Posted by: Dr Churchill | May 27, 2019

“A Republic if you can keep it” Memorial Day Civil War Thoughts…

When at the end of the American Constitutional Convention that lasted from May 25th of 1787 all the way to September 17th of 1787, these outrageous and unreasonable men resolved to form a new type of government for America, they rushed home with a simple goal in mind:

How to keep this new form of government alive for the long term, past the usual lifespan of Democracies, Republics, and Empires, usually lasting for a century and a half, and up to two centuries at a maximum.

And this anxiety for the long term viability of what they termed this American Experiment, is best demonstrated by Dr Benjamin Franklin who when asked about the outcome of the Constitutional Convention, by an elderly widow and a group of citizens, he replied — “A Republic if you can keep it.”

“A Republic if you can keep it.”

And thus while today we are once again doubtful of our ability to keep the Republic alive and united — we need to also stop simply marveling at the extraordinary accomplishment of our Founding Fathers, because their own reaction to the draft of the proposed US Constitution, when it was presented to them for their signatures, was also considerably less enthusiastic than that of Dr Benjamin Franklin, who was doing his St Paul impersonation in selling the “Vision” of a crowdsourced system of governance built with some safety valves for venting off steam from the pressure cooker that the Republican Democracy always builds up to the point of explosion…

Now, old Dr Ben Franklin, being the eternal optimist, even at the age of 81, gave what was for him a remarkably restrained assessment in his final speech before the Constitutional Convention saying that … “When you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.”

I would add to that “and their personal creeds of ideology, their various faiths, and their partisan politics” because those things were omitted by Dr Franklin in his erudite speech, since they were not so prevalent back then.

And because obviously, Dr Franklin thought it impossible to expect a “perfect production” from such a gathering, but he believed that the Constitution they had just drafted, “with all its faults,” was better than any alternative that was likely to emerge.

Nearly all of the delegates harbored objections, but persuaded by Franklin’s logic, they put aside their misgivings and affixed their signatures to it. Their over-riding concern was the tendency in nearly all parts of the young country toward disorder and disintegration. Americans had used the doctrine of popular sovereignty – “democracy” – as the rationale for their successful rebellion against English authority in 1776. But they had not yet worked out fully the question that has plagued all nations aspiring to democratic government ever since: how to implement principles of popular majority rule while at the same time preserving stable governments that protect the rights and liberties of all citizens.

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Few believed that a new federal constitution alone would be sufficient to create a unified nation out of a collection of independent republics spread out over a vast physical space, extraordinarily diverse in their economic interests, regional loyalties, and ethnic and religious attachments. And there would be new signs of disorder after 1787 that would remind Americans what an incomplete and unstable national structure they had created: settlers in western Pennsylvania rebelled in 1794 because of taxes on their locally distilled whiskey; in western North Carolina there were abortive attempts to create an independent republic of “Franklin” which would ally itself with Spain to insure its independence from the United States; there was continued conflict with Indians across the whole western frontier and increased fear of slave unrest, particularly when news of the slave-led revolution in Haiti reached American shores.

But as fragile as America’s federal edifice was at the time of the founding, there was much in the culture and environment that contributed to a national consensus and cohesion: a common language; a solid belief in the principles of English common law and constitutionalism; a widespread commitment (albeit in diverse forms) to the Protestant religion; a shared revolutionary experience; and, perhaps most important, an economic environment which promised most free, white Americans if not great wealth, at least an independent sufficiency.

The American statesmen who succeeded those of the founding generation served their country with a self-conscious sense that the challenges of maintaining a democratic union were every bit as great after 1787 as they were before. Some aspects of their nation-building program–their continuing toleration of slavery and genocidal policies toward American Indians – are fit objects of national shame, not honor. But statesmen of succeeding generations, with President Abraham Lincoln foremost among them, would continue the quest for a “more perfect union.”

Such has been our success in building a powerful and cohesive democratic nation-state in post-Civil War America that most Americans today assume that principles of democracy and national harmony somehow naturally go hand-in-hand. But as we look around the rest of the world in the post-Soviet era, we find ample evidence that democratic revolutions do not inevitably lead to national harmony or universal justice. We see that the expression of the “popular will” can create a cacophony of discordant voices, leaving many baffled about the true meaning of majority rule. In far too many places around the world today, the expression of the “popular will” is nothing more than the unleashing of primordial forces of tribal and religious identity which further confound the goal of building stable and consensual governments.

