and sustained the greatest nation the world has ever known. And it will do the same for our future if we are wise enough to care for it.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see