[W]e ought to deprecate the hazard attending ardent and susceptible minds, from being too strongly, and too early prepossessed in favor of other political systems, before they are capable of appreciating their own.
—George Washington, letter to the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 1795
The basis of communication is some level of shared understanding. If you can’t speak Chinese, you’re out of luck in China unless you find someone who speaks English. This should be pretty obvious. But a shared level of understanding goes beyond just native language. Different levels of understanding are also derived from common experience, education, and faith.
The Founding Fathers sought common ground on which to build the foundation of our government. The Founders and the colonists shared the view that England’s treatment of the colonies violated their rights as free men and had become intolerable. From that shared experience, and the Founder’s knowledge of history, they drew certain first principles or basic premises they called “self evident.”
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
These ideas justified the American Revolution. They spoke to its very legitimacy and became a source of common understanding and agreement for all Americans and the basis for our system of government. It wasn’t just the Constitution and Declaration of Independence that formed the clay of common ground. The writers of the Federalist Papers and anti-Federalist Papers all contributed to aggregating the soil in which our new government would flourish – and on which we have been standing since the founding of the country.
Such shared beliefs are in short supply today. Due in large measure to a concerted effort by the education establishment to de-emphasize American history, and the efforts of much of the media to advance a leftist agenda, many people are simply ignorant of those first principles and are vulnerable to the exhortations and reinterpretations of ideologues.
While memorizing the Preamble used to be standard in schools, some publishers are now printing warning labels on the Constitution.
In a recent Washington Post article, the following sentence stands out:
Since the nation’s earliest years, some Americans have revered the Constitution as a bulwark against government expansion.
Just some Americans? The article is about constitutional studies courses that are being taught all over the country. The spin is palpable. Look at this characterization of people interested in studying the Founding fathers:
Today, reverence for the Constitution and the Founding Fathers is an important part of the militia movement.
When did “reverence for the Constitution and the Founding Fathers” become something to be looked down upon, the province of fringe militia groups? This article reflects the consensus of the Left that the Constitution is archaic and that the Founders need not be revered for their insights and sacrifices.
The American Revolution was different from all others because the rights of the individual, not the collective, are paramount. This bit of common ground has been systematically excavated from below the feet of many today – even while they are standing upon its foundation and enjoying the benefits of a system based on it.
All men are created equal – is perhaps the phrase most often “reinterpreted” by omitting its context. It does not suggest that everyone has the same abilities and the same intelligence or that all are entitled to equal possessions. The rest of the clause explains…
all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So, under the law (rights), all men are equal. These rights are intrinsic because the Creator is their source. They are inalienable – incapable of being surrendered or transferred.
In other words, the Founders were staking out as common ground the “self evident” truths of equality under the law and Creator-given inherent rights. Government does not bestow these rights, God does, a very important distinction lost in the effort to replace God with government.
This lack of common ground extends in many directions. On Tuesday, June 8, 2010, the WSJ ran a column by Daniel Klein entitled “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader“.
This article was based on a paper done on the results of a Zogby poll testing basic economic understanding of 4,835 American adults.
There were 8 questions in the poll; a lack of understanding is reflected clearly in the incorrect responses of some of the participants. Those who identified themselves as Democrats averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.
This lack of common ground is due to a deficit of understanding basic economic principles.
Many in the progressive Left are prone to forming opinions without having any real basis for them. Such a failing is not limited to the rank and file. Democratic members of congress expressed vociferous support of the health care bill without having read it.
Similarly, Eric Holder, Janet Napolitano and President Obama, condemned Arizona’s SB 1070 without having bothered to read it! Such behavior is intellectually dishonest and reveals contempt for an electorate they deem too dumb to care.
Is it possible to have a meaningful discussion with someone no longer moored in first principles?
It’s often possible to discern just how much of what is said is not the result of personal ideology but an unthinking repetition of what the left and public education have so successfully disseminated.
We are engaged in a struggle for the minds and hearts of fellow citizens. The shared premises upon which our government is based are under siege as never before. If our very foundations are destroyed, our freedoms will, in due time, also cease to exist.