Monday, July 04, 2005

Founding Fathers

As a child growing up, my education about the American Revolution consisted mostly of the myths of idolatry about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and others. My children, on the other hand, were raised on the failings of these great men: How they were slave owners while they sought freedom, lawyers who would deny the rights they sought to those who did not own property or possess the proper Y chromosone.
Looking back with time, which gives you a perspective on human charachter, I am even more amazed at what those fine gentlement managed to accomplish, warts and all. If you think about it, these men were the elites of the colonies. They were risking their all for the chance to give more to others. If you were to predict future behavior based on rational self interest, none of these men would have been listed as the fathers of an ideal that would revolutionalize government.
When the Constitution was signed, someone said that they pledged their "lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" in support of something that had never before been done in their time: Raising the individual as a sovereign, instead of some inherited right to dominate others. As radical a concept as there ever was. In fact, they had more than enough opportunities to turn away from the ideal, and to go with what must have been their own base interests. George Washington, at the time of victory at Yorktown, was invited by some young colonels to assume a military dictatorship of the new country. Luckily, he rebuked them for even bringing it up, and therefore managed to avoid strangling the birth of a new country.
Americans are a strange lot, and you notice this more if you spend any time abroad. We are eternally optimistic, and at the same time, extremely self critical. We take it for granted that there will always be those who will complain about our country. In other cultures, this would be considered as treason, even if it is correct. So, when we complain about ourselves, in their minds, we must be even worse because they would never do the same thing.
In America, our strengths are our weaknesses, and our weaknesses are our strengths. We allow free speech, even if it is used against us. We have a military that is second to none, but unable to effectively and decisively cope with terrorists, like a secret police state would.
We are populated by the descendents of malcontents who were unwilling to stay for whatever reason and dared to go where no sane person would go to. (This includes the indigenous populations. Can you imagine 15,000 years ago, sitting around the campfire in Western Siberia, watching a group of crazy people heading over a land bridge to God only knows where and to what?) Those of us who live in the West, are the descendants of the craziest of the crazies. Yet, our mania is fueled by hope. Hope for a better future, for ourselves and our children. For a chance to be the real "Masters of our domain." The belief in America is the belief in hope. We owe it all to those magnificent and flawed human beings who placed an ideal above self interest, so that we may continue the experiment in Democracy that we know as the United States of America. May God continue to bless and keep her.

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