By Shelli Dawdy
This is part one of a two part piece.
The Lincoln Journal Star featured a piece in their Independence Day edition entitled “Whose Side Are the Founding Fathers On?” The piece was written with a bottom-line message: there’s no clear answer. It’ll be a topic of perpetual debate.
According to the article, the Founders were shrewd politicians who cobbled together a bunch of compromises to solve the problems of their day. The thinly veiled subtext is that there was nothing special about the founding of America, it has no relevance today, and in fact, its basis was morally murky because slavery was accepted.
The Founding? Move along, folks, NOTHING to see there.
Perhaps, the worst thing about the article is its “hard-sell” on the notion that the basic philosophies influencing the Founding are so very arguable. It will always be a source of perpetual debate to which there can never be any clear answers.
The meaning of the Founding? Move along, folks – it’s a muddle.
We must move along. The progress of history demands it.
Of course, this point of view can be as seemingly inane as what I’m finding to be frequent these days – a truth seeking conversation with a person 25 years old or younger. They almost always end with such statements as, “What is truth?” There’s never a clear answer. Some people are motivated to regard the Founding as Version 1.0 Beta of a political software program that’s on Version 25 and the hardware’s changed. It’s the same thinking that the only good books were written in the last two years. Wig-wearing white men and their ideas from over two hundred years ago have gone the way of the 8-track tape.
Too many with this “move-on” mentality are those who’ve held power in federal, state, and local governments for far too long. It’s a point of view that demands progress. In order to progress, we must move beyond those dated documents formulated via the oh-so-familiar sausage factory of compromise by politicians whose morality, ala slavery, was perhaps even more questionable than the politicians of our day.
If we can relegate the Founders, and far more importantly, the results of their efforts – our Declaration of Independence and Constitution – to the ash heap of history, then we can really make some progress.
Whether the object is to have the matter forever relegated to perpetual debate, have our politics deemed sufficiently upgraded, or to remove obstructions to progress, people with these points of view roll out a familiar list of arguments. Prime among them is ensuring that people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are all designated at best to be flawed yet shrewd politicians, at worst, immoral slavery proponents. Another argument made is the assertion that spirituality had no place in the Founding. And yet another is totally muddling up the timelines and facts of history.
To be continued. The next part of this piece will further explore arguments used to tear down America’s Founders and Founding.