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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Anchors and Sails

We had gathered from the four winds, all of us converging on the campground for three days of family reunion. Some had come from overseas; most came from far-flung states up and down the eastern seaboard, scattered by the pursuit of jobs and advancement. My dad, former Navy man that he is, looked around the room and aptly summed it up: “In this family, we’ve always been more sail than anchor.”

He was talking about our family penchant for pulling up roots every four or five years, and moving on. He meant nothing political by the statement, but the "anchor" and "sail" metaphor is useful when considering the historic tensions that play themselves out in the American political arena. The “anchors” are the conservatives, once in both major parties, but now relegated almost entirely to the Republican side of the aisle. These are the Jim Talents and the Kay James', reminding us of our heritage, calling us to be “anchored” in the principles of family and faith that have stood the test of time. When change is all around us, they call us back to First Things. They are guardians of the tradition.

The “sails,” on the other hand, are the visionaries. They’re not concerned about keeping things as they’ve always been. Change isn’t a dirty word; it’s a rallying cry. These are the innovators, the Thomas Edisons and the Bill Gates, rugged individualists who push the envelope. More “sails” are Democratic than Republican.

The genius of America has always been finding room for both “anchors” and “sails.” Too much anchor, and innovation dies. Too much sail, and we all lose our bearings.

Starting next Saturday, the "Anchors and Sails" column will review one article or book personalities that are best described as either an "anchor" or a "sail." By better understanding both, we'll come to understand that we really do need each other.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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