The radical American experiment - The Explorer: Editorials

The radical American experiment

Declaration of Independence still breathes, 232 years later

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Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

America since the 1960s has been in search of heroes, and often in all the wrong places.

During the heyday of the student uprisings, pictures of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara adorned t-shirt and dorm room alike. Even today, Time Magazine reports “though communism may have lost its fire, he (Che Guevara) remains the potent symbol of rebellion and the alluring zeal of revolution.”

Oh really? Perhaps those who still believe government is the answer to all the world problems might want to spend a few blissful years in such Socialist paradises as North Korea, Cuba or even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, where personal freedoms such as free speech are being sacrificed for the betterment of “the workers.”

It is almost a running joke among most people in the United States today to look at the Founding Fathers as heroes. Perhaps they just don’t look as good on a t-shirt or poster as Che. However, they were most certainly as revolutionary, if not more so, than some of the more romanticized Socialistic elites who merely want to expand the state on the backs of the people; oh dear, what a politically incorrect statement. Before you know it, the likes of Michael Moore will be beating at my door with hammer and sickle in hand.

And thus, I reject my youthful, collegiate and socialistic past for a more mundane world view. Perhaps the truth is I’ve become more revolutionary than when attending university, since I reject what is now considered normal or politically correct thinking; the state will provide all required sustenance with the people merely required to surrender their wealth and the means for making it.

The truth is Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Hancock and so many of the other founders did not only put their future on the line for this nation, but often their very lives. Had the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War been crushed by Great Britain, many of these men would have been executed for their troubles. Once the war was won, it took the founders another long process to create a document which would help to maintain this new nation and allow it to prosper without a major breakdown.

“Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.” In other words, make it air tight so later administrations, Congresses or courts could not interpret it in such broad terms as to negate its basic meaning. Jefferson, who believed that man was often his own worse enemy, believed the Constitution was a means to controlling a government which seeks more power, and thus an end to the liberties this nation had fought so hard to achieve.

“Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism,” Jefferson wrote during the debate over the Constitution. “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” To make changes the founders called for an amendment process.

But it did take a declaration and a war to advance to a point where the Congress could create “a republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin would later say to a reporter.

David McCullough, perhaps one of the best historical writers this nation has produced in a very long time, and a Pulitzer Prize winner to boot, wrote in his book “1776” that “at a stroke the Continental Congress had made the Glorious Cause of America more glorious still, for all the world to know, and also to give every citizen soldier at this critical juncture something still larger and more compelling for which to fight,” independence.

The preamble of the declaration, authored by Thomas Jefferson, was all very new and radical, but at McCullough so aptly pointed out, “such courage and high ideals were of little consequence, of course, the Declaration itself being no more than a declaration without military success against the most formidable force on earth.”

There would be no military success until Christmas of 1776, after having lost Long Island, New York and New Jersey. As it turned out, it would be America’s longest war until 190 years later, when a Congress allowed a president to conduct a war without a declaration, and a conflict in Southeast Asia would claim nearly 60,000 Americans and more than a million Vietnamese.

The American experiment is still ongoing and very radical compared to some of the other revolutions that have taken place. It calls for less government intervention and more responsibility on the part of the people. There are many who believe in the ideal of taxing and spending and that the Constitution “is an outdated piece of paper,” as someone informed me not very long ago.

Sorry, but the ideals the founders risked everything for 232 years ago are today still worth fighting and, perhaps, even giving ones life for. You know, I would wear a t-shirt with John Adams on it any day over Che Guevera.

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