And now, as we look at the state of our federal union 232 years after the Founders completed their work, there is cause for satisfaction that we have avoided many of the plagues afflicting so many other societies, but this is hardly cause for complacency. To be sure, the US Constitution itself has not only survived the crises confronting it in the past, but in so doing, it has in itself become our nation’s most powerful symbol of unity–a far preferable alternative to a monarch or a national religion, the institutions on which most nations around the world have relied. Moreover, our Constitution is a stronger, better document than it was when it initially emerged from the Philadelphia Convention. Through the amendment process (in particular, through the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments), it has become the protector of the rights of all the people, not just some of the people.

On the other hand, the challenges to national unity under our Constitution are, if anything, far greater than those confronting the infant nation in 1787. Although the new nation was a pluralistic one by the standards of the 18th century, the face of America in 1998 looks very different from the original: we are no longer a people united by a common language, religion or culture; and while our overall level of material prosperity is staggering by the standards of any age, the widening gulf between rich and poor is perhaps the most serious threat to a common definition of the “pursuit of happiness.”

The conditions that threaten to undermine our sense of nationhood, bound up in the debate over slavery and manifested in intense sectional conflict during the pre-Civil War era, are today both more complex and diffuse. Some of today’s conditions are part of the tragic legacy of slavery–a racial climate marked too often by mutual mistrust and misunderstanding and a condition of desperate poverty within our inner cities that has left many young people so alienated that any standard definition of citizenship becomes meaningless. More commonly, but in the long run perhaps just as alarming, tens of millions of Americans have been turned-off by the corrupting effects of money on the political system. Bombarded with negative advertising about their candidates, they express their feelings of alienation by staying home on election day, and on Memorial day too…

And if there is a lesson in all of this, it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document.

Instead it requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.

So what is wrong with our people today always seeking to divide ourselves in sections of outrage, hate and incivility?

Have we become too stupid in our minds, to be able to support a cohesive Union and a Republican Democracy, that we promised 232 years ago to KEEP IT?

I don’t know…

Yet I see that horror in the faces of the Americans I’ve met today walking around the Fort Lawton cemetery of the war dead… that is decked out with little flags for all the fallen n American soldiers throughout. And I’ve come to give a small speech but got rather emotional about the lack of flags for the two graves of the “other” fallen that have come to rest in this welcoming veteran’s cemetery since 1944…

And since today, I’ve witnessed acts of devotion in this hallowed ground towards all of our fallen with small flags fluttering in the wind and often flowers, placed in front of all the graves, honoring all the grave markers — I have also seen the lack of flags for the gravestones of the “others” buried in the same cemetery.

The foreign soldiers.

These “others” being the POWs who shared their bodies to fertilize our own soil, and have lain here amongst our bravest and greatest luminous stars who gave up their lives and all of their tomorrows to protect our todays.

So, I walked up to those graves of the foreign POWs and planted our American Union flags on the moist earth next to their headstone as a real clear memory of all the war dead.
It was then that the caretaker of the cemetery walked up to me and asked me why I was planting American flags on these foreign graves?

Yet soon enough with moist eyes — he could not fail to agree with my answering reason.

Because I simply told him that these foreigners deserved the same memory and honors, as all the other fallen heroes across the vast cemetery, because for one thing, they’ve been here long enough (interned since 1944) on this all too American field of honor, that they are now fully American, and for another — it is our inclusion that makes us a UNION.

And there is nothing more American than this…

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And the “others” also need to be remembered, because although they fought on opposite sides — it always takes two to tango — and after all we are all human beings, and we all carry our eternal souls in our dreams, same as the other Americans who fought for the Confederacy in the last Civil War.

And that moment, my friend, has much to teach us about the future of our shaky UNION today…

Because all of our soldiers in the last Civil War and in all other wars, sacrificed their lives for all of us — so we best keep this Republic going for a while longer, even if it takes a bit of effort to stay civil with each other and if not able to LOVE, at least LET LIVE and NOT HATE those who happen to have different color of ideas, or different skin color of political views, or different race of beliefs.

So my friends stop being RACISTS in your political maelstrom, and become civil with each other again, unless you want a Civil War to engulf your country and risk planting yourself and your children, in this moist green earth forever.

So I reckon that what is required of the rest of us is a small sacrifice to keep our Republican Democracy vibrant and alive.

“United we stand” is a familiar aspiration.

But “divided we fall” is the actual secret of America.

With all our diversity, in all our languages, in all of our colorations of belief, skin, and ideology — we should all agree on one big idea. And that Big Idea is that we are all woven into the fabric of our nation and we ought to keep it from being torn asunder.

