Friday, September 04, 2015

Measuring Eric Greitens' Conservative status by his own words - Is being Great all that good? pt. 4

Before getting into Eric Greitens' status as a Republican and a Conservative on the basis of his own words, I've got to take a moment to note this. In one of Bill Hennessy's early posts in support of Eric Greitens candidacy for Governor of Missouri, he made a comically failed attempt at prognostication, saying that if the dirty tricks 'whisper campaigns' (see my previous post), failed to hurt his candidate, then:
"...If none of that works, they’ll just lie and claim he’s a Democrat."
As it turns out, the only rumor that I actually had heard about Eric Greitens, was that he had strong democrat ties, and as it turns out, there were very good reasons for people to wonder about whether or not he was a Republican. Greitens himself later disclosed that he was, until recently, a Democrat!
Eric Greitens: Why I am no longer a Democrat: "...I was raised as a Democrat....I registered to vote as a Democrat, and several years ago some Democrats even tried to recruit me to run for Congress..."
I'm sorry, but that's funny. Poor Bill.

Greitens admitted to having been in discussions about running for office as a democrat, and despite his claims to not being a politician, when he first began to seriously consider a future political, to my mind, that's when he became an actual politician. When was that? We don't know, but presumably it has been longer than he's been a Republican.

So as it turns out, sadly for Bill, those particular concerns were ones that were worth not only whispering about, but raising voices over, but more than that, IMHO, Eric Greitens should have begun his campaign with that revelation right out of the box, rather than letting his supporters be sandbagged with it after a month or more of their denying them in his defense, as Bill was:
"Were you shocked when you learned that Navy SEAL, author, humanitarian, and charity founder, Eric Greitens, was born and raised and voted Democrat?

I was.

Sure, I’d heard the rumors. The whispers spread by some Republican campaign operatives. But I’ve learned to trust those campaign operatives about as far as I fund the national debt."
Is it just me, or, given that those particular 'whisper campaigns' proved to be true, does it seem as if Bill has placed his trust/mistrust with the wrong political operatives?

Ok, moving on....
It seems to me that the reasonable questions that should be pursued now, are how grounded and credible are Eric Greitens' claims to actually being a conservative Republican? Ironically, the only material we have to make that judgment from, is that same article that Greitens wrote to announce that he actually had, until recently (how recently he doesn't say), been a Democrat. And for me at least, his admission and conversion, although welcome, does very little to assure me of what his political principles are.

So that being said, it's time to look at his statement, and I'll explain why it is that I personally find it to be less than satisfying to me.

Take especial note, that he begins his article with this statement:
"I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way. "
While his article could lay a credible claim to his being a Republican, he didn't stop with claiming to be a Republican only, he claims to be a Conservative Republican, and that qualifier 'conservative' requires a bit more information from him than simply having announced that he'd joined the GOP. After all - Lindsay Graham is a Republican too, but you're not going to find a whole lot of Conservatives or Tea Party members that are going to be too impressed by that, right? To make a credible claim as to being a Conservative, he needs to show a solid level of understanding of the principles behind the constitution (U.S. and MO), as well as a regard for, and commitment to, the U.S. Constitution itself. What has he said to place himself squarely on the Conservative and Tea Party Right, as opposed to being in the middle of the road, or even over there on the side of the road with the RINOs?

The only way to find out, is to begin taking a look at what he himself has said:
"I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way.

I was raised as a Democrat. I was taught that Harry Truman was the greatest president ever because he was strong, stood up to the communists, and most important, he was from Missouri. I was taught to stand up for the little guy, and that bigger government was the best way to do that. I registered to vote as a Democrat, and several years ago some Democrats even tried to recruit me to run for Congress.

There was one rather large problem. As I got older, I no longer believed in their ideas. Even worse, I had concluded that liberals aren’t just wrong. All too often they are world-class hypocrites. They talk a great game about helping the most vulnerable, with ideas that feel good and fashionable. The problem is their ideas don’t work, and often hurt the exact people they claim to help."
Which is all very welcome, well and good. I personally have no problem in welcoming someone who's realized their political errors and corrected them, or with believing in the depth of their conversion, but I do need to see evidence of their understanding the principles they claim to have converted to.

Some obvious examples of others who have given ample evidence of just that sort of thing, would be Ronald Reagan, who didn't just switch parties because one 'worked better' than the other, he solidly expressed his grasp of the principles which separated the philosophies of the Left from the Right, in his Goldwater announcement speech, "A Time for Choosing", and he spent years acting consistently with his words. David Horowitz is another excellent that comes to mind, as someone who was once a deeply entrenched and radical leftist, and he not only switched parties, but has gone to great lengths demonstrating very effectively his understanding of why leftist ideas are faulty and corrupt. A little closer to home in time and place would be Dana Loesch, who began as a democrat operative but soon realized her error, left the Left, and has since demonstrated very well, through actions with the Tea Party, on radio, TV and in print, her solid understanding of, and commitment to, the principles which our Individual Rights rest upon and require.

But being as I'm not, as Bill put it, 'lazy' enough to accept someone's assertions alone, I need evidence that such a person didn't simply change party affiliations to find a snazzier party. And I feel zero guilt whatsoever in having questions about their status, especially when I see that the reasons which they've given for their conversion, are far short of being deep enough reasons to explain the error they claim to have corrected.

For instance, it's good that he realized that the leftist approach was hypocritical, that it hurt those it claimed to want to help and simply didn't work. But while that may be enough to explain his becoming a Republican, it isn't enough to assure people, especially me, that he now has a conservative understanding and approach to political issues. After all, again, Lindsay Graham will tell you the very same thing about the democrats and their policies, but you'd have an easier time selling space heaters in hell, than convincing conservatives that Lindsay Graham was one of them.

So what else has Mr. Greitens given us to go on? What deeds or reasoned insights, rather than simply assertions and labels, has he given us? After reciting a valid list of leftist policies that don't work, he says:
"I became a conservative because I believe that caring for people means more than just spending taxpayer money; it means delivering results. It means respecting and challenging our citizens, telling them what they need to hear, not simply what they want to hear. "
The first sentence, especially it's ending, reminds me of earlier statements of 'smarter', kinder, gentler, government social programs, which is a big red flag to me, of a republican not being a Tea Party compatible, Free Market Conservative, dedicated to upholding Individual Rights through the Rule of Law under constitutionally limited government.

I don't think very much of the 'compassionate conservative' shtick. I found it appallingly bad when William F. Buckley Jr. pushed it back in the 1990's (we'll go into detail why in later posts), it was the reason why I didn't vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 primary, and I think it pretty much wore its welcome out with the rest of the nation with W's administration. Demonstrating that you understand the principles that conservatism is derived from requires much more than delivering 'results' and telling people what you think they need to hear, we need to hear you demonstrate a desire for the kind of results that are consistent with conservatism, worthwhile and proper to achieve. So far, I haven't seen that.
"So what would I do? I believe in limited but effective government."
I'm sorry, but that 'but' makes his But look really big to me. When he says 'but effective', he's saying that as a qualifier on 'limited government', which makes it seem to me that his goal is less about ensuring that government remains properly 'limited', than about making its ability to deliver 'results' more efficiently, to be more important than its being limited. Believing in limited government is highly desirable, but Why should it be limited? I'm not seeing any indication from him as to why government should be limited, and that, for me, has to come before anything else. His words indicate to me that he thinks that there are lots of limitations to those limits on government, especially if they might deliver 'effective government'. That sends a shudder down my spine.
"I believe in replacing ObamaCare with something that actually works."
I most emphatically do not. I do not believe that ObamaCare is bad because Obama and the Democrats proposed it, but because govt CANNOT provide any solutions that will not impair the quality and liberty of everyone involved in the area of health care, and so any GovtCare is doomed to failure, and as such we should not attempt to 'fix' it, or replace it, but to remove it. I don't want to replace the devil I know with one I don't know, I want to exorcise the damn thing, bell, book and candle! I believe in repealing ObamaCare, as well as repealing all the other operational healthcare and insurance industry regulations/corporate favors, and I believe in exterminating every other interference into the free market. That means eliminating all intrusive government 'solutions' that prevent people from making intelligent decisions and acting on them for their own reasons. Only by doing that, can a Free Market, which gave us modern health in the first place, be restored.

