“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both” ― James Madison
We need to make ourselves aware of the vast void and dearth of knowledge that fills the American political spectrum. Moreover, we on the left desperately need to understand how this situation developed. There are far too many “good” Americans who wants to rely on a “mythical America” of the Founders and the Framers. These people never seem to have a clue what the “Founders” or “Framers” did or thought much less the ways they often changed their minds and contradicted each other. These mythical creatures, “the Founders/Framers” have in a very real sense been converted to “religious icons” that are to be worshiped and never questioned.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.― Thomas Jefferson
Of course they were very human and made numerous mistakes, sometimes even grave mistakes. They were not gods and the documents they produced (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution) were not nor are they HOLY WRIT in any sense. To make them some sort of “American Bible” would be to remove their essential character which was to be a means for “the people” to see to their own governance. The constitution was a product of profound compromise. That document wholly pleased no one then; so why should we accept it as unchangeable, now. Indeed the constitution was viewed by the Framers as a starting point for the nation as a whole to begin the vital process of self-governance. They even provided not one but two means for amending of the constitution1.
“Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” ― James Madison
Mr. Madison, the principle author of the constitution, was very disappointed in it in a number of points, but he also knew it was the best compromise he was able to achieve. Surely, it would be debatable whether had he achieved all he had envisioned if the constitution would have been significantly better. It certainly would still not have been perfect anymore than he was perfect. Thus the constitution was a compromise from which to begin the process of governance not a finished and completed piece of Holy Writ. Indeed they provided not one but two ways that document could be amended to meet the needs of the times.
He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself. ― Thomas Paine
If there was one unifying idea in the minds of the Founders/Framers it was the idea that: “We gave you a Republic2 now can you keep it?” People, who was so piteously manipulated by both the wings of the National Corporate Party and its vast and massive propaganda machine, are mere puppets to corporate surrogates who rule this country and to the corporate media who thrive on the utter lack of knowledge and understanding found in the masses of undereducated Americans. These people have grown up being taught “how great this nation is,” “how special they are to be an American,” and “how everything American is so much better than anything not American” among other myths that act like balm to wounded egos. They have been taught that they live in a democracy with democratic institutions and a political system consisting of a ruling party. They have blindly accepted the myth that we have a fair, free and open press which is adversarial to the ruling class. This blind acceptance of “American Exceptionalism” is from whence their ignorance stems. Because of the belief in the ultimate “goodness” of America the average citizen assumes America can do no wrong except that which is unintentional or unwitting. This is a dangerous frame of mind for a people and it leads directly to authoritarianism.
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” ― James Madison, Letters and other writings of James Madison
While it is understandable from an intellectual perspective it is a very sad condition for a supposedly educated and enlightened people. It is also a product of the dissolution of the system of free mass education3 the US used to maintain. I remember when I was in the 4th through the 8th grades being taught by educators who had received a true “liberal arts” education. An education that included instruction in not only history, science, math and government, but in the “classics” and the arts as well as the art of critical thought. These were many of the same educators who taught my mother. Mine was the last generation lucky enough to have been instructed by them; they were the older teachers in the early to mid 1960s to whom I am referring. Even then those educators were lamenting the demise of the public educational system4. They saw the quality of instruction failing because an emphasis was even then being shifted from critical thought to a technical education to prepare students for a job instead of a career. It was already becoming an education of do as you are told and do not question your superiors where it has come to the point where children are expected to simply regurgitate information without critically considering its implications.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. ―Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816
Then the perfect excuse to start utterly abandoning the education of our youth arose in the mid 1960s. At least that is when it come to my school. I refer to the time when the–supposedly–inferior race was forced upon us superior white children. Then the richer and more powerful members in our communities began withdrawing their children from public schools so their “special” children would not be tainted by those inferior “colored” children5. It was real. It is the basis upon which the privatization of our public educational system is built. It is still as racist now as it was then. And it is producing an ever more uneducated and uninformed populace.
What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support? ― James Madison
The solution appears simple to me. It is for the populace, the citizenry to take control of their government first by ensuring that corporations and the 1% can’t buy those that govern. This can never be accomplished while the 1% hold control of the means of production so it will be necessary for those that produce the wealth of the country to own and control the factories, stores and other places of employment. For those who work in their own businesses to control the means of production and distribution to make the decisions of what to produce, when to produce it, how to produce it and what to do with the profits created by that process of production and distribution. If the working men and women in this country don’t take control of this process the 1% will continue to amass an ever increasing percentage of the nation’s wealth and the working men and women will thus continue to suffer economically and politically.
“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it’s issuance.” ― James Madison
Only when we bring democracy to the workplace will we ever be able to truly bring democracy to the political sphere.
Roger W Mills II
The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/
Note the use of the word “Republic” not the word “Democracy”. The Founders had no desire to create a Democracy and they never used the word to describe what they had created. The concept was a “Representative form of Government,” not a government were the people governed but one where their representatives governed in their place.
That system of free public education was at its best ever a conditional one as it greatly favored white Euro-Americans and even more so rich Euro-Americans. Unfortunately I haven’t the time nor space to delve into those injustices here. I hope to do so in a later post. “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” ― James Madison
Now there were some good educators who followed them, but the teaching of “liberal arts” was a dying institution by then.
I lived through this and I remember well this line of reasoning where racists throughout my community plainly stated that attending school with “Negroes” would produce an inferior white race. This was stated in just so many words and is a direct quote I heard as if a refrain from a cacophony of whites. Of course they have been proved right, but not because of integration but rather because of those whites who have continually cut funding for education and enforced ever larger classes on teachers among other restrictions that have been used to deteriorate the public educational system so as to privatize it.