Archive for March, 2014

Upholding It!

Posted in Life, Politics, Society, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on March 26, 2014 by rikki5

Wow, it’s been a whole year since my last post! So much has happened in the past year, it’s mind blowing. I am officially the most boring blogger ever for not writing in this for a whole year. Anyways, If anyone has read my history of posts, you will know that I’ve been trying to decide a “theme” for this blog for so long. For awhile I was going with a “dream theme” but ended up not dreaming very much and the dreams I did have were..private. Instead of stressing about my “theme” per se, I am going to commit to having a “no theme” blog. I am going to write about whatever the heck I want..after all, I’m probably the only one reading this anyway. If you happened to come across this blog and you are reading this out there..thanks for stopping by in advance.

Moving along, so what happened today in my world– March 26, 2014
My day started off by going to court to be sworn in as a Notary Public. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of my state. It started me thinking about one of my most favorite American writers, Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau wrote a lot of stuff during his lifetime, I can only aspire to be as eloquent and prolific as he was. However, he also wrote a very poignant piece called “Civil Disobedience” which is quite relevant to the issue of constitutional rights and how they pertain to modern society. Upon first reading, one may think Thoreau is advocating revolution- by force–but in reality he is advocating sort of an intellectual revolution.

This comes about by each individual simply thinking about what sort of government they want to have and then taking the necessary steps to achieve these goals. He talks about the army being a branch of the government and the people ultimately are in control of the army because it’s the people who should have rule over their own government. How does this apply today though? In the US the conservatives say it’s the liberals who want the government to be their “nanny” babying them and giving them things for free. The liberals will say its the right wingers who want no sort of governmental involvement. The liberals will say the conservatives want to go back to the dark ages. They disagree about almost every issue under the sun. We all know that government is a necessary evil. Even Thoreau wrote about the necessity of government in Civil Disobedience. But what does government even mean to people today? Most of society is apathetic towards government and, at best, disillusioned. We watch the elections every four years we become impassioned with resolve to “do better” yet nothing really changes–and if it does we can never agree on ways to get the change to foster unity in our country. If anything, “Obamacare” has divided our country faster than any other policy in recent history. We are divided, yes, but we all are still at heart Americans. We all want our country to prosper, we want to avoid costly wars, and we want peaceful relations with other countries. We all watch the devastation of war in other countries and the unilateral power of governments like Russia to swoop in and simply declare themselves ruler. We then take a deep breath and say “thank God we are in America!” Yet, we still do not know what we actually want from our government. And if we do know, we do not how to achieve it by traditional means. We protest, we practice advocacy, but we do so mostly blinded by our own disillusion.
Thoreau gives us a little direction though in Civil Disobedience:

“I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.

This American government — what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed on, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it.”

So according to Thoreau the first step to creating a better government is to think about what sort of government would command our respect as citizens. Do people think about this anymore? And those that do have beliefs, do they not merely succumb to societal pressure to repress these beliefs based on outdated notions of persecution? I think of the situation in Ukraine right now and how the Ukraine has been robbed of their right to govern themselves. Thoreau’s words not only speak to Americans, they speak to Ukrainians, to any citizen of any country who seeks a just and honorable government. Once we realize what sort of government we could respect then we will have it, because the people are the ones who should rule the government–not the other way around.

Thoreau’s final paragraph in Civil Disobedience is just as commanding as the first part of his speech. If you haven’t read the full work, I suggest you visit the site below and really think about Thoreau’s words.

“The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to — for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well — is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher (8) was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellow-men. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.”

So to have a “better government” we should start by respecting ourselves. And once we know what we want and respect ourselves as individuals the powers that be will have no choice to stand up — pay attention– and give us the liberty we are entitled to as citizens.

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Henry David Thoreau. (1849). Civil Disobedience. (Public Domain). Retrieved March 26, 2014 from: http://thoreau.eserver.org/civil1.html