I'm unable and emphatically unwilling to see anything less than that as a 'conservative' solution, though I've no doubt you could get Lindsay Graham to go along with it.
"I believe in putting working families and job creation ahead of special interests."
That sounds, at best, like recalibrating your spin cycle so as to swap one set of special interests for another, for political gain. Switching special big biz interests, for special little guy interests, ultimately means retaining one set of special interests to be doled out as privileges to some, at everyone else's expense. If you are a Free Market Conservative, dedicated to Individual Rights and the Rule of Law, then you will not seek or accept the swapping of one form of favoritism for another, but will instead desire to eliminate all such special privileges so that all are equal before the law. That would be acceptable. Anything less, and you might as well go talk to Lindsay Graham - I'm sure he's ready to listen.
"I believe that in a free society we have to defend religious liberties and the 2nd Amendment, and protect innocent life, so everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness."
This isn't too bad... but I'd be more comfortable hearing something like "Liberty requires that everyone's individual rights be respected, and those rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights must be held like daggers in the faces of those who'd like to use power to help and improve our lives for us.", anything less, is... less.
"I believe in reforming welfare, so every person can have a chance at a life of dignity, purpose, and meaning."
I do not. I believe in eliminating it. Only then, can every person have a chance at living their own lives.
"And I believe America’s public schools should be the best in the world."
Yeah, well, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Barrack Obama and Lindsay Graham all say the same things as well, but if you mean to use the centralized powers of the state or federal governments to accomplish that, then you will be saying nothing different than they would, which is nothing that I'd agree with or be willing to go along with.
"As Americans, we deserve much better than what we’re getting from our government. We don’t need more rhetoric. We want results."
Which of course is just more rhetoric. I don't want better results from our government, I want less of my government in my life so that I can get the results I deserve. As an American, I deserve to have my govt respect my right to live my own life, and anything more than that is, IMHO, significantly less.
"And that means changing politics as usual, which won’t be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is. You have to fight for what you believe in, and I, for one, have never backed down from that kind of fight."
There are few things that sound more to me like politics as usual, than a politician saying 'that means changing politics as usual'; it's an easy thing to say, and it's a meaningless thing to say. Tell me something more meaningful, apply it to something more difficult, explain your principles and how you'd apply them to particular issues facing our state. Anything less than that is nothing more than politics as usual.

Summary
I've read his book "Heart and Fist", Eric Greitens is an impressive, admirable fellow, I'd love to have him on our side, and I'd love to be able to believe that he was solidly on our side by means of his principled understanding of what our side is, but to these concerns, as I've noted above, I've received no credible assurances or answers to, and have found no information from the candidate that clarifies or gives me reason to believe that the political principles that will drive his use of power in office, will be ones that would make me comfortable with entrusting him with the power of that office.

To date his comments have been shallow and trite, directed towards vague issues, not principles, and I'm not yet convinced that he even understands what our side is, let alone how to lead or fight for it. I'm very much open to listening to further information from him, and I'm very willing, eager even, to be convinced by him. But so far he hasn't found that to be very important to do. Instead, he has gone about the state on a 'listening tour', and sad to say, that sounds like just the sort of substanceless, image over substance, manipulative trick, that fits better on the Left - with Hillary Clinton for example - or with the establishment GOP, than over here on the Right.

And frankly I don't want to have a candidate listening to me when they're running for office - the only sound they need to hear from me would be my support or my vote - and the only way they're going to get that is by telling me what his ideas and beliefs and principles are, so that I can make up my mind about whether or not I want to entrust him with my vote. He doesn't need to listen, so much as to speak, debate, publish and otherwise let We The People know what it is that he thinks, feels and is driven by, that is relevant to the execution of the office of Governor of our state.

When I hear of his support for NGO's, his words that express little more than shallow associations with politically easy 'hot button' issues, I'm not learning anything about the political principles that he, particularly in a moment of crisis, or with a simply tough and unpopular decision, is going to be guided by in making his decision.

Understand, I'm not worried about his character - that, as far as I can tell, is unimpeachable - I have no worries that he won't do what he thinks is the right thing to do, my concern is that I don't know what he thinks is Right!

That's a problem for me, and to secure my vote I require his explanations, and demonstrations, of understanding those issues, and NOT simply the assurances of a flak who thinks he can peddle PR messages in lieu of a glaring lack of substance.

I have a huge problem with his entering this race without bothering to begin from the beginning. He, as a candidate, has a responsibility to demonstrate his having at least a fundamental understanding of the nature and purpose of the office he's seeking to be elected to, and of what he will bring to that. It didn't need to be a detailed set of position papers (though that wouldn't hurt), but just some general statements of principle and intent; but for him to enter the race without even a general formulation of that, particularly with his knowing how his own political history would unavoidably raise questions and concerns amongst those he's aiming to have as supporters, is, to me, a major lapse of judgment. The failure to do that would almost certainly leave those who would support him, who would be inspired by him, in the position of having to substitute their own personal sense of inspiration for his 'great qualities', for that relevant substance which he failed to provide, to carry them through any attempts at supporting and defending him.

That, to me, is an egregious failure of leadership on a philosophical and political level, and it was a failure of leadership on a personal level, to put his potential supporters in such a position on his behalf, over basic info that should have been a no-brainer to provide. Without that substance and proof from him, in his own words, and his visible ability to defend them, there is in terms of his political judgment, nothing there for me to support, only 'inspired substitute substance' that is worth less than the HTML it's written on.

When I come back to these posts, we'll get into the 'substance' of Bills five part thirty-five page 'defense' of Greitens involvement in the Franklin Project, 'Service', and the 'Serve America' act he has so far attempted to ignore.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Speaking of Whispers - What's so Good about Great (or bad about awful) pt.3

Speaking of Whispers
So Bill Hennessy opened his five part, thirty five page defense of Eric Greitens and 'Service', with a couple lines which nicely set the tone for the entire set of posts, and others as well:
"You know how to tell when a political camp has nothing on an opponent? It begins making stuff up. That “making stuff up” has become the chief form of amusement among those who oppose Eric Greitens for Governor."
And as I pointed out in the last post, he doesn't address these charges anywhere in those five posts, which brought to mind an old truism,
If you wish to be understood, first seek to understand.
Does that opening sound to you like someone who's trying particularly hard to understand the views of those who don't share their own sense of inspiration? Does it even sound like he's interested in being understood by them? IMHO: Nope. So something else is going on here - but what? I'm going to get to what that what is, but, sorry, I'm going to have to go the long way round for getting there (shocker).

