21 March 2006

If we can keep it.

As Ben Franklin left Independence Hall during the final day of deliberations during the Constitutional Convention, a woman is reported to have stopped him and asked:
“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
Franklin responded:
"A Republic, if you can keep it."
If we can keep it. There's the rub. Somehow, it seems like that just keeps getting harder to do.

The problem here, as in way too many other areas of American life, probably rests with the godawful state of our educational system. Far too many Americans seem to hold the mistaken view that we live in a democracy, and that the majority should be able to impose its will on the minority.

For example:
Who cares if there’s a “sizeable Mormon community”. They don’t have to sing Christmas songs if they don’t want to or they can ask that traditional Mormon pieces be added. This is America and Christmas along with Christmas carols are a longstanding tradition of a vast majority. Christmas is a national holiday and tragic as it is for the loony left it hasn’t been renamed Winter Solstice Celebration yet. Anyone that doesn’t like that is welcome to move to a country where they don’t celebrate Christmas. I’ll help them pack and pay for a one-way ticket on a banana boat out of here.
Here's another example, from a resolution currently on the floor in the Missouri State Legislature:
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America.
Way, way too many people, apparently including some legislators, just don't seem to understand why we have the system of government that we do.

We don't live in a democracy. We live in a republic. We live in a republic because many of the drafters of the Constitution were at least as afraid of democracy as they were of monarchy:
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
James Madison, Federalist #10.
The Constitution was very intelligently designed to set up a system of government that protects the rights of the minority from the tyrany of the majority. That's why changing the Constitution is such a difficult process. It's not supposed to be something that the majority can do anytime they want. If it was otherwise, we would live in a very, very scary place - a place where the rights of the minority could be revoked by the majority at any time, for any reason.

I'm sorry to rant for so long on this, but it's important. The narrow-minded bigots who advocate for those kinds of "Christian Nation" and "if you don't like it, move" positions are attacking our fundamental values. They are trying to remake the country in their own twisted image, and they are trying to remake it as something far different from the Republic that the signers of the Constitution worked so hard and risked so much to establish.

Unfortunately, it really seems like those ignorant, jingoistic fools are becoming more common. At a minimum, they're becoming more vocal, and in our modern media world that can sometimes amount to the same thing. Franklin was right - we have a republic only as long as we can keep it.

We're going to need to work at that, I'm afraid. That's why groups, like the ACLU, that are willing to stand up for the rights of the minority are so critical right now. They provide a voice to people who are willing to fight the majority to protect their rights. Without them, it would be much, much easier for the majority to act like a tyrant.
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