Friday, July 01, 2011

America's Founders and Today's Celebrities

On this Independence Day weekend we celebrate our freedom, remember a bit of history and eat wonderful food. All of this is good. Even the rather dour founder John Adams called for feasting and fireworks to mark the day the Declaration was ratified and signed by John Hancock (others would sign on August 2). As I consider the history, the contrasts between our founders and today's celebrity candidates are startling. Today's leaders have access to the finest information, excellent living conditions and communication organs undreamed of in the 18th century. Yet even a cursory comparison unveils the unparalleled genius of the founder's generation and the dearth of depth in our own. I am not deifying the founders - they were flawed and failed to confront the issue of slavery. They also struggled with hubris, image and vanity, warring constituents and competing agendas. But their breadth of learning - even among the unlettered - depth of thoughtfulness, humility before the Almighty and moral reflection stand in stark contrast to the narcissism and paucity of values characterizing much of our public discourse. Consider these contrasts:

James Madison is called the Father of the Constitution, examining 3000 years of sacred and secular history and adept in ancient and modern languages. Compare his irenic intellect with the sound bites of Carville or Gingrich.

Thomas Jefferson is the darling of the Left at times (excepting his ambiguities on slavery of course). But his most important work - our Declaration of Independence - reflects deep reverence for God, concern for natural rights, including personal and property rights, and economic liberty against the mercantile system. Compare this to the central planning economists and bureauocrats like Thomas Friedman who live in mansions while they dictate lifestyle to the American masses.

Many of the founders were clergy, but they defended the rights of others to dissent. Thomas Paine had little regard for traditional religion; however, he affirmed the important of personal responsibility and public virtue. Compare his Common Sense of 1776 with any writing of current Presidential candidates. Here is a freethinker unafraid of the world of ideas while today's Left cowers before Sharia-driven Islam and tries to remove all traces of the Judeo-Christian ethos from public life.

I am forever a hope-filled person. But I am finding it difficult to be hopeful about America's future with the current crop of candidates from both parties and the unreasonable posturing of our federal legislators. May I suggest that all in public life pause this weekend, read the Constitution, allowing the context of our founding to inspire courageous and creative action?

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