Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oh Founding Fathers, Where Art Thou?

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it."

The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

The Founders risked torture and hanging by speaking out against an abusive and mentally ill King George. For those who signed the Declaration of Independence, execution was assured. They had read with passion about the early attempts at democracy; about Greece, Rome, The Ottoman Empire and how easily a tyrant could come to power. They realized how religion could easily trump an independant body of government as it had done throughout Europe. In fact, there were so many ways for this experiment to fail, that it was tantamout to insanity for anyone to pursue democracy in the first place. Never the less, the Founding Fathers chose to confront the world's greatest superpower with nothing more than a ragtag coalition of militias and virtually no money to do it with. Their key to success would be, simply put, audience participation. Without the sacrifice of the majority, active and selfless dedication from the populus, this great endeavor would surely fail; then as it will now.
But the real issue was not about the outside threat or the preceived threat from beyond. That is, after all, what gives the tyrants, the despots their blood of life. So The Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to reassure the public that a delicate system of checks and balances would be put in place to prevent any one group or individual from depriving others of their rights. The Founders rightly saw all persons as corruptible and sought to deprive any single person or group of unrestricted power.

As the years went by, the incredible risk taking, sacrifice and astounding predictions of the Fathers were forgotten. Democracy was taken for granted as a lasting, continuous, self-motivating mechanism when in fact it is tyranny that is limitless, undying and unremitting. Democracy is but fragile. It seems to me that once power is granted to the few, it will not be relinguished by any party or individual. There have been times of great awakenings when the world view has shifted. These times are usually precipitated by great disasters either natural or man-made. The American People still have the ability to shift this paradigm. Whether we do it the hard way and just let it happen or do it the right way and bring change while we can is really the essential point of contention.