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.