• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Constitution Day, 2010

How are we, a free people, to govern ourselves?
This was the question Washington, Madison, Franklin and their colleagues asked themselves that miraculous summer 223 years ago. Eleven years after bringing forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, the founders gathered again in Philadelphia to answer the primary political question: How are we, a free people, to govern ourselves?
It is a question that we, the people must again ask, less than two months before our mid-term elections.
Our systems seem to be falling apart. Over the last few months we have had to seal a hole we drilled in the floor of the Gulf of Mexico looking for oil we need because, for more than 30 years, we have lacked the political will to wean ourselves from foreign oil. In another demonstration of the increasing challenges of safely managing our food supply, as many as 76,000 people may have been sickened by eggs unnecessarily contaminated by salmonella. Our infrastructure, too, is becoming increasingly unsafe as was demonstrated recently in a San Francisco suburb when a 50 year old gas pipeline exploded, killing at least 4 people and destroying 37 homes.
In the culture wars, we have seen a conservative Christian Minister in Florida seek to exercise his First Amendment right to burn the Qur’an even as many of his flock would, I’m sure, deny to fellow citizens the right to burn the American flag. And a majority of us seem all too ready to dispense with the First Amendment when it comes to the question of the right of an Imam to build a cultural center near Ground Zero.
The poverty rate is the highest it’s been since the 1960s. Unemployment and under-employment are dangerously high. The economy isn’t growing. Global competition is increasing. Our population is aging, straining our future economic flexibility. We continue to fight an unpopular war in Afghanistan. While we may pray for peace between Israel and Palestine, we must admit that the probability of a peace agreement is not large. Iran and North Korea continue to live outside the community of peaceful nations.
Oh, and lest I forget, we’re broke, with Federal and State balance sheets destined to weaken for the foreseeable future.
David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times: “The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. … Over the next decade there will have to be spending cuts and tax increases.”
These are again the times that try men’s souls.
Never under-estimate the power of we, the people.
Christine O’Donnell
Delaware Senate Nominee, Tea Party
September 14, 2010
While my political tastes lean more towards espresso than tea, the Tea Party’s momentum is just one more demonstration that Washington isn’t working. It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.
Give it to the Tea Party. They understand that if government isn’t working, then it’s up to us, we, the people to get it working. That’s the meaning of freedom—that’s it’s our responsibility to get government working.
Which takes us right back to the question the founders asked 223 years ago: How are we, a free people, to govern ourselves?
First, it seems, we have a solemn responsibility to govern ourselves in accordance with the six objectives enumerated in the Constitution’s Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
In addition to the first five objectives, the Preamble reminds us that we are here because those who came before us acted to secure the Blessings of liberty to us. In doing so, it also serves to remind us of our responsibility to act not only for ourselves but for our posterity. We govern not just to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves but to our Posterity, as well. This is something we need to teach to our children as part of our responsibility to secure for them the Blessings of Liberty.
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”
Thomas Jefferson
The solutions we, the people must craft to meet our challenges require a commitment to intellectual integrity. Solutions can’t be based just on opinions or the ‘special facts’ of one or another special interest group. We have to have honest dialogue around the ‘meaning’ of these facts, the opportunities they give us for creative win-win-win solutions, and the constraints they impose on how we might best meet these challenges. There can be no room for dogma, political posturing or the hiding of ‘uncomfortable’ facts.
Given the human tendency to accept the ‘facts’ that support our own point-of-view while discounting the ‘facts’ that might suggest we’re wrong, we have a responsibility to be unbelievably fair-minded about the other side. We must learn to ‘bend over backwards’ to understand their point-of-view. This too we must teach to our children for how else are they to secure the Blessings of Liberty to themselves and their Posterity.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
Declaration of Independence
July 4, 1776
Meeting the challenges we face requires solutions that work for us all. Finding these solutions requires us to listen to each other with respect, working cooperatively to find creative solutions. One need look no farther than the Constitutional Convention to see how we have been able to work together across the widest of political gulfs, finding in the greatest of our challenges the most beautiful of solutions—just like delegates from slave states and free states were able to find compromise 223 years ago in Philadelphia.
The Declaration isn’t just a bunch of pretty words. I was raised to believe that I have a personal responsibility to treat other people in accordance with the principle that we are all created equal. Believing we are all created equal means we don’t spit on people whose political views differ from our own. It means we don’t brand people we disagree with as “stupid.” It means we don’t marginalize the other side, treating our own side as everything good and the other side as everything evil. More positively, it means we seek to open our hearts to those with whom we disagree so we may find the common ground from which the most creative solutions emerge. At its heart, our Declaration is a political restatement of the Golden Rule. This too we must teach our children so that they may govern themselves wisely.
Eleven years before the Constitution, on the 1st of July, 1776, John Adams addressed the 2nd Continental Congress, beseeching them to declare our independence from England. Adams’ words that fateful day ring loud and clear, down through the ages to us today: “We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world.”
The revolution continues.
Let freedom ring.
Copyright © 2010. Stan Stahl. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay in its entirety provided its source is identified asThe Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org and this copyright is included.
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