To start with, whatever differences I have with Bill & his latest political tastes, I have a hard time believing he's consciously and deliberately being either this sloppy or this misleading... but... seriously... what the heck?! To charge that those who don't favor your candidate are people who just 'make stuff up,' without addressing exactly what it is you are charging them with making up, that's dismissivness on steroids. Just to recap a few of the issues being dismissed as 'making stuff up', among the concerns which 'Facebook warriors' raised about Eric Greitens, have been:

  1. Is he truly a Republican?
  2. Is he truly conservative?,
  3. What of...his Co-Signer status in the Aspen Institutes Franklin Project?,
  4. ... his relatively recent (2009) endorsement of President Obama's Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act?,
  5. ...his ongoing calls for govt nudged and sponsored 'Public Service' at public expense?,
  6. ...his involvement in and promotion of NGO's (which can be used to effectively steer private and govt money and policy towards private endeavors (some of which are laudable), without public legislative oversight (none of which is laudable))?,
  7. ...his (2007) assessment and endorsement of using U.S. military power towards affecting global social issues as well as conflicts?
Whether or not these concerns can, or cannot, be answered satisfactorily is not the issue I'm interested in here, that they are reasonable concerns based upon what his candidate has, or hasn't, made known, and are not simply 'made up', is a concern, and as such they can and should be addressed. But to dismiss reasonable concerns out of hand as fantasy, is itself an exercise in fantasy, a case of wishing away the real and valid concerns of a large number of people.

How do you do that with a straight face? As it turns out, it's easier than you might think.

I know that, because I noticed that the first thing that came to my mind on reading those charges, was a biting retort with a garnish of insult and a counter charge (or two...) of peddling lies, etc. But in between deleting those rebuttal posts in the midst of writing them, one after the other, I noticed something interesting in what I was replying with - or, more accurately, without. Without bothering to begin with a set of facts presented in a reasonable manner, I too was making

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Substituting for Substance - Is being Great all that good? pt2

Into the void
In my last post, 'Is being Great all that good?', I pointed to the dangers inherent in promoting or electing candidates for their great qualities alone, rather than for what makes them fit for office, which I think has to begin with demonstrating an understanding of the nature and purpose of the office they're seeking to be elected to. In this post I'll take a high level view, through one local example, at the sort of arguments that follow when a candidacy does not begin from the beginning, leaving its supporters to substitute the personal inspiration they feel for their candidate's 'great qualities', for the relevant substance which the candidates have not provided themselves. Over the next couple posts we'll look in more detail at the patterns which the inspired defender will often fall into, in order to defend what isn't there - an absence of substance which itself inspires a particular pattern of defense.

And this quote captures the sort of 'inspired substitute substance' that I'm talking about:
"I want a transformational leader who inspires common people like me to become better versions of ourselves. And the only candidate in the race who can inspire greatness in the people he touches is Eric Grietens."[BTW Bill, the candidate's name is misspelled]
That was not some MSNBC host frothing on about the thrill running up his leg, this statement came from Bill Hennessy, one of the original founders and instigators of the St. Louis Tea Party, the grassroots organization which formed around the popular demand that congress "Read the Bill!" rather than mindlessly peddle absurdities such as "You have to pass it to find out what's in it". The St. Louis Tea Party Coalition was one of the most effective Tea Party's in the nation at raising issues of limited government and individual rights to the national attention, which I had the honor to play a small part in, and whose theme, at that time anyway, could easily have been expressed as constitutionally limited govt over swallowing sight unseen the solutions being peddled by transformational leaders of the left or the right.

That Bill Hennessy was someone I never expected to see saying such things. This post is one I'm not enjoying writing, but that quote above is representative of the tenor of what he's been posting since Eric Greitens announced his interest in running for the Governor of Missouri, and Bill, as we'll see in a moment, has taken the rhetoric beyond what I can simply ignore.

The Inspiration
When you hear about Eric Greitens, you can't help but be impressed, he's a former Navy SEAL, a Rhodes Scholar, he has a deep interest in, and familiarity with, classics of history and philosophy (you know that pegged my interest meter), a self made man, philanthropist, successful author (I just finished reading his "Heart and Fist" - I recommend it), college professor, motivational speaker, and the list goes on. The first time I heard about Eric Greitens was as he was announcing his intention to consider running for governor earlier this year. I read Bill's post on it, and the articles it linked to, and I too was much impressed, but unfortunately before that inspiration could take root, my next thoughts were:
"I wonder what his thoughts and positions on Individual Rights, Law & Govt policy are?"
, and the inspiration faltered in me as I tried hunting around on the web for specifics about his ideas on such things, and it withered away as I found nothing of the sort, only more and more instances of 'Happy Talk' about how really impressive a guy he is. He is impressive, that much is a given, no argument there at all, but that doesn't make the argument for electing him to office. Despite how impressive he is as a person, as a candidate, if your political positions, and your demonstrated understanding and commitment to the principles behind them, aren't impressive in themselves, then neither will you be, as a candidate for high office.

If you care about what's true, about first principles, that's the way it has to work. And what's even harder, and I've really experienced just how much harder in working on these posts, is how hard it is not to fall into the same patterns in your responses to the faults you've found in others. And it's also difficult, particularly in personal and political issues, to not see that person you've found fault in as having base and dishonest motives for the wrong things you've found them saying. As you'll see in a moment, one of Bill's posts set me off, pegged my fury meter, and my responses to it have got me watching myself more closely. My first response I deleted. The second one too. This post I've revised several times, trying to take that non-objective edge out of it and focus more on what is universal in the danger of being led by 'greatness', than the particulars of the faults I see here (how successfully remains to be seen... your mileage may vary).

I haven't been 'toning it down' out of some silly 'must be nice' mockery of manners, but because I think you really do miss out on the more significant points, when you assume the worst (and that 'assuming' is part of the pattern). Far tougher, and frankly far scarier, is what you see when you presume that those who've drawn your ire, have done so with the very best of intentions. And your response to them, IMH (and heavily revised)O, is improved and clarified by approaching it from that perspective.

Not that that perspective will make me pull my punches, it's just that I see the value in throwing them at my own points too, before they get a chance to make it to print.

The lack of political substance which Eric Greitens has made available regarding the political office he's seeking, is concerning to me. Why? Because as media savvy as this fellow is, as experienced a leader as he is, as seemingly centered around empowering people as he is, he has somehow lacked the foresight to assemble and make available even an overview of the policies he intends to implement, or of the political principles that will guide his use of power once in office, etc. Nothing. Nada.

Why? I don't know, and that's the problem, for the fact that he chose not to do the obvious, I find concerning.

There were rumors from the start about his democrat leanings, which at that time were still only rumors (though he later confirmed them), and there were still other troubling issues left to be discovered by those, like me, who should have been his base, such as his endorsement of President Obama's "Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act" (which fits in with conservative ideas... how?), as well as other issues and unknowns about information that was known to the candidate. Information which he had to know would cause confusion and dissension amongst those whose support he'd want and need, and yet he chose to do nothing to proactively manage it. Is that an example of the exemplary political leadership that I should be inspired by? Or evidence of a blind spot the candidate doesn't realize he has?

There were (and still are) lots of questions unanswered, but

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Is being Great all that good?

Is being Great all that good?
With all the 'Great' candidates we have running for high office around the nation today, we seem to be forgetting an important rule for a self governing people:
'Greatness' doesn't make you fit for office; demonstrating an understanding of the nature and purpose of the office you're seeking to be elected to, does.
To advance someone for high office because of their great qualities alone, and in spite of knowing little or nothing about how well, if at all, they understand the purpose of, and the restraints upon the power of, that office which they are campaigning for, and without knowing how they intend to use its power, is dangerous to everyone that that elected office has power over.

We are naturally drawn to those who demonstrate great qualities such as courage, honesty, integrity and intelligence, and one of the common responses which those who live in a republic often have to people who show that 'right stuff', is "You should run for office!". Nothing wrong with that at all. But once that person has made their decision to run for high office, no matter who they are, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Eric Greitens, then they should do what would be expected of anyone else to do, that person should be actively demonstrating their understanding of the nature, purpose, laws, powers and principles of that office, which the proper and just execution of that office depend upon.

