July 4th has come and gone –and despite all of my country’s flaws, I am glad to be a citizen. There are few countries where you can step up to the stump and holler about indignities visited upon yourself and/or others; where the standard of living is high enough that one can, through education and perseverance, throw off the shackles of ignorance; we are a rich country, and a bootstrap one at that.True, we could go on at length about how America’s gains have been ill-gotten, that we as a nation have not always been at our best (or anyone’s guesstimate of best, to boot), and that there are dark underbellies to our past as well as present. We live in a state between utopia and dystopia, constantly evolving with the times (though sometimes it’s hit and miss).
It’s still a pretty great country, though.
A constant and consistent plaint from the religious side, is that things aren’t quite going the way the Founding Fathers envisioned the way it should be (it’s a continuation of the old Hume “is/ought” problem). Which is really quite amusing, as if any of these people have the slightest grasp of the dynamics of the group that formed this nation. Instead they have this idealized (fictional) version of some people who were so far above the ordinary man, they’re almost deified. There is no doubt that these men who helped found this nation were extraordinary for their times (even today, I have no doubt they would be exceptional) – but they were men. They had their flaws (Jefferson died in debt; Franklin was a bit of a lecher even into his 80’s; Paine and Adams loved their ale a bit much; the whole bunch of them actually never drank water, which they were convinced was bad for them, but were lit from dawn to dusk on grog).
For the most part, many of them were all for the Separation of Church and State (excepting Benjamin Rush, and maybe John Jay). Jefferson called it a wall, Madison termed it a ‘line’. But bring this up in a conversation with a religious person, and they’ll holler persecution, try to haul out some incomplete gibberish about what the ‘founding fathers’ intended, and whine about how people (usually ignorantly blaming the ACLU) are trying to strip religious beliefs and iconicity from our culture. When the fact of the matter is, is that the religious (read: WASPs and Catholics) have been having a field day for the last 2 centuries shoving their personal nonsenses into the public face. And of course, since none of them understand the difference between having the right to a belief as opposed to being shielded from the criticism of said belief, they tend to get upset as if it’s a personal attack.
For instance, the Ten Commandment courtroom displays are actually (surprisingly enough), recent enough to not fall under the purview of the ‘founding fathers’ umbrella. A large percent of them were put up in the 20th century. We all know about how IGWT on paper money long after these fellows passed away. The Pledge and ONUG was implemented during the Red Scare/McCarthy era. In fact, a huge percentage of the religious iconography was embedded into the culture at a much later date – again, long after all of the FF had been dead, buried, and halfway to dust.
The truth of the matter is, regardless of how much I despise religion, I would never dream nor sanction mistreatment of others based on their beliefs. Nor would I force my ideals upon them. That would be un-American. But it’s a two-way street.
My intent was not to re-interpret what was written: smarter people than I still wrestle with this issue daily. But to me, what the Founding Fathers wrote was (for the most part) unambiguous. America was meant to be secular – this is the state in which all diverse ideologies can survive and live in peace. To be partial to one, is to be biased against the others. So: no favorites. Everybody gets a seat at the table, everyone gets a say. The preference is that rationality should be the prevalent mindset, but that is still decades away, but getting closer.
So, as always: fight the good fight, shout down the madness. But never forget, as Paine once put it so eloquently, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
Till the next post, then.