Thursday, December 13, 2007

High Treason and the Founding Fathers

A toast, to high treason.

That's what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration.

Had we lost the war, they would've been hanged, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and oh! oh my personal favorite, had their entrails cut out and burned!

So, here's to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right.

Ben Gates in National Treasure

In the 2003 film, National Treasure, the fictional Ben Gates toasted our Founding Fathers' convictions. I think it is worth recalling exactly why they were willing to place their lives on the line and what was so wrong with the British Empire that they were dangerously and unconventionally rebelling against it. I sometimes take for granted that everybody knows what the American Revolution was about. But when yesterday's blog entry referred to Washington's Farewell Adress as kinda being something people know about generally, I quickly got feedback that - unfortunately - that's fairly rare these days. Which is really too bad.

But Hey! that's why I blog. :]

I've posted Washington's Farewell Address as a blog entry so that I could bookmark specific parts of it and link right to them. I think I'll do the same with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution at least.

I have noticed a growing number of politicians and pundits writing and opining that the Constitution is woefully "outdated" or, more precisely, a "mere piece of paper." Times have changed, they challenge, and the wisdom of our forefathers no longer serves in the world we live in now. I think such thinking merits analysis. It certainly deserves an honest, open debate.

I, for one, am still with the Founding Fathers. I believe in liberty, hope, peace, and equality in the pursuit of happiness for all people.

I grant that there are those that genuinely [and rightly] question the 'vaunted wisdom' of those early patriots. In those first steps of our Republic, they contend, there was no equality for either gender or race. Women couldn't vote at all. Slavery was actually somewhat protected as an institution - or at least officially recognized in half of the nation. I would agree, that by my reckoning, those are gaping holes in liberty. But I would invite anybody who rationally questions what went wrong to study the history. Arguably, the meetings, documents, institutions, and decisions of those founding rebels are precisely what set in motion our original Bill of Rights, abolition, universal suffrage, and most other revolutionary liberties that Americans often take for granted today.

Indeed, most of the Bill of Rights and other missing protections (including egregious examples such as complete abolition slavery and universal suffrage) were strongly argued for by at least some representatives. There were those who lost strong debates on such liberties to heartbreaking compromise, but could see that such freedoms could be clearly granted by what they were then setting in motion. Some continued to champion such unfulfilled guaranties of liberty throughout their lives of public service. The rapid ratification of the first ten amendments is testament to the ongoing debate.

Of those that intimate that those "ancient" debates and writings bear little relevance in our modern world, I would request a sincere and transparent discussion. The United States has one of the oldest, if not the oldest functioning Constitution in use today. Maybe it is, indeed, (as has been opined) completely outdated.

Certainly our current leaders – with their strong regard for strength through empire, standing armies, and the use of force – are out of sync with the kind of passions and beliefs that forged our original Union.

I believe we are at crucial juncture. We crossed a line when we pre-emptively conquered Iraq and then we crossed another when we stayed and made them a de-facto colony in order to build more permanent military bases. You certainly don't have to look far to find powerful politicians and pundits that reject the ideals of our anti-Empire, pro-Liberty Founding Fathers. The question is, then: do you?

[I'll close with another great National Treasure quote (this time quoting the Declaration of Independence).]

Ben Gates:"'But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.' People don't talk that way anymore."

Riley Poole:"Beautiful. No idea what you said."

Audio from National Treasure

1 comment:

Jason D'Avignon said...

Good post. The Constitution is certainly not outdated. The beauty I find in the Constitution is that it is written vague enough to bend with the times.

"Certainly our current leaders – with their strong regard for strength through empire, standing armies, and the use of force – are out of sync with the kind of passions and beliefs that forged our original Union."

Very well put. I shed a tear every time one limits the rights of the people and not the government as the Constitution does.