Monday, October 01, 2007
“It is not that Christianity has been tried and failed. It is that it has never been tried.” G. K. Chesterton
On Saturday, I ran into Ed Begley Jr. who has a great 'green' show called "Living With Ed" on the Home and Garden Network. I also ran into Anson Williams of Happy Days' fame. He's one of my favorite people and it was so good to see him. We had co-hosted Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve Special years ago. Anson not only looks great but is the father of five daughters, ages one to eighteen! He is a director and owner of a national brand, StarMakerProducts.com which I'll talk more about in future posts. Anyway, Anson and I got to talking about the world, and he turned me onto a letter on 'Equality' from Thomas Jefferson to John Quincy Adams, which is fascinating. Anson is quite an evolved thinker and scholar now, with a special interest in our Founding Fathers.
It's always good to be reminded of what our nation stands for. In the Preamble to his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote:
"We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles & organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness."
Time Magazine: "His complete, uncompromising, and abiding commitment to the principle of human equality [is what I admire most about Jefferson]. This idea remains as radical today as it was when Jefferson first gave expression to it over two centuries ago. The idea of equality was in the air at the time, but Jefferson, a magnificent stylist, was able to bring it to life by expressing it clearly, simply, eloquently. And he connected equality to other ideas that remain equally compelling: liberty, self-government, freedom of religion.
The ideals of equality, freedom, and freedom of religion are indispensible, now more than ever. It would be instructive, for example, for both those who authorized the torture at Abu Ghraib and those who fight crusades and jihads and do unspeakable things in the name of God to read Jefferson's observations about the futility of torture, the utter ineffectiveness of coercion. "What has been the effect of coercion?" he asked. "To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
More on Jefferson and slavery below, but first, PLEASE READ THIS from Wayne Dyer:
"We’re told by those who represent us that the insurgents and the average Iraqi and Middle Easterner hate us because we stand for freedom and democracy. It’s my contention that we have it backwards. We’re hated because we fail to stand for freedom and democracy. In fact, what we do stand for is whatever is best for American financial interests. Under the Shah of Iran, freedom and democracy didn’t exist, yet we supported that regime. The Saudi royal family certainly doesn’t stand for freedom and democracy, yet we have no quarrel with them. The Emir of Kuwait is not about freedom and democracy, and he has our dying loyalty.
The average person on the streets of Iraq isn’t fooled by our occupation of their country. They hate us throughout the Middle East and the Moslem world because we care most about how to make money in foreign lands. They know it and we should know it. But we’re told that it’s our freedom and democracy that engenders this animosity toward us. Residents of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Syria, and other countries throughout the Middle East hate us vehemently because they believe that Americans simply can’t figure out how all that American oil got under their sand. They believe that we’re acting in our own self-interest and that we justify destroying their villages and killing insurgents by convincing ourselves that it’s in the name of freedom and democracy.
If all of this is blatantly untrue, and we have no monetary motives in our continual clean-up campaigns that are leaving corpses and severely wounded people by the hundreds of thousands, then let’s make an effort to communicate with those whom we’re now aimlessly killing. I ask each and every person who conducts this war under the guise of Christian principles to answer this question: How much time have you spent praying for your enemy today? Read Jesus in Matthew 5:43-44: You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Continued... JEFFERSON and SLAVERY
Don't expect history to offer us simple lessons or perfect heroes. "The most problematic thing about him was his lifelong ownership of slaves and his inability to extricate either himself or his nation from the institution of slavery. Early in his life, Jefferson opposed slavery, writing, famously, "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." But as he aged, his optimism waned, and he came to fear emancipation even more than God's wrath. Committed to equality in principle, Jefferson's practice was compromised by his racism, which is so distasteful, so repugnant to us today...This is the contrast in Jefferson, and his legacy: Words about human equality and freedom that are as fresh today as the day he wrote them, and words about racial inferiority that are so jarring that we can't read them today without feeling a profound sense of shame.
The standards by which we judge Jefferson are the ones he bequeathed us. We judge him harshly because he kept men and women in slavery, knowing that it was wrong — but it was Jefferson who told us that all people are equal, and that everyone is entitled to liberty and to human happiness. Don't expect history to offer us simple lessons or perfect heroes.
To his white family, Jefferson was both loving and manipulative. He gave them love to last a lifetime, and he left them impoverished. To his black family, he was remote but not unkind. He never acknowledged his black children, but he gave them their freedom, which is the greatest legacy that anyone born a slave ever wished for."
(The above is from Jan Lewis, Professor of History, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey)