Wednesday, October 17, 2007

As Jefferson Lives and Grieves ...

As Jefferson Lives and Grieves …
By Wayne Goodwin
17 October 2007

Several years ago it was all the rage for some folks to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” when confronted with a matter of public policy or morality. I even recall a fellow legislator – yes, a Democrat – who brandished a bracelet that displayed WWJD. It was intriguing – to say the least - to hear debate after debate about whether Jesus would support green legislation or oppose tax cuts or have an opinion about election laws.

That was all before Bush v. Gore.

Subsequent to that infamous Supreme Court case a book caught my attention entitled “What Would Jefferson Do?” Without getting in to the fact that Jefferson was more of a Deist than any particular Christian denomination, the volume authored by Thom Hartmann made a capitalistic play off its predecessor phrase. An amateur historian I am - and a political buff to boot - I did find it an interesting read, however. The author used Jefferson’s voluminous writings – not just the Declaration of Independence – to address certain subjects currently at the zenith of regular political discourse, especially in Congressional and Presidential elections.

Okay, even using his writings as a barometer we still may not know to a tee how “TJ” might feel on every subject today. But employing the “What would . . . ” slide rule made for an interesting parlor game to predict his position.

In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, I have found myself more regularly thinking about our nation’s Founders and wondering how much deeper Al-Qaeda’s cut will be into our collective moral and principled foundations that we consider “the American way”.

For weeks and months and now years we have witnessed a growing deluge of revelations that strongly suggest America is not what it once was. They include:

● Loss of privacy by its lawful citizens.
● Torture as an acceptable tool.
● A “Patriot Act” that has eviscerated many of our freedoms.
● Significant evaporation of checks and balances among the three branches of government.
● Permanent American armies abroad using unacceptable, unsupervised “contract warriors” (read “Blackwater”) instead of citizen-soldiers following a lawful chain of command and answerable to the Chief Executive
● Breaking covenants with soldiers and their families by mandating unplanned extensions of National Guard tours of duty, and providing shameful medical treatment in our VA hospitals and clinics for the wounded who return home.
● Paying for a war not by the current generation but by placing it on the backs of our children and grandchildren via the national debt, an unheralded practice never tried throughout the history of American military conflicts
● A more corrupt Congress than at any other point in recent memory.
● Unlawful renditions to foreign countries.
● Blatant questioning of and violations of the Geneva Conventions
● The federal government’s allowing cheap imported Chinese toys and food to poison our children and animals.
● The devastation of our manufacturing and industrial base to foreign lands, all in the name of corporate profits but to the detriment of the public’s dual need for good jobs and the national security that comes with making some of our most basic staples.
● The collapse of bridges and degradation of other infrastructure which would have been repaired and perfected but for trillions spent on the current war.
● Outright lies by the President, Vice President and the former Attorney General to Congress, the Courts, to the press, and to the American people.

Whereas a few of these diminutions of American moral primacy have no correlation, the most egregious examples could rightly be deemed victories by Osama bin Laden and radical Islamic terrorists. Think about it: The enemies of the United States oppose America and all for which it stands – freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, equal rights for women, due process, civil liberties, the right to suffrage, and a government genuinely controlled by “the people” and not by military-industrial, theocratic, and/or plutocratic interests. Aren’t these the same principles we have seen shrink before our very eyes since 2001?

It angers me that certain American political leaders who brandished the sword of liberty and the shield of patriotism may have handed to our enemies a victory even greater than the September 11th attacks: a reduction in what America, in fact, stands for today.

As we have seen the Bush-Cheney administration decimate the goodwill that America had banked for generations among most nations of the world, and strip away various civil liberties we hold dear, I must now resurrect that question of “What Would Jefferson Do?” …

Would the 3rd President and Founding Father – no fan of the Supreme Court in his own day, but respectful to a fault of the role that separation of powers plays – have harsh words for this White House?

Would he have condoned torture?

Would he champion permanent tax cuts for the uber-wealthy and promote an increasingly exorbitant gap between the rich and the middle class?

Would he find the dramatic centralization of power within Washington, DC abhorrent to his very being?

Would he choose to side with the monied pharmaceutical, insurance, oil, and military industries instead of children?

Would he have allowed such a swift, downward spiral of the United States in a mere eight years, if ever?

Would Jefferson believe that another revolution were necessary?

Two hundred years ago the Sage of Monticello began the final year of his last term in the White House.

The nation was then in the hands of a fellow Founding Father, James Madison, who almost was our ultimate President when the British tried re-taking America and actually landed on U.S. soil, burning the White House in the War of 1812. The country was at a serious low point.

