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As I write this on the July 4th holiday, 2012, it occurs to me that Thomas Jefferson is surely spinning in his grave.
When he and the other Founding Fathers created this nation 236 years ago today, their vision was of a society in which "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
At the same time, they recognized that a true democracy requires an informed electorate. In a letter to William Charles Jarvis in 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."
Instead, today our politicians are working to undermine public education and other institutions of opportunity for the poor and the middle class, and instead indoctrinate the masses via corporate funded political propaganda. That is plutocracy, not democracy.
Jefferson foresaw this possibility, and railed against it, saying:
"I hope we shall crush ... in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
In identifying this possibility, however, I doubt that Jefferson ever imagined that a Supreme Court decision would give free rein to "the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations" to "challenge our government to a trial of strength..." The Citizens United case enshrined as constitutional the corrupt ideal that money is power. Again, what we have here now is plutocracy, not democracy.
Jefferson is also famous for his concept of a "wall of separation between Church and State." I wonder what he would think of the fact that politicians all across the nation are trying to legislate religious "morality" in everything from contraception to marriage rights. That is theocracy, not democracy.
Two years ago, to add insult to injury, the Texas Board of Education decided to stop teaching that state's children about Jefferson's views. Apparently the ideas that led to the holiday they are celebrating today are just too radical for our children to consider.
And I don't think they even see the irony in it.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail: email@example.com
Walking into any “court” of late one might have a distinct impression that one has walked into a monarch's domain. The rule of law only applies at the discretion of the monarch. And that would be the judge sitting in that particular court.
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