Because it’s time to see that the tears for the fallen in our Republic’s Civil Wars, are indeed the tares in the fabric of our national tapestry of historical authenticity. And as we are reminded in this cemetery — our continued existence is not a right, but a privilege that each of has to be willing to earn, with minds that are skeptical but open, and hands ready to work and willing to embrace each other, even if it is just in order to avoid the looming CIVIL WAR.

Keep in mind that the very flag that we say that we honor, is the icon of compromise, and only when we all accept that, we can see our fellow citizens of liberal and conservative or independent views, as people of different colored skin, and thus protected from your latent & all to personal yet offensive RACISM.

Nobody is immune to tares of our national cloth, but we would also need to join hands in common purpose to repair those tares in the blue fabric filled with stars which is, after all, called, “the union” and is accented with our loving stripes of national honor.

So when you are mesmerized by the politics of hate in the news — please shiut them down and stop recklessly tugging at the threads that hold us together, because today’s liberals, independents, and conservatives, know all too well how to barricade themselves in digital citadels where some self hating, and hate spewing media, with calculated bias, assure their viewers that our country is already in the throes of the Civil War.

Don’t you believe them for a moment.

The idea that the Civil War is here and now, is completely incorrect.

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But if we wall ourselves in castles of confirming information, I fear a new Civil War. This time, a real civil war with nukes and all. And it is going to be a war that will turn the whole earth into a vast graveyard…

Given this danger, why do both major parties promote almost nothing but divisive scandals and hate towards each other?

Because it is so much easier than dealing with real problems, like health insurance, militarism, or immigration reform.

And as ersatz politicians always fear taking on the actual challenges that would require hard work, listening to people, drafting thoughtful legislation, and spending blood, sweat & tears towards the always distant view of a more perfect union — we end up receiving simple chimeras and mirages instead of Manna from up above, fit to feed our Nation.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

But whose fault is this?

Obviously not the fault of the politicians…

Really.

The Constitution was written on the premise that “We the people” would be hard-working citizens.

But, by and large, we don’t study the issues. Politicians lie because we don’t know the facts.

They dangle shiny new scandals because we allow ourselves to be mesmerized. We’re asked to vote in federal elections once every two years – and half of us cannot find the time.

How is that for keeping up the promise to Dr Franklin, and the other unreasonable men of our founding days of the Constitution of 1787 about “A Republic if you can keep it”?

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And how is the speech of Abraham Lincoln titled: “A house divided against itself cannot stand” delivered on June 16, 1858 in front of more than 1,000 delegates who had met in the Springfield, Illinois statehouse, in order to hear him speak — not a familiar concept to us today, as it was to then candidate Lincoln’s audience, as a statement first uttered by none other but Jesus Christ, the son of God and our Saviour, as recorded by all three synoptic gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

And why do we expect to avoid the consequences of such behaviors today as those that led to the Civil War in the days of honest Abe Lincoln, the prescient President who had foreseen the ravages of the looming Civil War and the tempest of division looming large in the clouds up ahead as he was accepting the nomination of his Republican party that was the Independent party of his day and himself was clearly the “Third Party Candidate” vying to defeat and unseat the two powerful candidates, of the Two Leading Political Parties of the 1860s — the Democrat party (Pro-Slavery, Southern Plantation, Conservative) and the Whig party (Liberal, Northern, Aristocratic) — who were well financed and very much supported by that Era’s powerful establishment?

And if another Civil War is looming up ahead as part of our national destiny, then why can’t we shake-off the feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair, that the two main “Arsonists” (the two political parties) of today, “burn it all down” by sowing division, throwing firebombs, and lighting gasoline fires, inside the crowded national theater of the “American Body Politic” as only the Independents of today (The Lincoln Party) are the ones trying to douse the flames as the lone firefighters?

Why don’t more of you join the firefighting brigades of the Lincoln party to extinguish the flames of hate and discord and to bring about the bucket brigades to douse the tinders and to help save our fellow citizens from the awful conflagration?

Or is it that the two main “National Arsonists” the Democrats and the Republicans, truly want to enlarge the Veterans’ cemeteries by 1000fold in another iteration of this all too un-civil conflagration, that we politely term “Civil War” and whose last occurrence filled these cemeteries where we memorialize and honor once again today, on May 27th 2019, the Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War, that harvested almost a million souls from the salt of the earth American people on both sides of the political spectrum in the short four years, between April 12th of 1861 and April 9th of 1865?

Is that awful destiny going to be our future once again?

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