However, when Madison’s service concluded we then relied upon James Monroe to transition us to what historians call “the Era of Good Feelings.”

2008 will be a watershed year for Americans.

With next year’s elections, we will face either a return of an Era that lifts up all that is great and good about the land of the free and the home of the brave, and returns us to that shining City on a hill; … or we will witness more of the same from the last seven years.

Jefferson would see this as a revolutionary moment. Carpe diem!

© Wayne Goodwin of Rockingham, NC. All Rights Reserved.


Leanne said...

great post. very thoughtful. looking forward to state dem convention in Richmond too!

The Media Grab said...

Excellent post...2008 will be a watershed year indeed

Les Young said...

Wayne, you are “spot on.”

But, what causes this situation? And what can we do to correct our course? I’ll try to answer these. I also hope to read what others say about this.

Until the cows come home, we can blame Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice and their neo-conservative advocates of regime change and first-strike war with Iraq (Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, Bolton, Abrams, and others in the Project for the New American Century, who, as far back as January 1998, encouraged President Clinton to take-out Saddam).

These neo-conservatives pushed America into our unilateral first-strike war with Iraq, and many of them now promote a first-strike attack on Iran while President Bush remains in office.

Is it not true that we’ve known the intentions of the neo-conservatives and Vice President Cheney from at least the summer of 2002? President Bush promised, "I'll exhaust all peaceful avenues to remove Saddam, but then he marched us straight into war.” Cheney and the neo-conservatives were not so devious.

At the June 2002 graduation exercises at West Point, President Bush announced to the world that America proclaims a new, unilateral right to attack (first-strike, preemptive, preventive, choose your word) any country or people whom we fear may someday wish to harm us, our friends, or our interest. How preposterous!

For the most part, Democrats remained silent.

In Sept. 2002, the Bush Administration issued its new National Security Strategy – a.k.a. The Bush Doctrine – in which Bush’s West Point address was formalized as official American policy.

For the most part, Democrats remained silent.

In Oct. 2002, President Bush demanded and received from Congress the authority to go to war with Iraq. Everyone who was listening to the war-drums and watching the war-dance understood the timing of this vote, only weeks before the general election. Intimidation!

Many Democrats voted with the President. Many others did not. No one could have failed to understand the urgency with which President Bush demanding the vote. It felt like the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution” all over again.

Some few Democrats did speak out against the Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War vote, Senators Byrd and Kennedy among them. Many Democrats have since acknowledged their error in voting to authorize President Bush to go to war, some saying that this was the worst vote of their lives.

What is seldom acknowledged, or even discussed, is that the Iraq War vote implicitly ratified the Bush Doctrine. I cannot recall reading or hearing of any Member of Congress or the Senate who has acknowledged his/her error in implicitly voting to ratify the Bush Doctrine.

It is true, THEY took American to war. It is true also; WE sat on the sidelines and silently watched. There have been three (3) national elections since the Bush Doctrine was announced. For the most part, Democrats sat silently on the sidelines with respect to the Bush Doctrine.

Now we are in a 4th national election, and sadly, none of the front runners have found the backbone to even discuss the issue.

For the most part, Democrats remain silent yet today.

Our silence is shameful.

To be sure, all of the blame cannot be cast at the feet of the Democratic candidates. No, there is blame aplenty to go around – to the clergy and the press, and to leadership in every corner of American life. And, to you and me. Someday people may say: they were the “good Americans” who let their country slip away from its moorings.

We all hope for change. We search in vain for a new wind. And, we remain afraid to tackle the most important issue of all.

The Bush Doctrine is the foundation upon which all of our foreign policy mischief is constructed. As long as America proclaims the preposterous right to unilaterally first-strike other nations, we stand on shifting sand – sand that can become quicksand with the slightest rain that falls.

America must seek moral high ground and construct a new foundation for our security, one built upon wisdom.

Our national Soul is wounded. We Democrats can help restore its health. Let’s encourage our candidates to lead us in this endeavor.


Wayne Goodwin said...

Thank you, Les. I say being "spot on" is more applicable for your excellent post. If you wouldn't mind, I would like to cross-post it to the BlueNC blog - with complete attribution to you, of course - under the blog entry I made that mirrors this one. Let me know if that's OK. Once it runs I'll let you know. There've been some thoughtful comments to my the posting at BlueNC.

Meanwhile, I hope you're doing well!

Les Young said...

Sure, Wayne. That's fine with me. Thanks, Les