Friday, September 17, 2004

Of Patriots and Terrorists

I was doing a little reading last night, inspired by the copy of my family’s coat of arms that hangs on a wall of my dinky home office, and the story of Sue Niederer. The genealogy of my ancestors, even given my rather unusual real world surname, traces back to the 17th century new world colonies. One of my predecessors was a signatory to the United States Constitution. More recently, past relatives are prominently mentioned in the history of the Underground Railroad during the years leading up to the U.S. Civil War

Maybe this is why “old school” written oratory such as the following rings true to me:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the time that Thomas Jefferson drafted the above passage into the Declaration of Independence.

While the Constitution is certainly the basis for the volumes of law that now govern the 50 states, I think we too often neglect the events that drove a small band of inspired men to part with the governance of their English "masters". The premise of the Revolution was that a monarchy, ruled by the bloodlines of a single family, couldn't possibly dictate the course of human events for a citizenry located in a province half a world away.

Read these words from the Declaration of Independence: Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That's the root of what most of us would call true "democracy". Taken as a whole, the declaration was an acknowledgement that a government so far removed from the governed could not possibly represent the interest of the governed.

And that's where I think we are today.

The difference between 2004 and 1776 in terms of governance is not mileage based. The distance is philosophically based. The founders of the United States of America envisioned a benevolent geopolitical entity that controlled its own destiny, but recognized (nay, celebrated) the philosophic diversity in the geographic enclaves that comprised the original 13 states. Yet in 2004, we're literally trapped by a single party government that wishes to force homogenous, patrician, autocratic (and some would say theocratic) rule, certainly not by the consent of the governed.

The Democratic Party has always sported a more inclusive record of considering all points of view when it comes to governance. Perhaps that's why most of the important social changes that have occurred over the last 100 years have happened during times of Democrat administrations. And perhaps that's why the contrast between the Democratic Party and ideological purity of anyone associated with the current GOP administration is so striking. BushCo quarters no dissent in its ranks. The input and bipartisan consideration of issues affecting the vast majority of constituents is totally ignored or dismissed. And maybe that's the scariest thing about the Bush administration. The GOP of 2004 is most certainly not your father’s Grand Old Party.

So, when someone says to me that there's little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties, I strongly disagree. The core document in the founding of America shines some bright light on the wide gap in difference - and in the philosophical view that either a) all points of view can and should be considered, or b) a small (but vocal and well-connected) sample of the total population controls the majority.

In some ways, we’ve come a long way as a society in the past 228 years. Yet in other ways, we’ve turned the clock back to the 17th century in just the past 25 years. Anyone who bothers to take the time to read the entire Declaration of Independence should think about the following question:

Would BushCo consider George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin patriots, or would they be catching the first flight to Guantanamo Bay?

You already know the answer.