Warnings from the 1780s

The course of time is such that we always find ourselves at a crossroads. Unfortunately, we rarely know which route to take. We end up choosing what we think is the easiest, or let somebody else choose for us. We forget that every choice we make influences the future of humanity. Or perhaps, we no longer care.

It was not always so. In the 1780s, our responsibility to human progress was very much on the minds of people. Alexander Hamilton once wrote:

"It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race."

Although he spoke during turbulent times in the early history of the United States, his observation remains as true today as it was back then. The only difference is that during his time a number of remarkable individuals seized the moment to establish grand opportunities, while today, most of us lack any inspiration for the greater good. Instead, we have sheepishly surrendered ourselves and our democracy to ideological tyrants of the soul.

There are few true patriots to be found in today's leadership, where corruption is not only endemic but deemed an indispensable part of the system. I differentiate by saying "true patriots," because real patriotism, the kind on which our nation was built, demanded more than self-praise, resistance to change, and surrendering our values for something less. The result of our inaction is a system of government scarcely able to function except for the privileged few. We see potential leaders not knowing how to respond when one or two in their midst deviate from the usual game, revealing how shallow they really are.

The present state of American politics, at the national level at least, shames us all. We have failed the dreams and aspirations of our founders with apathy and willful ignorance. I say "willful ignorance," because our founders themselves warned us what could happen. James Madison, our fourth president, published these quotes even before the US Constitution was ratified:

"How often the great interests of society are sacrifice to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals."

"It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of [them]."

"Unanimity is not to be expected in any great political question: that the danger is probably exaggerated on each side, when an opposite danger is conceived on the opposite side."

Hamilton added his concerns, well-describing what we have seen in Congress for years now:

"Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those they dislike… Opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty… They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments."

"The most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."

"We well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on."

Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts delegate at the Constitutional Convention, presented a dark assessment that we should consider while looking into the mirror:

"The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. People do not want virtue; but are the dupes of pretended patriots."

Is this true? Ask yourself: Do we not want from virtue to our lives and our and system of government? As we listen to malicious political speeches, or talk radio, are we willingly allowing ourselves to become dupes of pretended patriots by not exercising the requirements of freedom by thinking for ourselves?

History often shows that those who most vociferously spread fear and warn of tyrants, the very ones who open the door to tyranny by disrupting popular discernment of what is true.

We find ourselves, just as we always are, at a crossroads, demanding us to choose right from wrong. The correct response is to choose a society based on virtue, and a free democracy where intelligent people think for themselves, and reject the bonds of ideology. It is time to elect leaders of quality, rather than purveyors of ideological bias. As a diverse nation, we must recommit ourselves to the kind of cooperation and leads to equality and justice, and the betterment of the human condition, for which our nation was built. Let us discard the dim vanity that makes us obsess about exceptionalism, and instead, let us work to make ourselves exceptional indeed - by living up to our ideals, rather than overriding them with greed and bigotry.

This time to echo the words of Hamilton with pride and full commitment, that: it belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race.






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