A few days ago, while enjoying a great cup of coffee, and viewing news clips on “current” events, I recognized a common theme among some news sites, and felt they needed addressing.
Our constitution, and some of the founding fathers of this nation and framers of our constitution were coming under fire. Most of what I observed, if not all (trying really hard to be… “complimentary”) demonstrated a surprising level of ignorance. It seems, according to some major media sources, that we’ve suddenly developed a need to “burn it all down”, referring to our Constitution and Bill of Rights… We are being told there’s a “need” to replace impartial “Equal Justice under Law 1″ with some type of Social Justice 2; A “justice” which depends upon feelings, a desire for revenge, or a “you earned more than me… gimme some” gunpoint-mentality, over search for truth, and appropriate consequences. First, let’s be clear… Social justice is not justice! It’s an idea promulgated by those whom it will give social superiority, and control over to others. It’s an “old, re-clothed” idea from socialism.
Here’s a couple examples of how it works:
As one of my grand-nieces moved from second grade on through elementary school she entered in summer reading competition. This competition required “proof” of the number of books read by requiring completion of tests on the subject matter of each book declared to have been read. My grand-niece aced all tests on books she read. After the fourth year of winning, her social justice oriented teachers had a ‘discussion’ with her. She was told that she would be forbidden to enter any more competition because she “always” won, and ‘others’ deserved to win… wow! So, then… the other students no longer needed to strive to be better… while my grand-niece was, at the same time, ‘punished’ for being the ‘Apex’ reader. It’s been over ten years now, and her reading record has never been surpassed… and… she has never forgotten the ‘insult’ of being targeted and punished for her willingness to work to be the best.
That’s a small example of what the social atmosphere at our schools, elementary through University, has become. My personal experience, as a father with my youngest son at a private school was also very… enlightening. JD, my youngest, involved in Martial arts, was in the habit of doing sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups, during recess, and, after speaking out in defense of a girl who was being picked on, was targeted by a trio of brothers (twin) and their cousin. They were bullies, and ‘ran’ the playground. The teachers/monitors present somehow were willing to ignore the boys behavior! I’m sure it had nothing to do with the “high social status” and wealth displayed by the boys parents… JD came home and complained to his mom, and she told me about it. She insisted that JD go to the “Authorities”, and let them handle the boys. He did, but the outcome was very negative. Someone told the boys that JD had “ratted” them out; JD became the ‘enemy’ and the treatment of him became worse. My wife called and addressed the problem with his teacher, but again, it brought negative results.
I sat down with JD and discussed the issue. He had done everything asked of him and more, in the name of peace, but the trio of boys, who were a couple of grades ahead of JD, and clearly bigger, were pushing him and hitting him. The playground monitors never seemed to see it, and JD was becoming increasingly frustrated and angry over the injustice, because even when his friends complained… nothing…was done. I asked JD to go talk to the monitor one more time and if that didn’t help, I told him he had my permission to defend himself… He complained, the monitor did nothing, and subsequently… I got a call with an urgent request to go to school to pick up my son and meet with the school Director. JD had thoroughly whipped the three boys, and the monitor and teachers were just… horrified! “How could my boy be so…brutal??!”
With a peace officer present, I carefully stepped through what had been going on. Under questioning the ‘cousin’ in the trio admitted they had targeted JD, and the cousin, apologized. I was in military uniform, and a 1st Sergeant, and some of the teachers seemed clearly upset that I was present. I got a distinct impression that I, and therefore my son, was “the Enemy”. The issue was resolved with just a bit more discomfort. After a couple weeks consideration, I forfeited a $3k semester fee, removed my son, and got him enrolled in a different school. What surprised me about this misadventure, was the willingness of the teachers to show so much favoritism towards the older twins, ignoring their misbehavior, while at the same time demanding that JD be kicked out of “their” school for defending himself, when it was their job to oversee playground behavior! JD became a social justice victim, by defending himself! In a social justice oriented society, you cannot defend yourself, no matter the circumstances, because that is someone else’s job if and when they can get to it – taking their job is a far more serious offense… Social Justice is not justice!
So now, a progressive, social everything, oriented part of our nation wants to destroy our nation’s history, and rewrite it in a way that transfers wealth, status, and power to a select few who claim to be better and know better than any of the rest of this nation’s peoples. Why would we want that? What do we want to do about it? This notion is nothing more than (progressive) Liars and Crooks offering up a false “new” deal… remember the statement, “… ya gotta vote for it to see what’s in it!…” ? Was it really a good …deal?
