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"It is the duty of every Patriot to protect
his country from its government." — Thomas Paine

A while back I posted a quote from Thomas Paine at the top of the blog.
The quote drew a response from a commentator, who asked me the question
— "Just why don't we have people like that [Paine] in government anymore?"

I really didn't have an answer for him then. But I did think about it
over the next few days. And it occurred to me that perhaps the reason we
don't seem to have people like that in government today is simply that
those were different times — in particular times that were fueled by
the ideals of the Enlightenment. Today, we have wandered far from those
ideals. The type of philosophical passion that was felt by Paine, Jefferson,
Madison, et al. is just not present today. In fact it would be difficult to
find politicians with any type of passion these days — unless it would be
rather right-wing religious passion.

So let's look at the old ideas and ideals a bit.

The ideals of the Enlightenment were (my read on it):

  • A belief in science and the empirical method
  • A belief in the virtue of Reason and in the concept of Truth as a
    verifiable state apart from opinion (i.e., it's not just all "spin")
  • An appreciation for the lessons taught by history
  • The belief in a Deistic, creative God who watches over (but does not
    participate in) human affairs
  • A belief in the fundamental goodness of most human beings

To this we can add a few other ideals held by the Framers of the U.S.
Constitution, as well as some others in England, France, etc.:

  • The belief in government as a necessary evil
  • The belief that it is the nature of government to ignore the will of
    the people
  • The belief that is is the duty and responsibility of the people to
    protect themselves against the abuses of government
  • A distrust of the changeable motives of men and a faith in
    Constitutions as the guarantor of Liberty

The Framers were children of the Enlightenment, and true believers in
its fundamental principles. To this they rebelled against a government
that they held to be abusive and against Liberty. They risked everything
in this. They risks their fortunes (and most of them were rich); they
risked their lives (they would have been hung if the Revolution had been
lost); and they committed a rather intangible concept called "sacred Honor."
And when the Revolution was won, they committed themselves to writing the
best Constitution they could think of — as Benjamin Franklin said, "the
best Constitution we can have at this time" — which would guarantee Liberty
even if the newly created government were to fall into abuse.

There are governments which may go off track and become corrupt or
abusive and trample the Liberties of the people; and then there is the
Constitution, to which that government is accountable. The former is an
iffy proposition at best; the later is the handwriting of Liberty.

There seems little Honor left these days — sacred or otherwise. These
days politicians seek office and, when elected, immediately begin running
for re-election. Their concern is not with the best interests of this
Republic and its citizens, but with the triumph of their own party in the
next coming election.

But that exact state of affairs was acknowledged and even predicted by
the Framers. Governments fail or become corrupt. In these cases it is
the duty of the people to protect the Constitution and to change the
government. Thomas Jefferson's "a revolution every 200 years" is, I
think, quite to that point — and about fifty years late.

There is no doubt in my mind that almost every citizen in this country,
if our shores were invaded, would pick up arms to protect it. Much more
complicated is the question of whether we as citizens would protect our
country from itself — against the incompetencies and narcissism of
those in Washington. Because you know, it's really not good enough to
stand up during the "Star Spangled Banner" or to listen to "God Bless
America" during the seventh inning stretch. True Patriotism involves a
little more than than, in some cases a lot more than that. It sometimes
involves doing something, being committed, even taking a risk — that is
the fundamental meaning of "sacred Honor."

If one, idealistic Senator or Representative would be elected and,
getting to Washington, stand up in chamber and shout —

EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE THEIR LIFE IN DIGNITY!

— What would come of it these days? The more "experienced" politicians
would simply chuckle, thinking "how naive."

"That's not the way Washington works" the young ones are told. In actual
fact, Washington doesn't work at all anymore, in any way that could
possibly be considered good for the People.

The politicians in Washington today are useless. They talk endlessly;
they do almost nothing. They are like locusts in a field of wheat. They
have no concept of Honor and are Traitors to this Republic.

We have a wonderful Constitution to work with. We could just start all
over, build again from the ground up — As Thomas Paine said, "We have
it in our power to begin the world over again."

I have to admit —

Sometimes, I weep — literally — when I think of the beauties of The
Declaration and the ideal of Liberty put forward by the Framers so long
ago.

And sometimes, I weep — literally — that those beauties have seemingly
been so misplaced, forgotten, abandoned…