These great men brought great change - was it all good?
But there is an additional responsibility which those with such unique and outstanding qualities have, as it is doubly important for them, particularly when they have no history or track record demonstrating their convictions and political intentions, they then have the responsibility to proactively make their own understanding of the nature and purpose of that office clear to the electorate, laying out the key policies they intend to advance while in office, along with some indication of how they intend to do so.

For such 'great' candidates to not do everything they can to make their positions and convictions known, or even to actively avoid doing so, means that they've chosen to rely upon their own personal qualities to win them support, rather than risk their popularity with the public on information about how they actually intend to use their power over them while in office. Such a scenario is suspicious at best, but if We The People do not insist that they explain themselves, or worse, join in on promoting them for office because of their great qualities alone, that's a recipe for disaster.

The Great Why ask why?
Most people realize that good intentions alone can cause disastrous results, correct? Those disasters occur not because the well intentioned person meant to cause harm, but because they didn't understand what was important to understand, didn't understand what actions should or shouldn't be taken, and so they take actions without being aware of the pitfalls and unintended consequences that are sure to follow from such actions, and so disaster follows, right?

Well what do you suppose happens when you couple well intentioned ignorance with the great and dynamic qualities of 'the Great Man', fueled with the power of high office? Far and away the greatest restraint we have upon the abuses of power by those in power, is their own understanding of the proper purposes and limits of their powers, and their knowledge that those who elected them know it as well. Without that understanding on both sides, the subsequent errors and abuses are going to multiply, intensify and magnify the disasters that are sure to follow.

Mistaking Greatness of character with Fitness for office can be the greatest of dangers to a nation and its people; History is rife with examples as to why that should scare the hell out of you, and we don't need to reach very far back in time or place for examples of this, one of our own national monuments, Mt. Rushmore, being far enough. Those four Presidents that are carved upon its face, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt, were all great men who left their mark upon our nation by bringing about revolutionary changes.

But were those great changes all for the good? Did they lead us to make Progress in regards to realizing America's founding principles? If you understand and revere those principles, I don't think you can say that they all were. For instance:

George Washington, with his outstanding qualities of courage and integrity played a pivotal, indispensable role in our founding; as the father of our nation he led the battle in our revolutionary break from England, he helped to create and implement our Constitution and was elected to be the first president under it, and in so doing he helped bring about a revolution like none other in history - I'd call that progress for the good.
Thomas Jefferson, with his powerful intellect and passion for liberty, not only put America's ideals into the words of our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, but he also later led one of the most remarkable of revolutions, the "Revolution of 1800", the first peaceable overthrow of one political power in favor of another, by ballots, not bullets - I'd absolutely call that progress for the good.
Abraham Lincoln, who had the depth of character and wisdom to hold our nation together through the darkest times of civil war, helped to give this nation "...a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth" - I'd definitely call that progress for the good.
Teddy Roosevelt utilized his undeniably great qualities of energy and intellect to turn us away from what his fellows on Mt. Rushmore strove for, and he called that progress. Personally, I call that Pro-Regress, not progress, and I most definitely don't call it good; do you?

What did he do differently? It might be useful to first ask what he did differently than the mostly unremarkable presidents who came between Lincoln and TR - how many of those president's names do you recall? Probably not many, and for good reason - facing no great crises they didn't try to bring about any great changes to our nation, they only tried to do the job of President of the United States, as defined by the Constitution, while operating within the powers it defined for their office. Some did it better than others, but for the most part they all entered office under those terms, and were willingly bound by them.

Teddy Roosevelt was a very different president than his predecessors.

TR was full of energy, intelligence, courage and valor; he was remarkably widely read, a man who felt sure that he knew what was best for the nation and was devastatingly capable of putting his ideas into action. But to those great qualities he added a markedly shallow understanding of, and disdain for, the constitutional restrictions that the Founders, through our Constitution, put upon the office of President and by which they limited the powers of the government of the United States. It was his fellow Mr. Rushmorean, Thomas Jefferson, who said:
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution"
But TR would have none of that.

When he found himself in office upon the assassination of President McKinley, unlike his predecessors, TR explicitly refused to allow his powers to be bound by the office of President, and possessing those qualities of greatness that won him admiration and popularity around the world, he used them to resist and burst free of those restrictions, and in so doing he most definitely brought revolutionary change to the office of the President, and to the nature of the government he held such great power over, and those powers of office which he was instrumental is loosing upon the land, have been a plague upon us ever since.

It was Teddy Roosevelt, a republican by the way, who:
  • first proposed a national income tax to 'do good' with,
  • first proposed imposing American might upon the world stage,
  • first proposed a national health care system,
  • was the first president to consistently exercise his executive powers outside the defined powers of the office of the President of The United States,
  • first proposed, and began to implement, the administrative state, and all the alphabet agencies we contend with today, followed from his innovations with what became the FDA.
He didn't accomplish all of those tasks himself, but by setting them in motion, together with what he did accomplish,Teddy Roosevelt proved that you don't have to be a bad man to do great damage; a great man with little understanding of his true purpose and place in office, can do enormous damage to even the greatest of nations, and Teddy Roosevelt did just that. Barack Obama, LBJ, FDR, Woodrow Wilson were only able to succeed in putting into practice what they have, because Teddy Roosevelt first introduced, legitimized and got the ProRegressive ball rolling for them - without him, they might have remained frustrated, small minded nobodies, harming no one's lives but their own.

TR's unbound greatness and lack of understanding and even disregard for the nature of the office he held, made his time in office, IMHO, the most truly disastrous presidency in all of American history. Not because he was a bad man, or a corrupt one, but because he was a truly Great man, invested with the great power of high office, who used his greatness to turn us away from our Founding ideals.

But of course Teddy Roosevelt didn't 'accomplish' what he did alone, he had the uninformed enthusiasm of the nation, won over by his greatness, who let him do and get away with what should never have been permitted.

Those who don't learn from history....
Am I saying that any of those today, such as Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Eric Greitens, who are being touted for their great qualities, are, or will be, as bad for this nation as I believe Teddy Roosevelt was? No. I'm saying that seeking after great men to 'fix' our problems on the basis of their greatness alone, when we've been given little or no substantive reasons for having confidence that they even understand the nature and intended limitations of their office, is a reckless and foolish thing for us to do.

I'm saying that when we don't know know anything substantial about a candidate's convictions or plans, because of what they have so far been content to not say, then we cannot have any idea what they will do with the power of their office, once it has been combined with their own great abilities, to exert those powers over us.

I'm not saying that I suspect our latest crop of great candidates of intending to do harm, I'm saying that I suspect them of not knowing what will, and what won't, cause us harm.
I'm saying that it's not their great qualities that concern me, but the little knowledge, understanding and conviction they've yet to demonstrate having about the fundamentals of our laws and their underlying principles.
I'm saying that without that understanding, which are the qualities that make any person, great or not, fit for office, and the lack of which makes anyone, great or not, unfit for office, then unrestrained by those convictions, they are liable, with the very best of intentions, to bring great harm to this nation and/or to our state. and at this point I'm not sure how much more of that we can take.

I'm going to take the next few posts to examine some of the arguments of those who knowingly promote such great candidates, without even themselves knowing or understanding what they will do with those qualities of greatness that they have. I'll also take a look at what some of those candidates have told us about what they believe, in their own words. And at that point, given that that is all we can know about them and their plans, you can decide how great an idea electing them might actually be.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trumping the Offend-O-Crats of the Left and Right

Trumping the Offend-O-Crats of the Left and Right
Donald Trump is ridiculously far ahead in the polls, is the center of conversation in any political discussion, even in interviews with his opponents in the GOP POTUS race, and despite appalling all of the "I'm smart and hate him so you should too" set with every comment that comes out of his mouth - his popularity is increasing.

Daily.

And 'everyone' is baffled.

'Everyone', that is, aside from everyone who is absolutely thrilled with every word that comes out of his mouth.

What do you suppose that they're so thrilled with? His expert political analysis of the issues and how to address them?

I'm... gonna go out on a limb and say... noooo.

Then why, his common sense plans for fixing immigration?

Again... nooo.

His foreign policy acumen?

Nnnope.

His plans for fixing the economy? Schools? The military?

nope. nope. nope.

Then what? Here. Look at this video:


People. Please. It's not so much what The Donald is saying - What he's saying is proof enough of that.

It's not what he's saying, but the fact that he doesn't sound as if he's asking permission to say it, he doesn't sound as if he's worried about who's listening to him saying it, he doesn't sound like someone who is afraid to say what he thinks.

IOW - no matter what he is saying, he sounds like an American when he's saying it. As I just replied to someone, if a pollster were to call me right now, and I somehow managed to not hang up on them, and they asked me
"Would you vote for Donald Trump?"
, I'd absolutely answer YES. Would I ever vote for Donald Trump? Not a chance in hell. But every one of his potential Bobble-Head Debate Mates, sound like they are thinking first and foremost of what will play in the politically correct media sound chamber. Rick Perry definitely does. Rand Paul? Absolutely does too. Ted Cruz? Carly Fiorina? They at the very least sounds as if they craft their statements around it. Trump? Whether he does or not, he Sounds as if he never even considered the matter, and that, by god, Plays.

What he actually is saying, should be proof enough of that. The deeply unpopular nature of what he's said over the past decades, especially with the Right, from advocating for govt healthcare, to immigration amnesty, to taking advantage of eminent domain to increase the value of his properties at the expense of others, to endorsing wall street bailouts, is proof enough of that - the secret of The Donald's popularity is not so much what he is saying, as what he is not saying and what he is steadfastly refusing to say.

Donald Trump is trumping the competition, because he has not been bending the knee to political correctness, he isn't carefully wording his comments for 'sensitivity', he isn't either begging approval from the popularly public idols of wackademia, apologizing for his views or pretending to have a high regard for any of the patently fake manners or any other bullshit idol that everyone else in or near his position reflexively panders to!

It is obvious that he doesn't give a second thought, let alone a rat's ass, for any of that, and people are going apeshit with enthusiasm for it.

And what's more, and quite possibly most importantly - I deeply hope so - he's trumping our media culture because Donald Trump does not speak as if he has to beg permission to speak, or for need approval from the high priests of PC for his success or his hair, or his lack of polish or as if he feels guilty for breathing, eating, driving or making money.

And Americans, still, somehow, no matter how deeply it is buried in them under the soot and grime of their educations, popular culture and media PR, respond to that with an up from the toes rebel yell that peg the decibel meter enough to drown out a rock concert; they breathe that in like a drowning man bursting up from the depths for a lung full of sweet fresh air.

And the Offend-O-Crats of the Left and the Right, the pundits and politicians, especially those on the Right, who attack him for it? With the possible exception of Ted Cruz, and the definite inclusion of John 'feel sorry for me and grovel to me' McCain, and even Rick 'I'm deeply offended he said...' Perry, are apparently too stupid to realize that condemning Donald Trump for doing and saying what the American people are all so enthusiastically responding to, is the same as telling them that they are 'crazy', 'comical', 'buffoons', 'wackos' and 'morons'.

Why do the 'politically savvy' set do that?

Because apparently, in this regard anyway, they are too stupid - meaning advised and educated - to know any better.

I'm not for Trump - No way Jose - because I've actually paid attention to what he's said over the years, but the reasons why I don't support Donald Trump are not because I think he's stupid, a clown or a buffoon (frankly, those of you saying or implying that he is any of those things, are saying far more about yourselves, than about Trump), but because I simply disagree with what he's said over the years. I don't need to insult him. That's enough. But as to what he's saying today, and more importantly the manner he is going about saying it? I'm behind that so much so that I also find myself with an unsanitary 'thrill running up my leg', not over what he's saying, but over the very American sense of life that's veritably exploding from his personality as he says it.

I wouldn't vote for the guy, but I'm sure as hell not going to condemn him for saying, and saying in the manner he has been, what every other leader should have been saying for decades (and a special note to the GOP: If you don't pick up on that, you're fired!).

Donald Trump is the first 'political leader' to Trump Political Correctness, and everyone who bows towards any of its idols in order to put him down, might as well close up shop for the time being - no one's listening to a word you're saying.

It may not last, but damn, am I ever going to enjoy it while it does!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Does this flag make our But look big? Damn right, yours, mine and everyone else's.

Does this flag make our But look big? Damn right, yours, mine and everyone else's.
You can't have been lucky enough to miss out on the on-going Confederate Flag controversy, nor, if you have any form of electronic communication, the memes supporting/opposing all sides of the 'issue', not to mention the arguments that your friends are having over it.
As Hate vs Hate - KKK meets New Black Panthers...
Decency comes out on top

Good times, right? I'd hoped I could avoid it all together, not because it's controversial - if anything that has a certain attraction - but because it's one of those 'issues' that are actually multiple issues, each with at least two possible positions on it, rolled up under one deceptively simple heading of "Do you support or oppose the Confederate Flag?!". Add to that, that several of those issues, not to mention the possible positions on them, range from being simply wrong to being purely disgusting, and several others that range from fairly neutral to being critical to the preservation of Liberty itself, and you begin to get a sense of what a fly trap this thing is.

Which is the point of it.

But wait, there's more: for every position you might take on any one of the 'But...'s, it is the simplest of things for those who disagree with you, to cast you in the worst possible light, and to see you as sympathizing with what they see as being as bad as it gets.

And that's amongst your friends. Your enemies? Licking. Their. Chops.

As I said, I'd hoped to dodge it all together, as few have the patience to even begin to go through the positions on any one of the issues, let alone most or all (is there an 'all'?) of them, I've started and stopped this post several times in hopes that the news cycle would let it fade away, but apparently, I'm to have no such luck with that. In a weak moment, as I began to realize there was no avoiding it, and tired of Conservatives being suckered into the patsy position, I let slip a comment last week on a GOP Conservatives post that:
"Why the hell the GOP feels defensive about one of the flags of the Democrat Confederacy, I can't imagine."
His reply was accurate, in that very GOPish, and very non-Donald Trumpish sort of way that conservatives typically have of speaking:
"The GOP feels defensive because it's mainly our activists who are defending the confederate flag!! As we saw yesterday, the Democrats will try and associate Republicans with that flag for political advantage in '16. Is this really that difficult to comprehend?"
Way to make sure that making the best of a bad situation, is the best you have to hope for. He was correct as far as that goes though, it is conservatives who've been drawn into strangling themselves with the Confederate flag issue, but it does nothing to help them to stop doing that to themselves. Exasperated, I replied,:
"[Difficult to comprehend...] That the Left would capitalize on the Right's weakness and willingness to assume guilt? No, that's not difficult to comprehend at all. That the Right accepts the guilt they have no part in, that the Right is willing to allow the Left to even open their mouths on the subject without pasting them with their historical guilt, without reviling them for their still evident rejection of the Individual Rights of the Declaration of Independence, and without drubbing them for their still active hatred for the Constitution they actually rebelled against 150+ yrs ago... yeahhh THAT I have a hard time comprehending."
In fairness to him though, as I said, the supposed issue is such a target rich environment because there are so many sides to take upon it, that for every 'But' given, at least two others butt in afterwards. And far from going away anytime soon, it seems that however many Buts are offered and however big they become, the issue not only is Not going to go away, but is being allowed to metastasize.