Our Constitution’s Framers, and great Leaders are worth keeping as a valid part of our History, even though we might not agree with every aspect of how they lived… furthermore we cannot, must not, judge them against “today’s” understanding or wisdom. We need to instead, work to understand the contextual aspect of their decisions and lifestyle. Why don’t we start by writing a bit about one of our nations forefathers and framers of our marvelous Constitution. There are many of you who are better educated (than me), and whose scholastic ability would be well-served in helping those whom have not had the opportunity in high schools to study the “Problems of Democracy”, or backgrounds involved in forming our nation’s constitutional framework! Please, allow me to start with Benjamin Franklin…
“The body of B. Franklin, Printer; Like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, And stript of its lettering and gilding, lies here, food for worms, But the work shall not be wholly lost, For it will, as he believ’d., appear once more, In a new and more perfect edition, corrected and amended by the author.”
The quote and epitaph, is his. He wrote it! He was an incredible scholar and scientist, who was also… a common man!
He grew up in a society where slavery was, acceptable, but matured, changed and became outspoken against it. As he did, he also showed remarkable intuition in understanding that freeing slaves wouldn’t be enough. He recognized a free society’s responsibility to all people, and became a spokesman for the Indian, as well. If we simplistically and shallowly look at Ben Franklin as corrupt and evil because he “owned” slaves, then ‘erase’ him from our history, I believe we will do ourselves and our nation a great injustice and disservice!
Ben Franklin was also a philosopher. It has been observed that he wasn’t too scrupulous, used a common-sense pursuit of truth, dressed plainly, enjoyed good music, fine cuisine, wine and women. He had compassion and regard for the sick and was one of the founders of the First Philadelphia Hospital. He grew to believe slavery was wrong, was one of nations first abolitionists, and remained always outspoken on the indecency of slavery and cruelty towards Indians. He believed in temperance, or moderation in all things and followed as much as possible, “The Golden Rule”. He, as a statesman-philosopher, believed that man was basically good, but he also recognized that man certainly has a baser side to his nature, and had wisdom enough to use that understanding when participating as one of the framers to our Constitution.
Ben Franklin’s resourcefulness was beyond question and he was a powerful and prolific writer! He was a printer, a successful printer. He was a humorist and satirist, as these writings – Poor Richard’s Almanac, The Silence Dogood Letters, and Busy-Body, readily demonstrate! He taught himself French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin. He founded the first Volunteer Fire Company and invented the ‘Franklin Stove’. He helped found the University of Pennsylvania and the first Philadelphia Hospital. He supported and encouraged street lighting and public cleaning of streets. He was world renowned for his experiments in electricity, and designed the first Lightning Rods. He has been called the first American Diplomat, and was the negotiator between Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the English. He became a delegate to the Continental Congress and Commissioner to France. He was President of Pennsylvania and President of First Abolition Society.
Ben Franklin was a successful, world recognized businessman, statesman, inventor, scientist, philosopher, civic leader and author. He was an active member of the Society of Arts, Royal Society of London, received an Honorary PhD in Law from University of St. Andrews, and an Honorary PhD of Civil Law from Oxford. He mapped the Gulf Stream… Quoting “American Heroes” by G.W. Jonson with a bit of my own paraphrasing (in parenthesis) “Franklin in his whole career symbolizes a break with the past (to include Slavery) and symbolizes the upsurging energies of Democracy” (to include Freedom for All)! He was also a good musician, and invented the Glass Harmonica for which both Mozart and Beethoven composed music.
John Adams noted that Franklin was an incredibly busy man and commented that the daily life of Dr. Franklin “… as being a … scene of continual dissipation” (215)4. Adams wrote that when he was in (France) with Arthur Lee and Franklin that, “… as soon as breakfast was over, a crowd of carriages came to his … lodgings, with all sorts of people… philosophers, academicians and economists.” He further explained that Franklin, although 80 years old seldom went to bed before midnight!
To me, Franklin’s Code of Ethics readily shows a man willing to move away from what he begins to understand as ‘unhealthy choices’ towards a better way of living.
He didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that slavery of a people, any people, was wrong! He grew to understand it by study and thought. Ben Franklin noted, “Human felicity (happiness, or progress) is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little (step by step) advantages that occur every day”, he wrote. Then he went on to say, ” It is true that, if you can climb and get to the top of a staircase without using the steps, you will more easily gain them in descending; but certainly, if you begin with the lowest you will with more ease ascend to the top.”
Around 1728, and in his twenties, Franklin published an Essay on his Beliefs and acts of religion. Some of the statements in his Essay follows. They are interesting and indicate the type of person he was developing into as he matured. I find it interesting and encouraging, to see that he really worked to follow what he had written. He also modified some of his statements as he aged, in a way that demonstrates the step by step progress of understanding and thought that occurs as we age. Our nation is… the same way. Shouldn’t we give it a chance, rather than “…burning it all down?”
Franklin’s System of Ethics:
- “That I may be loyal… faithful to my country”
- “That I may avoid and abhor deceit and envy, fraud, flattery and hatred, malice, lying and ingratitude.”
- “That I may be sincere in friendship, faithful in trust, and impartial in judgement, watchful against pride, and against anger (that momentary madness).”
- “That I may be just in all my dealings, and temperate in my pleasures, full of candor and ingenuity, humanity and benevolence.”
- “That I may be honest and openhearted, gentle, merciful and good…”
- “That I may possess integrity and evenness of mind, resolution in difficulties, and fortitude under affliction…”
His statement,”That I may possess Integrity…” Reminds me of Webster’s Definition on that principle, “Integrity… is the wholeness or completeness of something”, Webster states, and I want to add, “or someone”, because it is certain that Ben Franklin had a wholeness or completeness of character. He wasn’t born that way, and only got there through a step by step process. His character is verified, not through his words, but by his actions, and the words of praise, and respect of his fellow countrymen, and also through the high esteem those of other countries held for him!
The impact that this man’s thinking, resourcefulness, inventiveness and legal talent has had upon our nation is unquestionable.
John Marshall, as Chief Justice stated that our “Constitution was intended to endure for ages to come… to provide for exigencies, which if seen at all… can be best provided for as they occur”, he was speaking of Ben Franklin and his fellow framers of our Constitution, and an ongoing process of maturation! He was speaking of a group of men that represented the common American man. These men were the epitome of the American experience. They were the result of the continuing maturation of the Puritans and Pilgrims, the Separatists and nonconformists of the earlier generations. They were the result of perhaps two centuries of coalescing thought, starting with the time of reformation. They had learned to think things through, to have a constancy in thinking despite the tough political climate, and they certainly didn’t believe in planned obsolescence! The Constitution, his experiments with electricity, attention to civic duties and public services and his inventions are examples of the lasting influence and impact that Ben Franklin’s particular and uncommonly sane, artistic genius has had on the American experience.
A final thought; IF we read carefully, and research historical letters and documents (see De Tocqueville) we can see within the framework of the constitution and the amendments that followed… a grave concern that our citizens needed to understand in a step by step manner (education and knowledge passed from one generation to the next) that slavery was unhealthy, but at the same time needed to be addressed as each succeeding generation understood a little more about how unjust it was. To do so all at once would almost certainly have caused this nation’s collapse! Why would we, really, want to destroy something meant to help all of our citizens?
In writing, the intention was not to do a full essay but rather to offer up a taste that might… encourage the reader to look for more and learn on their own the healthy ideas behind our Constitution, Declaration, and Bill of Rights! What rests at the heart of true Justice is a desire of good for all of this nation’s people… not just for some of them, and true liberty and justice represented by America’s foundational documents is based on hundreds of years of desires for true Liberty and Justice sought by thousands of people… people who died for that goal, that ‘We the People’ might all enjoy true freedom… Let’s not burn it down or throw it away!
1 Engraved on the west pediment of the Supreme Court Building; this phrase was first coined in 431 BCE by Pericles, in a Funeral Oration I believe
2 During the early 1900’s the idea of social justice was embedded in international law ; the International Labour Organization stated “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” “WikikpediA, on Social Justice
3. American Heroes, G.W. Johnson – 1941
4. The Book of Abigail and John, Massachusetts Historical Society – 1975
5. Franklin, Autobiography & Writings, Literary Classics, Inc. – 1987
Additional note: “The Annals of American History*” by Encyclopedia Britannica and Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” are two essential collections that discuss and show, through reference and actual (Encyclopedia) photos* of documents and correspondence, the hearts and desires of our nations founders for equality for all people.