Cleveland Comhrá: Happy Fourth of July!
By Bob Carney
“For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the globe, the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”- John Kennedy Inaugural Address Jan. 1961
Most years, this is a day of parades and family gatherings. Pick up baseball games, hot dogs, burgers and watermelon, fireworks, and Old Glory in prominent displays of our patriotism. Sometimes with all the preparations or traveling to all of the events we plan on this national summer holiday, we miss the opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a patriot.
Webster’s defines a patriot as “one who loves his or her country.” No one side or the other, no north or south, no east or west, no political agenda, no social or economic status. “One who loves his or her country.”
When John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1630 – 1649, gave a speech outlining the moral vision he and his fellow colonists hoped to establish in the New World, he included this passage from 1 Corinthians: If one member suffers all suffer with it; if one be in honor, all rejoice in it.
Winthrop and his contempories fled England in pursuit of religious freedom, where the English state imposed your religion on you. One hundred and twenty-five or so years later, our founding fathers had time and experience dealing with foreign rule and intervention to have a solid foundation on which to build a post revolutionary government. There was no template, no other country in the world to pattern themselves after.
They wanted their government to be localized, with local representation by elected officials who would be held acountable by written laws. Elected officials did not exist and many thought it was unwise to try such an approach. George Washington was relentlessly pressured to “take the crown” as late as 1790. Franklin observed of the elderly general’s walking stick, “If it was a sceptre, he would have merited it.”
Formation of Political Parties
Instead, the founding brothers, including Washington, set about to draft and ratify our Federal Constitution. The origins of our political parties and the extreme importance of the legal basis of our republican government are the result of that process.
The designers of this new style of government were localists and provincials, they wanted government small and close to home. They had just rid themselves of rule from 1500 miles away and had good reason to distrust a centralized North American State.
The government they created was not the immediate product of independence, but of hard work and negotiation. Written and rewritten until acceptable and just for all. It was a mix of strong principles based in localism, a belief in human equality in social and economic affairs, democracy and a rejection of monarchy, absolutism and divine right.
Thomas Jefferson thought if a farmer and a professor were given the same problem, “the farmer will decide it often better than the later, because he had not been led astray by artificial rules.” Adams agreed: “The mob, the herd and the rabble, as the Great liked to call them, were as entitled to political rights as nobles or kings.”
They realized the government was necessary to protect life, liberty and property. They also recognized the need for those in government to be kept in check by a separation of power, legislative dominance and direct representation. They knew people in government would inevitably try to accumulate and abuse power unless checked by law.
Evolution of Man
It should be noted that the majority of American Revolutionaries never envisioned citizenship for women, blacks or the indigenous people in their new government, even though they formed and lived in the most radically democratic society in the world. Just as our original flag of thirteen stars and thirteen stripes has evolved to become inclusive of all the states in our union, so too has our constitution evolved to be inclusive of all our fellow countrymen and women.
The beliefs and values of some of our fellow citizens are taking longer. It confuses me that some persons who profess to have no religious beliefs can have a more Christian approach to their fellow man than many who profess their religious values as part of their political affiliation.
Some days I long to be seventeen again, I was passionate with little knowledge about many of the things I had strong convictions about. Some of us have adhered to that mindset and are unwilling to or unable to explore the multiple sides that arise when analizing any topic. We oppress ourselves by limiting what we watch, read or listen to.
As Regards to Patriotism
Many stop at the attention grabbing opinions that we encounter that have little basis in fact, that are found on social media or one of the 24 hour news feeds. In 1900 Mark Twain wrote an essay entitled “As Regards to Patriotism.” It was penned to oppose American imperialism in the Philippines.
“The patriot did not know just how or when or where he got his opinions, neither did he care, so long as he was with what seemed the majority, which was the main thing, the safe thing, the comfortable thing. Does the reader believe he knows three men who have actual reasons for their pattern of patriotism; and can furnish them?” “ He will be likely to find that his men got their patriotism at the public trough, and had no hand in its preparation themselves.”
Twain later reflected; “It is curious, curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.”
It is our responsibility to continue in the pursuit of what our founders envisioned, bearing in mind that companies like FOX and CNN, Facebook and Twitter are for profit companies. When you click on “like or share,” the algorithims kick in to get you more of the same, much like a narcotic triggers a reaction in the addicts brain until truth and reality become a blur.
We need to become like miners panning for gold, being diligent as we sift through the dirt and check what our pan holds. Even the greatest of paintings cannot give us the same view of a place we’ve seen for ourselves. That multi-faceted view is also essential in understanding the complexities in living in a free society.
Our flag represents more than just our country and government. It represents our history, good and bad. It represents all of our people, those that wear or have worn a uniform in it’s defense, our elected officials, our laborers, our medical workers, our teachers, our first responders, our weak, our downtrodden; all of us who make America our home. It also represents our shared love of our country and its freedoms, and one of our most important freedoms, the right to dissent and stand up for what is right.
Love and peace.
*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dog orginizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org