So.

With the idea that the first step in helping conservatives to stop strangling themselves with the Confederate Flag issue, is identifying what the various issues surrounding it actually are, I'll go ahead and address a few of the more common Buts that I typically come across. Ok, here we go, and in no particular order:
  1. But...The Confederate flag is the flag of conservatives and the GOP!
  2. But... Which flag are you talking about?!
  3. But...Conservatives defend the Confederate flag
  4. But... it's a symbol of the "State's Rights"
  5. But... it's a symbol of racism
  6. But... the Civil War wasn't about Slavery, but 'Northern Aggression'"
  7. But... it's honoring the valor of ancestors
  8. But... it's just a vague symbol of rebellion and good ol' boys, ala The Dukes of Hazard
  9. But... if you ban that flag, you are banning ideas and freedom of speech
1 - "The Confederate flag is the flag of conservatives and the GOP!" This might be the biggest, fattest, dumbest But of them all. On terminology alone, there is nothing conservative about rebellion, and the Confederacy was all about rebelling against both the political structure of, and the principles of, America. On top of that, the Republican Party was explicitly formed in opposition to the idea of either preserving or extending slavery... I mean, c'mon, its early leader and president was Abraham Lincoln for Pete's sake! As I said in the comment above, the Confederate Flags, ALL of them, belonged to the Democrat party - those in the South formed the Confederacy, and those left behind in the North became the Democrat 'Copperheads', all of whom put States and power over the Rights of Individuals.

Fast forward a hundred years and you'll find that little had changed, with Democrats filibustering the Civil Rights bill in 1964; not because of concerns over Individual Rights, but because of the desire to assert their racist, collectivist lust for power over others. And on top of that, it was a Democrat Governor, with a Democrat legislature, that raised the Confederate flag over the capital of South Carolina in 1961.

Here's a fun exercise, this link tells the oh-so dramatic tale of the raising of the flag over South Carolina's Capital - guess what word you won't find in it? D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T. Guess what party each of the pro-confederate flag politicians mentioned in the story belonged to? The D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T Party. Go ahead and google the story. On ABC, Politifact, CNN, Newsweek, TIME, Reuters, The Atlantic, MSNBC, USA Today... guess which party's name won't be mentioned in connection with raising the flag? That's right, the D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T Party. That ought to tell you something, both about the Democrat party, the Media, and about the incompetence of the GOP.

Now here's a question you should be asking yourself, and them, seeing as the Democrat party was the party of the Confederacy, the party of segregation - Democrat President Woodrow Wilson issued orders and directives to segregate the military and civil services - as well as the party that founded the KKK - and remember that, well into the Obama Administration, the Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, the 'conscience of the Senate', was a former leader in the KKK - and that they opposed both segregation and civil rights for reasons of race... what is it, do you suppose, that happened to make them and their party almost synonymous with the plight of inner city minorities? Can you point me towards that political 'Damascus Moment' where they suddenly rethought and repented of all their past beliefs and actions (other than LBJ's infamous chortling, I mean)? No? So what accounts for their stark change of 'heart'?

If you haven't guessed, it was, is, and always will be, for the Democrat party, about power. And for those of you looking to them for handouts and grants of power and privilege (aka: 'rights', in their mind anyway), that should give you great pause. For despite their own traditional and long held beliefs and positions, much of which they surely still hold, those couldn't hold a candle to their allegiance to advantage, position and power.

Now think about that.

For well over a century, not only were racist policies, and opposition to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, ingrained into the Democrat Party mindset (the 'living constitution' was Woodrow Wilson's phrase for dispensing with and 'moving past' the Constitution, and Democrats have always sought to minimize the importance of the Declaration to our laws),but they were indisputably deeply invested in all of that, and yet, in a blindingly quick flash of time, less than a decade, they abandoned all of that, in order to be seen embracing minorities, not because of discovering the error of their ways, or even of publicly apologizing and renouncing them, but for perceiving the electoral advantage which that new embrace could deliver for them.

And so given that, ladies and gentlemen, just how solid and lasting and secure can all of the 'rights' and privileges that they've been extending and enticing you with, be with them? How long do you think that their allegiance to what lures you into supporting them, will last once they perceive greater advantage elsewhere? The truth that should be plain to see, is that the moment that it no longer benefits them, they will abandon those promises, and you, for whatever offers greater advantage and power for them.

The Democrats then, as now, chose and do choose, the side of Power over that of Truth and Individual Rights, just as they chose intellectual and military rebellion against the very founding ideals of America, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence (see below), and adhered to by the Constitution, and as then, as now, they immediately sought to deflect guilt, rewrite history, and avoid responsibility for their actions, through extensively lying by omission as well as by lying flat out into the faces of the American people, in order to get the power and position they desire.

Sorry, if our 'Southern Cause' has anything to do with the party whose cause it was, and is, I've zero sympathy for it or you, as then, as now, it was a thoroughly anti-American enterprise.

2 - "But... Which flag are you talking about? The Confederate flag or the Battle Flag?!" Well I suppose that's a reasonable question, which flag are we talking about? Georgia's? The Palmetto blue? The Battle flag? South Carolina's? The Clinton-Gore campaign flag? Take a look at the graphic I put together, there's lots of options to choose from, which one would you care to argue for?
Some of the flags of the Confederate... pick your poison

Go ahead, take your time, I can wait, I mean, it's not as if your choice will alter my answer much.

Got it picked out? Good. Here's my answer: Personally I don't care which flag you choose to cite, revile or defend, in what is important to me, I see no meaningful difference between them.

Why?

Because any and all of them were symbols used in rebellion against the Constitution of The United States of America and the principles for which it stands, and as such, just as anyone involved in a riot is as guilty as everyone else for any crimes committed during that riot, by their chosen associations in the Confederacy they All partook of disavowing and repudiating the Constitution and the ideas behind it. They were all equally involved in what was central to the formation of the Confederacy (more on this below), explicitly repudiating the central ideals of The Declaration of Independence. To be in the Confederacy meant denying the idea that,
"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...."
, and in so doing they all participated in rebellion against Individual Rights, The Rule of Law (as opposed to unabashed codifications of power for power's sake), and they all participated in corrupting and sullying the concept of Property Rights (more on that in a moment).

3 - "But...Conservatives defend the Confederate flag" I'm sorry, I can't fix stupid. Next.

4 - "But... it's a symbol for 'State's Rights'" It certainly is, and I can think of few things more worth condemning and spitting upon, than that. Oops, sorry, Does that make my 'But' look really big?! Here's why: when you say that the Civil War "... wasn't about slavery, but State's Rights!", that doesn't help your case because the one could not continue without the other. And for those on the Right who like to use the phrase "State's Rights", including several people I very much respect, allow me to clarify this point further:
To use the phrase "State's Rights" as a stand-in for Federalism and the 10th Amendment, is not only intellectually lazy, but it also serves to undermine Federalism and to repudiate Individual Rights, the Constitution and the Rule of Law.
I suppose I need to say a bit more than that, eh?

Individuals have both Powers and Rights, but States have only powers, not Rights, see the 9th Amendment and the 10th Amendment for the Constitution's agreement with me on that point. Only individuals can have Rights, as Rights properly exist to protect those actions which a human being, as a consequence of having to reason to survive, requires the ability to take in order to live as a Human Being; Rights serve to shield individuals through law, from the impositions of Power that would prevent them from living their own lives.

