Rational Nation USA
Liberty -vs- Tyranny
|"Declaration" by John Trumbull depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.|
As Americans watch and witness the evolution of our democratic republic as it locks itself into partisan ideological positions that may result in the shutdown of our government and have far reaching global economic implications I found some solace, and hope, in the following article. I have reproduced it here (in full) in the hopes that authentic modern day Patriots will rally around our defining principles and "do the right thing."
By James Roger Sharp - This year marks the 237th anniversary of our revolution and independence. And while we celebrate this milestone, it should not be lost sight of that the American Revolution is universally viewed as one of the most extraordinary and significant events in modern history. A major catalyst for revolutions throughout the globe, it made the United States the very symbol of human freedom.
As Americans seemed to be moving inexorably toward independence in 1776, they shared a strong sense that they were seeking something that had far greater significance than simply gaining independence from England. Rather, they saw themselves as inventing a new kind of society based upon the sovereignty of the people and their natural rights to freedom--a society that would be the envy and goal of all peoples on earth.
In a bold and electrifying document, the Declaration of Independence, our Founders proclaimed to the world 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."
Clearly, the Revolution did not accomplish all of these lofty aspirations immediately. Millions of Africans remained in slavery until the Civil War, and women and minorities are still fighting to become fully equal partners with men. But, as incomplete as the Revolution was in the fulfillment of its remarkable idealism, it was the impetus for a process of change that is still working itself out within our society to fulfill those noble objectives.
Abraham Lincoln later eloquently summed up the meaning of the Declaration when he said that the Founders had not intended to declare "all men equal in all respects." But rather had meant to "set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be... constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere."
But how successful are we in the twenty-first century in measuring up to the expectations of our Founders? Are we "constantly" laboring for and "spreading and deepening" the values and beliefs of the Declaration?
In a number of categories, we seem to be falling short.
For example, wealth is more unequally divided today than in the age of our Founders. At the time of the American Revolution, the wealthiest 10 percent owned approximately 45 percent of the wealth. In this century the top 10 percent own roughly 66 to 70 percent of it. Furthermore, it is estimated that the United States now has a greater gap between rich and poor than any other western democracy.
This disparity undoubtedly would have alarmed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Louis D. Brandeis (1916-1939). He is reported to have said that "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
In addition, our political system often appears to be a closed, isolated and stultified one run by politicians more concerned with being reelected than carrying out their governing responsibilities.
Despite the historic low approval rating of Congress, incumbents have become nearly unbeatable. With their name recognition and money from lobbyists and other special interests acting as formidable deterrents to challengers, incumbents were reelected to their seats in Congress 94.1 percent of the time in the 22 years from 1988 to 2010.
Furthermore, state legislatures redraw congressional district boundaries every 10 years to take into account new census data and carve up states in such a way as to almost guarantee a solid majority in those districts for one party or another.
This gerrymandering aggravates the undemocratic non-competitiveness of Congress. In the 2012 election, for example, Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives won a national plurality of 1.4 million votes. Despite this, the Republicans--because of the congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census--retained their 234 to 201 majority in the House. Only one other time since World War II has one party won a plurality of the vote, without gaining the majority in the House of Representatives.
The 4th of July, then, is perhaps the best time for each of us to take stock of our commitment to our Founders' vision of a society dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
It is obvious that we have made enormous progress as a nation since the American Revolution. We are still the beacon of hope for oppressed peoples throughout the world. But, there cannot be a relaxed resting on our laurels attitude, but rather the safeguarding of our democracy requires a jealous and vigilant guarding of our democratic principles and a constant striving to bring our society in harmony with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, which was and continues to be the emblematic credo that defines us as a nation.
The following words of Louis Brandeis are making a lot of sense in our current climate of believing the reciting Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" on the floor of the United States Senate should be considered representative on 21st century American beliefs.
'We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.'
Good night and good luck America. We're certainly going to need it.