Those crazy “Founding Fathers”. I have often wanted to ask individuals who love to use phrases including, “The Founding Fathers intended” and other such rhetoric, which of the “Fathers” they were referring to and why. “They” were a disparate lot, farmers and lawyers, tradesman and soldiers who were, just barely, united by a common purpose….sort of. We are, I concede, a culture that values the citation as a badge of credibility whether the label fits or not. There are those among us who would pair up a phrase from Revelation with one from Leviticus and use the twain to undermine the collective message of the four Gospels. The citation is the important thing when the people one is trying to impress aren’t really listening.
Thus, the “Founding Fathers”; most of them disliked the Royal authority and some of them disliked any authority. The clear motives for rebellion; the quartering of royal troops in colonial homes, warrantless searches of home and business and seizures of property, and government policy enacted by a Parliament of which the colonials were not a part of, all found their way in to the Constitution. Most of these slights are now pointed to by current politicians wanting to make a point (or rather, steal one). The “Teabaggers” (their name, not mine) were supposedly against “Taxation without representation”….”The Founding Fathers fought against it!” Cue the gnashing of teeth and wailing of women and babes. The problem of course, is that we Americans do have representation; being the minority party in a democracy is not the same as living in a colony for which no representative is allowed into the ruling nation’s legislative body.
The “Founding Fathers” might have encouraged the “Teabaggers” to get a grip and fight something like; “Taxation that I don’t like”. Then again, the “Fathers”, or at least some of them, would like the taxation. Some of the “Founding Fathers” were (again, cue the sounds of evil and despair)……LIBERALS. Oh the humanity! Oddly enough, the “Founding Father” of capitalism, Adam Smith, was the perhaps the first to suggest the necessity of a progressive income tax. Our very own FF’s went through an abortive experiment in government called the “Articles of Confederation”. The Articles formed a government with a federal element focused on the borders, foreign relations, and national defense. Everything else was left to the states. The reason our FF’s came up with The Constitution is that the weak federal system DID NOT WORK.
I am often reminded of the other special skills the “Founding Fathers” had when I watch cable news. In my last post, I referenced the young lady who confronted Senator Spector in a tearful rage and demanded to know what he would do to return our country to what the “Founders” intended. The parallel theme here is the notion that somehow the Obama Administration has destroyed the nation in 9 months (which is what was fanatically predicted by his opponents in the campaign). The Administration has left most of the tricky items to the status quo, passed a tax cut, and if by some miracle gets health reform passed will have succeeded in just equaling the debt burden of the Reagan years. Not exactly revolutionary stuff. But I digress; we were talking of the young lady in Pennsylvania and the “Founding Fathers’ intent”.
Might Senator Spector have told her to go home and attend to her duties as the “Founding Fathers” intended? Inflammatory? Yes. My personal view? Absolutely not (if I was such a chauvinist, I would have a wife, mom, sister, sisters-in-law and others to contend with). The view was, however, precisely that of the FF’s. Women were not citizens…that they still receive something like 70% of the pay for equal work versus men tells us something of how strong the “Founding Father’s ” intent really was. Slavery was not only condoned in the Constitution, but practised by the FF’s. I shouldn’t imagine, after this paragraph, that further evidence of the need for our government to evolve would be necessary.
The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Federalist Papers are fantastic documents that form the backbone of our heritage and the foundation of our laws. They are also as flawed as their very human writers were. There exists a reasonable need to stay within certain strictures in the Constitution for the purposes of consistency, but change is not always a bad thing. A clear and rational look at a challenge facing our democracy can be accompanied by a vigorous, bare-knuckled debate over the right course to follow. The rational middle suggests that the debate be fed by solid facts and logical arguments.
Save the name dropping for socialites!
We look forward to your commentary….