States, on the other hand, don't think. States are institutions of organized power, which, if legitimate, are organized around the idea of instituting Laws to protect the lives, Rights and Property of its citizens - that's their point. You know:
"... to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
States have the Power to take actions, but they have no Right to take those actions, except as a means of upholding the rights of its citizens. The State's powers must always be subordinated to upholding the Rights of those which its powers exist to protect.

Assigning Rights to States, would shield its ability to act in its own interests, putting its original purpose, that of shielding the rights of its citizens, in second place to them. 'State's Rights' reverses the order of who serves who, which is what the creators of 'State's Rights' had in mind, as it was (and is) the only way to 'justify' slavery, welfare, a state managed economy, state mandated healthcare, etc. And of course, as a State is only a legal fiction, that means that the interests of those individuals who are in positions of power within it, who hold power over everyone else, are able to use its power, not as a shield, but as a sword, doing whatever they can get the power to do, usually through stoking public opinion, in order to justify their actions, as being for, not the good of Individuals, but for 'the greater good'. And with Individual Rights subordinated to them, there can be nothing left to stop them from doing just that.

If you use the phrase 'State's Rights' as a casual reference for Federalism, intentionally or not, you undermine and repudiate the very concept of states being limited bodies under law, and limited to the protection of Individual Rights.

5 - "But... it's a symbol of racism" This comment is usually met by apologists for the Confederacy with rolled eyes and assurances that they have gotten things wrong, that the 'truth' has been hidden by those who won the war. Uh-huh. Well, here's a truth that somehow hasn't managed to be hidden all that well, from Article 4, Section 3, Clause 3 of the Confederate Constitution,
"...the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States...."
And here's a dazzling little snippet from the Vice-President of the Confederacy, Andrew Stephens, from his "Corner Stone" speech, of March 21, 1861, speaking of the new Confederate Constitution. In it, he states clearly, as does their new constitution, exactly what they found to be important to state:
"...But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. ..."
I'd happily supply you with more, but my stomach is feeling a bit tender today. Suffice to say, that whatever pretexts the confederacy deluded itself with, or with which its apologists today delude themselves with for its sake, central to its existence, was the glory of preferential treatment for some, and the denial of the principle of Individual Rights to all of mankind, with the aim of re-establishing the ancient rule of power for power's sake, upon American soil. No matter what other pretty wordlings they might have tossed together as a pretext for defending that, denying Individual Rights and equal treatment before the law to any, is a denial of them to all, and there is NO POSSIBLE 'principle' that could possibly render that a secondary or minor issue.

That was the reality they stood for. Thank God they lost, and when the last apologist for them has faded away, that much at least, will be a good thing.

6 - "The Civil War wasn't about Slavery but about 'Northern Aggression' To the extent you might feel that I didn't already answer this above, whatever the individual particulars were that helped cause the guns to fire, and there were many, from trade, to concerns over territory, to tipping the political balance of power, etc., the notion that Northern Aggression initiated the war, is poppycock. The southern states, without so much as a "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind...", without a negotiation of terms, or an attempt to divvy up mutual property, etc., they declared that they were seceding from the Union even before President Elect Lincoln was sworn in to office. They then besieged and fired upon United States personnel at Fort Sumter - that is pure aggression across the board. Whatever tinder had been laid up from either side, the Confederacy aggressively lit the match and wound up burning themselves at the stake.

And why?

Whatever pretexts that might be claimed, the driving reason for the Democrats to create the Confederacy was Slavery, just as the driving reason for the creation of the Republican party, was to oppose it. Any other answer is but an evasive attempt to focus attention upon secondary considerations, at the expense of primary ones.

Yes, I'm aware that there actually were Blacks fighting for the Confederacy, and also that some even owned slaves themselves. Equally relevant, there were some Jews who fought for the Nazi's. Doesn't mean a damn thing other than human nature, especially in the context of struggles for power, is a damned difficult thing to get a handle on.

That being said, was the North divided from the South by Non-Slave State vs. Slave State? No. There were several border states that remained with the union, and which continued to practice slavery even during the Civil War. If you didn't know that... why didn't you? But for those states which remained in the Union and still had slavery, it was because, like the Founders themselves, they hadn't yet figured out how to end slavery. Despite our modern conceits, it is a difficult thing to be holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” (for you conservatives who find this difficult to accept, imagine a relative trifle, such as attempting to end Social Security, which many consider to have some enslaving aspects to it, and then amp that up by multiple factors of 10, and you might begin to glimpse the difficulties of ending what you've allowed your culture to accept as 'normal').

But it should also never be forgotten, that for all of human history, everywhere, slavery was considered a norm, and for all of that time it was understood that any turn of circumstance could find you becoming enslaved. It was here, in America, that Slavery was for the first time ever, discontinued and outlawed (yes, even before Wilberforce in England, Vermont banned slavery in 1777 , followed by several other northern states, albeit imperfectly; while Wilberforce ended only the Slave Trade in 1807, and freed all slaves only in 1833. Even so, there is a difference between ending the legality of something, as Wilberforce accomplished, and making it into a moral evil, as was finally completed with the Civil War amendments.) as wrong and evil that would be impossible to legalize. The fact that our Constitution was not able to end the practice when written, is a lamentable fact, but it did provide for, they'd hoped, its scheduled demise. The Confederacy, on the other hand, sought not only to escape that scheduled demise, but to repudiate even the desirability of it, and while those states who remained in the Union may not have understood how to end it altogether, still they did desire it to end, and they remained standing with the idea of all men being equal before the law and in each possessing Individual Rights. That was the vital difference.

Let me state that point again: The notion that Individual Rights, the owning of human beings, could EVER be a secondary consideration among such concerns, is both a confession against, and an insult to, the primary role that Individual Rights for all must hold for there to truly be a Rule of Law. That must be primary amongst reasonable peoples, for there even to be a possibility of their being reasonable peoples; respecting that is the direction of Progress, and denying it, that of Regress.

The idea that it was ok to think of human beings as Property - the very notion of which discards the concept of Property, substituting for it that of 'Possessions held through power' - has to crowd out the very concept of Individual Rights along with it - as discarding one must always do to the other.

Sorry, but not sorry,'State's Rights' is not only wrong, but anathema to the concept of Liberty, and one that disgusts, irritates and infuriates me.

7 - "But... it's honoring the valor of ancestors" Can a reasonable person see the [pick your favorite] Flag as a symbol of valor? Can a reasonable person think only of that, without also thinking positively of, or endorsing, those negative aspects I've mentioned here?

Of course they can.

Not only is that possible, but doing so forms a necessary part of looking at things and events of the past in a historical manner, as opposed to looking at them as templates for an active and forward looking political vision. It is quite possible for someone to have statues and paintings of Caesar, Alexander the Great, even Genghis Khan, and feel some admiration for their 'Greatness', without supposing that they'd also like to see their more murderous ideas and practices in place in the world around them.

Is it possible for someone to admire them for their baser and more evil aspects? Again, of course, but you can't deny the possibility of perfectly reasonable behavior to all, on the basis that some might hide their unreasonable behavior behind it; to do so would mean you'd have to outlaw History itself - not to mention the possibility of learning from it. How will you learn lessons from the past, if you expunge them?

And if you add to that historical view, the fact that some of those figures, still relatively recent, historically speaking, might even have been that person's ancestors who fought under that [pick your favorite] flag, I personally would have no difficulty whatsoever in imagining that any one of those flags could hold, and signify, a special place for them, without also implying their agreement or sympathy with those fouler aspects which I associate with it.

And so to the ridiculous question of whether or not someone can own a [pick your favorite] flag, or any other associated memorabilia, as historic references to historic times, yes of course you can, you absolutely have a right to, and you can and should be able to do so without being slurred as a racist yourself.

