Thursday, March 09, 2006

We Are All Scouts

We Are All Scouts
Be Prepared!

That's the Boy Scout motto. I also remember what a Chicago area high school coach used to tell his usually successful team back when they ruled our football division: Prior Proper Planning prevents Piss Poor Performance. Seems they had it on a poster on the way out their locker room to the home field, and like Notre Dame players, all these Catholic boys would lay a hand on it on their way out for a game or practice.

Let's look at Tom Paine's version: "Every generation is and must be competent to all the purposes which it's occasions require."

He wrote these words in 1791, in an essay called The Rights of Man.

There is a reason why we need to consider these words. Our rights are being assailed as we sit here. I posted last week about the move by some corporations to create a "toll" system on the internet. That hasn't changed. "Bush recently directed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to use 'whatever means at your disposal' to wiretap, follow, harass and investigate journalists who have published stories about the administration's illegal use of warrantless wiretaps, use of faulty intelligence and anything else he deems 'detrimental to the war on terror.'"

Welcome to freedom of the press under the Bush administration. Never mind the legality of the administration's eavesdropping, go after those that report it. Intimidate the press, which is already muzzled by profit seeking monopolies anyway. Now you know why KBR, the Halliburton subsidary, was contracted to build new dtetention centers for "immigrants" and other "threats to national security."

And as you may recall, a detainee can be whisked away without anyone being told, without charges being made, to an unspecified location for an unspecified length of time, without legal representation, as this administration has already done to at least one American citizen, as well as many others.

As most of you know, there are horror stories that continue to come out of Ohio about voting irregularities. Florida had them as well in the 2000 election. We probably all remember that during the Iraqi election, the US government established satellite stations all over the US for Iraqi voters. Care to guess what voting benefit the displaced Katrina victims get? They will have mailed to them, if they ask for it, an information packet that explains how they can get an absentee ballot. Not the ballot itself, which is another snail-mail wait.

It is getting easier to believe the words that democracy is under attack.

Those are the rights you "have" in America if you disagree with this President. Has there ever been a generation more in need of being competent to it's purposes required?

Every generation. That means that we, and by that I mean us 50 somethings, are our own generation. My parents are gone, but many of your are not. That is another generation. And then there is our kids. The third generation perhaps, still living on this planet. All three need to do their duty. For our parents perhpas that responsibility is diminishing. But we still have, in my view, two things to do. One is be prepared ourselves, and then tell our kids to be prepared themselves. In this case we need to do what Ghandi admonished: be the change you want to see.

"Every generation is...." Despite the "must be" that follows, it is interesting to note that Paine said that every generation is competent. Is this a statement of blind faith? I don't think so. Paine wasn't given to such carelessness. I think it is a reflection of the simplicity of our system as well as what the Founders trusted in their fellow human beings. Our system boils down to "we the people." As Lincoln said, " the people, for the people, of the people...." In other words, WE are the government. WE does not mean professional politicians. There are basic requirements and understandings that are needed. Hence the need for a basic education. But back when the Constitution was written, advanced degreed politicians were not the norm. Havinf an understanding of the Constitution is paramount, and through that understanding, how our government is supposed to work. Besides that, we need to know what civil service is, and have a heart for it. The reason Mr. Paine wanted frequent elections was to return office holders to the neighborhood. That kept things real "of the people." It goes a long way to eliminate special interests.

So we have this competence. We also need to be making sure that we retain it. Our common reference for this is, "Use it or lose." Are we prepared to run this country? To defend it from within? Are we an informed electorate? Let's jump back a paragraph. Have we a readable copy of the Constitution handy that we read and know? The American Bar Association and Oak Hill Publishing have great pocket copies available. We should also be familiar with the Declaration of Independence. Note in the list of greivance about King George that there are commercial as well as political reasons that they "Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do." So beside poetry at the Friday night neighborhood gathering in the coffe hose, wouldn't the Constitution make wonderful topic?

We must be competent to all the purposes....Paine thought we were already competent to some extent. Yet our world is different. But the basics remain the same despite the reams of minutia that encumber our system. Paine isn't calling us to know all the minutia. He's calling us to purposes.

So what might those be? For starters, lets read what the founding documents say. In the Declaration of Independence we read,

" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

So how easy is it for gays in our country to pursue happiness? How goes it for women now that South Dakota has passed a law designed to ultimately overthrow Roe. V. Wade? There is almost a dozen ststes with similar laws waiting in the wings. And consider that Missouri want's to make Christianity the official state religion. Apparently they haven't read the Constitution in Missouri. I say that because the ever popular Pat Robertson told George Stephanopolous on George's morning show that Hindu's and Muslims were unqualified to sit on judicial benches in America. Pat was cornered on his statements in his recent book, which he denied making. It doesn't matter if the Muslim or Hindu man was a citizen, had his degree, had passed the bar, and was a qualified individual intellectually and legally. because of his religion, he was not qualified. According to Robertson, only Christians should hold those positions.

So equality is one purpose, and in that framework, the legislation of the land should be framed as such it makes sure that everyone has equal treatment and opportunity. Currently, America is moving backward in that regard.

Our Constitution says,

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Here we have specific purposes. Justice is one. We all know the history of civil rights in this country, which is sadly still an issue. Domestic tranquility is another. This takes on braod applications. The domestic economy for one. National security for another. The above mentioned civil rights for another. Freedom of the press, religion, to gather, and the Bill of Rights that we have which enumerates many more purposes.

Let's not forget that we have the purpose of common defence. Not common domination, or imperialism, but of common defense. For example, I don't consider the 11 tunnels that have been dug under our borders since Bush took office a very functional common defence. I don't consider the locally built X-Craft of the Navy as being for the common defense. It is a craft designed to off-load an amphibious assualt team with minimal detection. So why would we need to land soldiers on our own soil? It's an offensive weapon, not defensive. And having at least 6 different carrier "strike" groups as they are called, each consisting of no leass than at least one carrier, four destroyers, and 2 cruisers hardly constitutes common defense. Now let's bring in the submarines that are armed with nuclear missles of the ICBM class. Hundreds of billions of dollars are required every year to maintain this military. It is well beyond providing for the common defense.

And then there is the purpose of securing liberty. Let's glance briefly at the subject of legislation, and in particular that of the Medicare bill that has now taken effect which provides seniors with their much needed medicines. This tparticular oiece of legislation is an example of abused liberty. The bill itself was left open well beyond the legally prescribed time limit so it's passage could be squeaked theough. It's true cost was deliberately hidden from Congress, as the lead actuary later testified. The result has been a travesty. Pharmaceuticals have no controls. Seniors are forced to make a choice they are locked into for a designated time period. They have been given a dizzying array of choices, from private insurance companies, and the result has been chaos to the point that several states have declared the need for emergency funding for the very medications this plan was designed to cover. And the controls? many predicted that the savings of this plan, touted as 10 to 25%, would be eaten up by the pharmas after they raised the prices. Which of course they did last month. And they could every hour on the hour if they so wish because the plan has no restrictions on price controls for medications. The government can't barter for prices, so the seniors eat the cost themselves. Now I ask you: How much liberty is that? Which body of our government was looking out for the liberty of it's citizens when they ramrodded this legislation through? Do you know how your representative voted for this legislation?

These are some of the purposes, and today we have occasions galore in which we need to fight for our rights. We have not achieved what America can be. We aren't even close in may regards. I would even say that we are no longer the finest economic opportunity available. That dream is fading fast in this country. It may be a sad thing that the very government we have, or more precisely, the very administration we have, is who we need to battle to attain those purposes to which we are called. But those purposes were such that men devoted their lives, their fortunes, and their honors to. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence lost everything: family and fortune. They did that so we could be where we are today. And in my opinion, we are letting that dream slip away.

We are competent, qualified, capable. That is what, by, of, and for the people means. We may need a little "exercising" to get in shape; so be it. We have many objectives towards which we can work, and those just to make sure that the very words that founded this country are true for everyone. It doesn't require that we be masters of every issue. Pick one or two. Learn them. Learn how they fit within the framework of this country's founding documents. Then be the best advocate for them you can be. That will go a long way toward being able to every occasion required by our times.


Post a Comment

<< Home