20 March 2013

Thoughts on The Founders' Thoughts

Many Americans never take time to read the seminal writings upon which our forefathers based their ideas about liberty, free enterprise, limited government and self-determination. In fact, most have never even heard that such things exist. We're too busy watching YouTube, looking at funny cat pix, hanging out on Facebook, or tweeting to bother with all that moldy-oldy stuff.

What the much more slowly-paced 18th century forefathers would think of our frenetic lifestyles and YouTube/tweeting/text-length attention spans is anybody's guess, but I think they would believe we're mad. Seriously, most have never considered how much one can accomplish if the TV is never turned on.

I believe that - upon comparing their times and pursuits with ours - the Founders would decry the hours wasted in front of the TV/idiot box/boob tube/vast wasteland, along with our smart phones, iPods, netbooks, and the 'web in general.

They would mourn the loss of time spent absorbing the classic writers such as Jefferson mentions, and wonder how it is that we learn anything at all. They would agree with Santayana that we, who have mostly failed to learn from the past, are doomed to repeat it.

If there's any doubt about that last statement, watch the national news and then compare to the 1760-1775 events in our own nation's past. I firmly believe that if we had been paying attention - and if we had not been dumbed down by the Progressive takeover of the State-run educational systems (but that's another rant, for another time) - we'd have realized more quickly what the revisionists were doing, and put a halt to it MUCH sooner.

Those of the late 18th century would also, I believe, decry the loss of written communication to and from other individuals. No e-mail, no matter how eloquently or elegantly composed, can take the place of the same words painstakingly written on paper ... and passed from the writer's hand to that of the recipient. And writing things by hand gives the writer time to consider the words being used, and - arguably - can produce a better result.

The internet has become the medium of choice for rapid dissemination of news, and of course there's a need for e-mail; I'm no Luddite. Regardless, we've lost something when one's personal thoughts are represented by pixels composed of liquid crystals or LEDs.

There are still good men and women; many of us recognize them all around us. There will always be those who choose honor and integrity over the quick and easy way. Like President Kennedy speaking of the pursuit of an expedition to the moon, some of us will always choose to do some things precisely because they are hard ... and therefore the accomplishment of those hard things will have significance. That accomplish will mean something.

For my part, reading the old texts, papers, and books will mean (in some cases) going back and re-reading things I first read decades ago. But that's okay. Some things are worth the expenditure of time to achieve. We may find, after a long time pursuing those things upon the Founders based their ideas, that we've become nothing more than tolerably-accomplished old fuddy-duddies.

But I don't think that's what will happen here.

No good ideas about freedom, liberty and personal responsibility will ever be a waste of time or energy to consider, share and teach.

In some cases I have forgotten the source(s) of some of my ideas and opinions. In many of those cases, the concepts have been honed and refined (at least, I hope so) over time as I've read other works on the same topics. But revisiting the original source is never a bad idea; it will be instructive, and may illuminate some ideas which have been only half- or poorly-remembered, and may have drifted, over time, from the original thought.

Having a clearer idea of original intent can only help when speaking of it with others, even if it sounds foreign to them. Those who are open to new things will recognize good ideas when they think about them. At least, I hope so.

And that alone makes the effort worthwhile.

(And Jenny, if this sounds familiar, much of it came from my response to one of your posts, way back when, on your Alaskan blog).


Stephen said...

Shamed to say it's been decades since I've opened one of the founder's books too...I'm a bad boy. Great post, my friend.

Rev. Paul said...

That means a lot, coming from you. Thank you, Stephen.

armedlaughing said...

My high school American History teacher was excellent, but only mentioned the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers in passing - I think we may have actually read one paragraph or two. This was in 1968. In 1964 (in junior high) my homeroom teacher made us memorize the last paragraph of Patrick Henry's 'Give Me Liberty' speech - couldn't complete the course without reciting it. Now it's probably all progressive claptrap. And the collective works of Huey Newton and the Black Panthers.
The very idea the current President taught Constitutional Law turns my stomach. I suspect he never read the whole thing - or cared to.
It's all very said and makes me very angry.

Rev. Paul said...

gfa, I've made no secret about having home-schooled both daughters. One of their history books had 8 1/2 pages about Sacajawea, but only one short paragraph about George Washington. We found a different book.

I agree with you, sir: the situation is tragic.

PioneerPreppy said...

As a matter of course I try and always have a biography of one of the Founders marked and being read. That does not mean I read them exclusively, sometimes I will only go to them occasionally and it may take months to get through them. I also almost exclusively go for older works pre-90's at the very least. I have found it is very telling to see how different researchers present the same data and can usually figure out which one's are credible any more by how they skim over some facts or fail to present the whole picture.

The one I find most mis-represented is Franklin. Some of his quotes and literary games can be twisted around if taken in partial context.

Rev. Paul said...

Agreed, PioneerPreppy. I trust very few of the modern researchers, and tend to go for the oldest printing that I can find, for any source.