The tour guide at Independence Hall knew how to warm up the crowd. “What states have you come from to visit us here today?” “Missouri!” “New York!” “Minnesota!” We called out, mentally hi-fiving each other as we proudly called our names. Then, she shifted gears. “Who is here from another nation?” “Japan.” “Britain.” “Russia.” She stepped up to the last man and practically begged him for more. “What brought you here today?” Slowly, in halting English, the man from Russia proudly and carefully produced his words. “This is the birthplace of Freedom. This is where Freedom began.”
The previously bubbly Americans were silent and respectful the whole tour. This wasn’t just our hallowed hall, this was our gift. This was what made us a truly great nation.
On this Independence Day the birthplace of freedom stands divided as it has not been for a long time. We are at each other’s throats, fighting and scrapping for every small victory. No tour guide could shut us up and make us respectful – this is personal. What got us to this point?
We have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten our great gift. We have forsaken our soul.
One prominent theme came out of the 2016 election – voters are ready for change. A near majority was excited enough by the idea to actually vote for a narcissist with no rational plan at all. Are voters simply stupid?
In a democracy, you always get the government you deserve. No matter how you may feel about that, it remains true that Vox Populi, Vox Dei – the voice of the people is the voice of God, a sentiment first developed by radical Whig reformers in Scotland 300 years ago.
For those of you who favor the short version, skipping a journey through history, voters aren’t stupid. They may be badly informed and even more badly led, but they are onto something. America is clearly adrift. The essential guiding philosophy is obvious, given a little distance provided by history and the experience of hungrier developing nations. But in the bizzy here and now, what does that mean in terms of politics?
I am behind in far too many things, so I hope you don’t mind a repeat from 2011. It’s a question I still find very important.
There are times when it seems as through the world is falling apart. The power of nations and their armies, which has only become greater through the last two generations, seems paralyzed to act in the face of growing unrest and demands for freedom around the world. The best solutions to the frozen uncertainty seems to be in nature, a life closer to the farm and organic. Imagination and the power of the human mind offers another way out once it is unleashed and free to take on the established regimes.
This summary not only describes today, but the world around 220 years ago at the start of what became known as the Romantic Era. It wasn’t romance in the way we usually use the term today, but instead a belief in the power of individuals and their natural instincts. Understanding the movement and where it came from can give us a few clues where we might be going today.
Thanksgiving is a truly great American holiday. It is a time when people from all over the world blend their traditions into one religious holiday celebrated by Christians, Jews, Moslems, and every other faith alike. To give thanks is universal, and what better way to celebrate deliverance to a land that to many is indeed the Promised Land.
But why is it in November? The very first day of Thanksgiving was held right after the harvest, on a day very similar to the Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12th. Why is it on a Thursday? The answer is that the nation itself was delivered from the horrors of war and recognized by the Treaty of Paris, owing a bit of time for the time it takes to cross the Atlantic and bring the joyous news. It was indeed a time to be thankful – but the story has the Hand of Providence all over it.
Two score and Ten years ago today a crowd descended upon Washington. They were assembled as a movement that traversed the South with Freedom Riders, sat-in at segregated lunch counters, and refused to move to the back of the bus. It was a black crowd that filled the Mall that day, but it was also a white crowd as well. It was an American crowd. The movement crystalized into a moment when Dr. Martin Luther King spoke.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But the threads of history ran deeper than that moment, as Dr. King explained.
There are basically two types of Democratic-Republics in the world – Parliamentary, or a Prime Minister led government, and a strong President based system. Hybrids of various kinds involving monarchs and other systems with varying degrees of power abound, but every democratically elected government in the world falls into one of these categories. The person who shows up at the international conferences has one of these titles.
But is that the only way to go? The situation in Egypt, among other places, has led me to wonder if there is some way a nation with a history and tradition of strong leadership might do better under a system of more than one nationally elected leader with defined roles and a real balance of power between them. I call it an “Elected Cabinet”, and the inspiration comes from the laboratories of democracy, the US States.