But.

But if you choose to display it, and yet can't see why others, and most obviously included in that would be Blacks (not necessarily, but justifiably), whether descended from slaves or later immigrants from anywhere else, might be at the very least concerned with, or on edge at seeing any one of the flags of the Confederacy flying, or as displayed in some other manner, then you are being either disingenuous, obtuse, stupid, or more probably a mixture of each.

The fact remains, that the flag of your choice was used as a symbol in a war that sought the eradication of Individual Rights, an abstraction that was made viciously real upon the flesh of Blacks, because they were black.

That could be tough to get past.

You have a Right to do with that flag what you will, but you have no reason for surprise or shock over the fact that others might see it as an endorsement of racism, or as a thumb in the eye, or even as open hostility to Individual Rights, Liberty, and America itself.

On the other, other hand, once you explain your position to them, it's reasonable to expect them to not equate you with it.

Just be prepared to have to do that over, and over, and over again.

8 - "But... it's just a vague symbol of rebellion against authority and good ol' boys, ala The Dukes of Hazard" If that's all the depth you care to reach on the issue, may your ignorance be blissful, go in peace. No one has a right to stop you from splashing about in the shallows, just try not to be offended at their lack of regard for your regard. Deal with it and enjoy.

9 - "But... if you ban that flag, you are banning ideas and freedom of speech." Would banning the flag be equivalent to banning ideas and suppressing freedom of speech? Yes, it absolutely would.

Personally, I believe that any and all of those flags should have been excluded from being flown in any official governing capacity within the United States of America, from the moment the South lost the Civil War, on down to today, because they were standards repaired to in violent opposition to the government of the United States of America.

No Buts about it.

But. That does not mean, in any way, shape or form, that individuals, or their companies, or their products, or for God's sake their Graves! can or should be banned from owning, flying or being decorated with any of those flags, or any other artifact or symbol of them.

Yes, you absolutely have a right to see things your way, no matter how unpopular, or even entirely corrupt that may be. But banning the symbols of ideas is every bit as bad as banning ideas or speech about them.

Those attempting to persecute those who choose to fly these flags, to expel them from grave sites, to exhume bodies, remove statues, or break into private property to steal their [pick your favorite] flags, are, in terms of principles, on a par with that Confederacy they are so energetically posturing about opposing.

Such actions are... that's right. D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T-ick.

Conclusion. I wish.
The biggest But to realize here, is that all of the Buts serve one purpose over all others: Division. The strategy and motive power of the Saul Alinsky trained community organizer, is to apply power, to divide and conquer, and increase power, and few things do that better in America than race, or symbols of it, as those divisions are sure to inflame those they'd like to organize against her.

Score one for the dark side, because every single But, mine included, only serve to deepen the divisions among us.

Edit: An anonymous commenter, who didn't read the entire post, nevertheless reminded me of something I should have emphasized more, which is this:

The important thing to realize here, is that this 'issue' is entirely arbitrary, it is a baseless, non-issue,  and it cannot be responded to as if it were worthy of a response.  This issue is being raised, not because it is a real issue, but because to respond to it means to create, and inflame division among Americans, by means of creating this non-issue, and making an issue of it.

At best there are two options:
Option One (and by far the best): Laugh derisively, and walk away.

Option Two (less good but more likely): Laugh derisively and say: "The Confederacy was a creation of the Democrat Party. All of the Confederate flags belong to the Democrat party. The child of the Democrat party, the Confederacy, was defeated by the Republican north in the Civil War. A century later, in hopes of maintaining is racist policies,  the Democrat party raised the Confederate flag over the South Carolina capital in 1961, which the Republican governor removed in 2015, because then as now, Republicans have to clean up the messes that Democrats inflict upon America."

They deserve nothing more.
/edit.

In fact the only party involved with the latest flare up of this controversy who had it right, following the murder of nine members of a South Carolina church, were the ones who actually rose above the mess, the congregation of those who were murdered in that South Carolina Church.They didn't seek division or justice, but only to stand against the darkness, choosing instead to rise above those horrible events in painful love for the ideals of goodness that mankind can and should embrace; they sought The Light.

Score one for the Bright Side.

No buts about it.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

This Independence Day Millennials are less patriotic - Thank God!

As usual, it's being noted once again that the latest generation of Americans think less favorably about America, than previous ones have. Perhaps I just have a higher estimation of Millennials than do most, but I suspect that much of their lack of regard for America today, has to do with their intelligence and refusal to be bamboozled by fools.

Speaking of fools, in a New York Times article, 'Younger Americans Are Less Patriotic. At Least, in Some Ways.', they note, along with a condescending 'Americans are a patriotic bunch', that that is far less the case with Millennials, than with previous generations:
"When you see the American flag flying, the A.N.E.S. asks, how good does it make you feel? People can choose from categories that range from "extremely good" to "not good at all." In 2012, 79 percent of Americans responded with extremely or very good. Only 7 percent said slightly or not good at all."
The lack of patriotism that Millennials feel today, is, IMHO, an intelligent response that has less to do with what America actually is - a justifiably admirable Ideal of Integrity to Liberty, without which patriotism becomes 'the last refuge of scoundrels' - and has far more to do with their actively rejecting the plastic reality that has been ProRegressively imposed upon the geographic expanse of America over the course of the preceding decades. Millennials feel less inclined to react like Pavlov's dogs to the traditional (and visibly empty) symbols of America being waved before them, and that, IMHO, is a cause for hope, not despair.

Of course whether or not Millennials recognize what those valid American Ideals are, is another issue, and one more relevant to a discussion of that hideous industrial process we euphemistically refer to as our 'educational system' (which, along with our government and media, does their best to hide, mis-characterize or denounce true American Ideals), but that is not something to criticize Millennials for, but Baby Boomers, the Greatest Generation, and at least the three generations preceding them (and is something for another post and another time). As they are so rarely presented with or educated about what is justifiably worthy of being patriotic feelings, they refuse to comply with the counterfeit presented to them, they refuse to be whipped up in some sort of nationalistic 'fatherland' (or 'Homeland' in our case) fervor, which is what every statist, demagogue and dictator depends upon for their justification.

What Millennials associate with the symbols of America, are not its increasingly hidden Founding Ideals, but the symbols that have been hijacked to further the purposes of those who want to tell you how to live, what you can and can't say, assertions of who our friends are and and who we must attack based upon politically correct assertions of 'worthiness', rather than their history of being compatible with actual American Ideals.

The best President of the 20th Century, and the last one to recognizably employ the office in a constitutional manner, was Calvin Coolidge, and not coincidentally, he did an admirable job of summing up those ideals in his speech "The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence", from 1926, which I've been reposting every Independence Day (though it is always available on my "Presidential Messages" page), and this passage more than any other conveys the essentials of our Founding American Ideals:
"...About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers...."
Those are ideals worthy of patriotic enthusiasm. Perhaps more to the point for our Millennials, in the absence of these ideals, true patriotic feelings will have no choice but to fade away. The solution is not to criticize Millennials, but to help them rediscover what America really is, was, and that will not be accomplished by waving either pictures of the Founding Fathers or of the Flag at them, but will result from their acquainting themselves, probably for the first time, with the ideals that America resulted from. Accomplish that, and Now, as Then, the reaction will be revolutionary.

And without further ado, take it away Calvin:


The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence - Calvin Coolidge (cleaning up after Wilson, July 5, 1926)

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human
experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them. The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that:

The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people
The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance.

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church's Quarrel Espoused," in 1710 which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent". It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man". Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth . . . ." And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine". And still again, "Democracy is Christ's government in church and state". Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self government; the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that "Democracy is Christ's government". The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped.