True, it is a national holiday but that is no reason to let our brains turn into oatmeal. Following is a short quiz wherein you should try to match the quote with the speaker.
1. “ Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.”
2. “I am no longer a Virginian, Sir, but an American.”
3. “Does she have a good body? No. Does she have a fat a—? Absolutely.”
A. Patrick Henry
B. Donald Trump
C. Thomas Jefferson
When the newspaper hired me in 1997, management had very few guidelines. They told me my deadline, they told me the pay scale, and they asked me not to write about national politics. Sorry, boss. I have held back for nineteen years. But today, on the two hundred fortieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I am going to exercise my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of making sense of today’s political side show. Sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
I think I speak for most Americans when I say I cannot grasp what it took for our founding fathers to become our founding fathers. Among them were successful businessmen, landowners, doctors, and lawyers. There was one failed brewer named, ironically enough, Samuel Adams. Yet they risked it all, risked every single thing right down to their very lives to put their names to a piece of paper … an act that constituted treason. Present at the signing were strong Federalists who felt almost all the power in the land should be at the hands of a central government. In the same room were their polar opposites, men who championed individual rights above all else.
To their eternal credit and our unending thanks, they were able to rise above these fundamental differences to construct, from their own thought processes, something untried. Something that has been an outstanding success. But…
We are still the greatest country in the world with a wonderful standard of living, personal freedoms, free elections and much else. Is it perfect? No. No place is. It remains, however, somewhat the gold standard: what many countries and countless peoples aspire to. But if we cannot learn to get along, if we cannot put aside bitter, acrid partisanship to achieve a common good we are flirting with fate.
The average life span of democracies is two hundred years. Why do they fail?
Scottish professor of history Alexander Tyler had this to say:
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.”
As if that were not daunting enough, Professor Tyler added the following sequence in the demise of democracies:
• From bondage to spiritual faith;
• From spiritual faith to great courage;
• From courage to liberty;
• From liberty to abundance;
• From abundance to complacency;
• From complacency to apathy;
• From apathy to dependence;
• From dependence back into bondage
I think he missed a step or two. I think he missed the part where partisanship becomes so much the order of the day that nothing can get accomplished and stagnation sets in. I think he missed the part where everyday courtesy, basic respect for our fellow man — if not necessarily his ideas, and simple civility are sacrificed on the altar of shock value and a guaranteed sound bite on the evening news. I think he missed the part that being honorable plays, the part where doing the right thing is its own reward.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two of the greatest men in history, could not have been less alike, politically. When Jefferson served as Adams’s vice president, the two spoke just once in that four year term. This personal rancor did not stop them from meticulously, laboriously, and famously forming our natal country. If these two men could have foreseen what was going to occur in the political arena today and witnessed what is passing for leadership they might well have thrown up their hands and said, “For this we live within an inch of the noose?”
Jefferson wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Honor is indeed sacred. Let us not be the generation that betrays their trust.
The writer resides in Covington.