Monday, August 31, 2020

An Odd Thought


Sometimes when I’m engaged in some mundane piece of client work my thoughts take a weird turn.  Since I work mostly from home, that probably because I often have some news program playing in the background.  Usually I just refocus and move on.  But this morning Thomas Jefferson stopped by, and I couldn’t quite get him to go away. 

 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. 

 I don’t pretend to know what youngsters learn these days, but most American adults of a certain age share an ability to quote Jefferson’s words from our Declaration of Independence.  Not that we necessarily have a common understanding of the meaning some of the actual words that Jefferson used.  Words like self-evident and unalienable.  Jiminy Cricket!  We haven’t even been able figure out what the word all means! 

In any event, Jefferson says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”  These.  Plural.  The oft-quoted line about equality and rights is only the first of three of Jefferson’s definitional truths. The second truth is the defined purpose of government:  the reason that we create a government and consent to be governed is to secure the aforementioned universal rights.  The third truth is about the obligation of the people:  when government doesn’t fulfill its obligation to secure these rights, then we, the people, are obligated to change that government.

 Before giving a laundry list of the problems with King George’s government, Jefferson makes an interesting observation:  before people get to the point of saying, “Enough!  No More!” they will inevitably put up with a lot of crap from government.  Of course, Jefferson said it a tad more eloquently than that.  But that 18th century observation is still true in the 21st century.  We’ve been putting up with a lot of crap going from Washington and state capitals across the country these days.    

The current state of affairs, however, was quite predictable, and anyone who has really been paying attention could see where things were headed.  Take Senator Lindsey Graham, for instance.  He let the cat out of the bag during a congressional hearing back in January of 2017.   Today in 2020 I don’t remember what the hearing was about or whom Graham was questioning.  But I do remember spilling coffee all over my souvenir Grumpy t-shirt from Disneyland when Graham said, “Don’t you agree that the foundation of American democracy is the political party?”  The answer should have been, “No, Senator, I don’t.”  It wasn’t.

The foundation of American democracy, as Jefferson wrote, is the principle of essential human equality and universal rights—and that government’s primary obligation is to ensure those rights while promoting the common good.  But political parties about power.  When power replaces equality and human rights as a government’s core value and foundation, then we are no longer talking about democracy.  We’re talking about Kim’s North Korea and Putin’s Russia.  

One wonders when we will get to ““Enough!  No More!”


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