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Does Equality Mean We Are All The Same April 26, 2010

Posted by Dr. Robert Owens in Uncategorized.
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In the Declaration of Independence a new thing entered the world, a country founded upon the idea of equality. The Old World consisted of societies built upon hereditary class and entrenched privilege. Beginning with words that still burn within the breast of Patriots, this great document proclaims two types of equality.
Based upon the first clause, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” the first type is equality before the law. We all stand before the bar of justice on the same footing. There aren’t different laws for different classes. The definition of murder is the same for the homeless person, the mechanic and the billionaire. This equality, a natural part of our creation proclaims that neither classes nor other artificial divisions will ever be recognized in law or enshrined through legislation.
Based upon the second clause, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” the second type is equality of opportunity. Everyone is entitled to their life and the fruits of it. Each of us has an equal right to the liberty of action, the freedom to choose our life’s path and to make our own decisions. And each of us has the right to pursue happiness. In almost all other lists such as this from the period, many of them written into state constitutions by the same people who wrote the Declaration, this is the right to own property and the happiness here is assumed to mean the right to use our own talents and the things they gain for us for our own benefit as long as we do not injure nor hinder others.
These rights and the equality they express were later protected by the Constitution. Congress shall not confer titles of nobility. Congress shall not pass bills of attainder convicting groups or individuals without a trial. Through the use of these and other negatives the Framers sought to secure Americans the possession of the equality proclaimed by the Declaration. The Bill of Rights went even further in declaring what Congress could not do in the attempt to guarantee the continued exercise of the equality granted by our Creator. The mechanism the Framers used to keep freedom alive was limiting government for they knew governments gain power by subtracting freedom from individuals.
However, it needs to be noted that the limitations placed upon government as a means of securing the equal rights of citizens in no way states that there should be a leveling of all people or that there will not continue to be distinctions and differences among them. This was never stated and never intended for the belief in or vision of a population with standardized talents, inclinations and goals does not match reality. There are as many different sets of these as there are people. In each individual, life should be open to choice. The only boundaries being that we do no harm nor proscribe the choice of others. This is the level playing field of creation, a pure equality of opportunity to be harvested in proportion to the Creator’s gift of talents and our investment of time and effort.
As long as the role of government is limited, and as long people are free to operate within the informal social arrangements of a non-regimented, non-stratified society there’s no tension between equality of opportunity and liberty. This quest for equality of outcome has become a social goal adopted as a reason for destroying society as it is in the name of society as a small cadre of radicals thinks it should be. In the aftermath of economic or societal collapse, revolutionaries, or in the case of the American Progressives “Evolutionaries,” will seek to erect in the place of popular government a bureaucratic tyranny devoted to leveling all to the lowest common denominator. Except of course for the levelers themselves who rise by deciding who gets what, and it’s the deciders who always seem to get the most. For, some perceive that equality of all is not the same as the equality of some, or as the ruling pigs in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm declare, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This reflects the subversion of equality of opportunity into equality of outcome or as it’s termed by Progressives equal opportunity.
To build this monument to mediocrity the philosophers of progressivism subtly change the meaning of equality. Instead of the opportunity for all to succeed it becomes the certainty of everyone getting a trophy for showing up, a diploma for attendance or a check for not working. Built upon the premise that if all are created equal all should end up equal thus denying the goal of equality the chance to go as far and as fast as talent and hard work can lead.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

A Sign For The Next Tea Party April 19, 2010

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Just like it isn’t bragging when you can really do it and it isn’t paranoia when they’re really out to get you the bluster of an undefeated champion is often well founded. For years when Mohammed Ali said, “I’m the greatest” he was right. For years when Iron Mike Tyson said, “Nobody can beat me” he was right. However, there comes a time when Rocky II turns into Rocky III. There comes a time when the Champ is no longer facing the Bum of the Month Club he’s facing Clubber Lang. There comes a time when all the bluster becomes braggadocio. When the hollow taunting of opponents no longer intimidates it merely enrages. President Obama’s recent condescending and insulting mockery of the Tea Party Movement has blended with that of his political soul-mates. The red flag waving on the ramparts of the Progressive juggernaut has become a red cape in front of a raging bull.
Last week I attended the Tea Party in downtown Richmond. Compared to the first one last year it was much larger and better organized. I sat on a hill like a bird on a branch and watched my fellow citizens peacefully express their opinions concerning the rapid descent of America into the stunted future Progressives call a level playing field. The various signs told the story: “Stop Subsidizing Stupidity,” “Failures Love Socialism,” “When Injustice Becomes Law Resistance Becomes Duty,” “I am NOT Your ATM,” and my personal favorite, “Obamacare = More IRS Agents Less Doctors.”
And what’s the reaction of our leader? He’s amused by the TEA Parties. He thinks they should be thanking him for all the tax cuts he’s passed. He thinks they should be grateful he’s ended the recession and healed the economy. He’s using the bully pulpit to bully those who disagree with him. The most powerful man in the world thinks the voices of our enemies should be heard and the voices of American citizens silenced. He’s ready to meet with the rabidly anti-American president of Iran without pre-conditions, but he won’t do the same with the leaders of his domestic opposition.
As if the ridicule of the President and the distortions of the geriatric media, isn’t enough America’s perpetrator-in-chief, the only former president to ever lose his license to practice law in order to avoid prosecution continues the obvious game plan of setting the Tea Party Movement up to take the fall for any future act of domestic terrorism. Of course our current leadership refuses to call our enemies terrorists. To them there is no war against terrorism. There are no Islamic Extremists. To them the only threat of terrorism appears to be the peaceful assembly of American citizens petitioning for the redress of grievances.
Millions of hardworking American citizens sacrifice their time and invest their efforts in an attempt to get a message through to Washington. Although too long to fit on a poster its short enough be heard. The plan to radically transform the United States into a European style social welfare state is not going down easy, and no matter how many thousand page bills filled with surprises get crammed down our throats we will not drink the kool-aid.
The handwriting is on the wall. The ruling party is headed for a fall reminiscent of a famous tower in Babylon or a statue in Bagdad. Unless Acorn registers the voters and Mayor Daley counts the votes the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate is fated to lose the current lock they have on power. The constantly growing ranks of the Tea Party Movement appear at the moment to have the sophistication and political acumen to avoid splitting the patriotic opposition by forming a third party. The two party fix has long had a structural strangle-hold on power. Any attempt at this juncture to supplant the Republicans in that hierarchy would only facilitate the minority victory of what has become apparent to all as a small cadre of dedicated evolutionaries determined to fundamentally transform America.
As I sat on my perch watching the swirling crowd of concerned citizens, as I read the signs, listened to the speeches and spoke to those around me I noticed that one word was missing. This one word aptly describes the destination of all this fundamental change. This one word sums up the goal of every thousand page bill filled with new agencies, enforcement provisions and economic take-overs. This one word should galvanize resistance and focus the emotional and intellectual energies of all those committed to the limited government which secures our heritage. That one word is totalitarianism.
Inimical to the America bequeathed by our ancestors and toxic to the liberty and opportunity which has made the United States the greatest nation to have ever existed totalitarianism is the enemy of humanity and of the rights our Creator endowed. Seeking to control every action, direct every effort and determine every outcome, totalitarianism is the inevitable result of a cradle-to-grave welfare state. A sign for the next Tea Party might be, “Freedom was our cradle – Don’t let socialism be our grave.”
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

We Must Know Who We Are to Decide What We Will Be April 12, 2010

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Forget about the debate the government parties and the geriatric media want us to have, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” The debate we need to have concerns what we were meant to be, not who they tell us we should be. Instead we should discuss issues of substance such as, “Are we a Republic or a Democracy?” for this will lead us to the truth. In today’s polarized political atmosphere conservatives shout “Republic!” while progressives scream, “Democracy!” In truth, neither term fully describes the boldest experiment to provide individual freedom and release human potential in the history of mankind. There is a third term needed if we are to grasp the qualities which makes us who we are.
The United States was birthed in the fire of revolution against the denial of personal freedom and the expropriation of resources by an authoritarian government. The first attempt to balance the rights of the people, the prerogatives of their local states and the need for a centralized structure to face other nations on the world stage, the Articles of Confederation proved inadequate. Then the Framers crafted a constitution establishing a democratic federal republic. All three terms democratic, federal, and republic are needed to express the unique nature of the American Experiment. Not one of them conveys the strength of the three and therefore cannot stand alone. Together they outline the form of government and the manner in which it shall be chosen, yet even these loaded terms leave unstated the inner essence of the last best hope of humanity. For it is the separation of powers, private property rights and the checks and balances built into the system that has safe guarded liberty and unleashed the potential of the American people.
The fact that instead of a reasoned debate about who we are, where we came from, and how we got here we stand on opposite sides of barricades shouting slogans at each other highlights the need for all of us to educate ourselves in the history of the principles and values upon which our country was founded. The current public educational process is a government mandated system which forces teaching to a test that’s forgotten as soon as it’s passed. The teaching of American History has been presented as a boring jumble of names and dates for a few semesters in 12 years since before any of us were born. It’s time for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on in our rapidly evolving political landscape to dig in and educate ourselves. We cannot allow those who want to subvert the home of the brave and the land of the free either to the right or the left to sway us with slogans and catch phrases. We have to know enough to know when we’re being conned by ideologues with a hidden agenda.
Ideologues reduce all things to the dimensions of their own thoughts. They oversimplify and overload words with meaning effectively blocking the channels of communication. They turn complex political, social and economic principles into cat-calls, catch-phrases and campaign slogans designed to move masses to emotional responses not individuals to reasoned reactions. It was the ideologue Karl Marx who reduced history to a conflict between capital and labor, charged all problems to the inequalities of capitalism, projected a continually deteriorating situation and then pointed to communism as the only answer.
We must resist the temptation to reduce our American experiment to an ideology. We cannot allow this bait-and-switch tactic to lead us to the mirage of a collectivist utopia. We need to understand this would deny and distort the constitutionally limited government we inherited. Ideologies start with a conception of mankind as made-up of interchangeable parts projects universally comprehensive answers and ends with enforced uniformity in society. In contrast America has facilitated diversity, individualism and a variety of life paths.
So, “Are we a Republic or a Democracy?” First of all, we need to understand these are not equivalent or interchangeable terms. Today both republic and democracy have become loaded with ideological baggage as in the Democratic Peoples Republic, or Social Democracy. To be specific: republic describes a form of government wherein representatives stand in place of others to deliberate, decide and lead. Democracy means from the people. But there is the third term that must be reckoned with if we’re to understand America: federal. Federal means a form of government in which a union of states recognizes a central authority while retaining certain residual powers of government. Putting this all together, the United States of America was designed to be a federation of states with a republican form of government chosen through a democratic process.
Those who declare we’re a democracy want majority rule while striving to build a majority of people dependant on the government tax, tax, tax, spend, spend, spend, elect, elect, elect. Those who say we’re a republic have problems with the direction taken by the representatives whose very existence proclaims this to be a republic. This is where the third word fully impacts the other two. The federal nature of the American experiment declares to all that this is an elected representative government of limited power and separated authority. We are not a centrally-planned unitary government based on mob-rule. If we will learn who we are perhaps then we will see clearly who we will be.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net

Since Some Don’t Worry About the Constitution We Should April 5, 2010

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One of the greatest challenges in teaching History is to convey the uniqueness in its conception of something that through the passage of time has become an accepted part of everyday life. When something has been around longer than we have it’s hard to realize that it wasn’t always there. It takes a conscious effort to understand that yesterday wasn’t today only earlier and tomorrow won’t be today only later. The permanence of the now is an illusion which helps us walk as if the shifting sands of our lives are really the solid shore of the sea of time.
When Americans organize anything of importance they immediately write a construction. In most cases American organizations include a president, vice-president, and a legislative type board. From the classroom to the boardroom from Main Street to Wall Street this is just the way we do things. The idea that there needs to be a written constitution is assumed. And looking at our history this only makes sense. For hundreds of years and for generation after generation we have lived lives of peace, prosperity and power under the shade of the most remarkable secular document to have ever come from the hand of man, the Constitution of the United States.
The birth of our Constitution shines as an almost miraculous event in the story of mankind. From the beginning of time might had always made right. One strong arm after another elbowed their way to center stage. Once there eventually their descendants grown fat on the plunder of the helpless became in turn plunder for the next strong arm. Those who managed through the passage of time to become fixtures in their culture reigned as monarchs saying God gave them a divine right to continue plundering those under their sway conveniently forgetting it was the strong arm of their less noble ancestors that slaughtered their way to the top. They may have arrived in chariots, but they were chariots of steel not fire.
A few centuries before the founding of the English colonies in America the people of England began to put limits on their king. They used violence and economics to wrest the guarantees of some basic individual rights, the recognition that the king was not absolute, and that there were some checks upon his power. The Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights were snatched from the king’s chain-mailed fist. Through the passage of time they became the accepted rights of all Englishmen. And when our ancestors founded Virginia, the first among English colonies the charter granted by the king stated that those who came to the New World were granted all liberties, franchises and immunities as if they were abiding and born within England. The colonists believed this and acted accordingly. With loyalty to the King and Parliament they set about organizing the land. Local assemblies, republican in nature were democratically elected. And it was only when George III and his ministers seemed to have forgotten that the colonists had rights that Americans took up arms to secure those rights.
After the Revolution, when it came time to create a government the Framers turned to a written constitution. In the birth of nations this was something new. England does not have a written constitution. Ours was the first; a unique attempt to limit government in order to preserve liberty. Most constitutions in the world today model themselves after ours. And if their authors did not consciously model their written document after ours the very concept of a written constitution is of American origin.
This earth-shaking event has become mundane. This ground-breaking experience now seems so common it’s glossed over with the boring presentation of a high school history class, memorize some names and few dates, regurgitate it for a test and forget it. For the first time a people had founded a government of the people, by the people and for the people. And to ensure the tranquility and safety of the people they limited that government through the separation of power into three branches and the maintenance of a unique federal system of sovereign states united as one. This is the source and the summit of American greatness: the Constitution which established and maintained a limited government providing for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Using the ideals and moral standards of the present to interpret the past is known as Presentism. Using presentism as a lens, many citizens today believe the Constitution is a living document meant to be reinterpreted with each passing generation. Others echo the former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales point of view, “The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.” Instead of changing the document through the established amendment process they believe they can change the document through court decisions, precedent and legislation.
Twenty-first century America has been called post-Christian, post-capitalist, and post-racial. I would suggest that if we continue on the path we’ve chosen the future may refer to twenty-first century America as post-constitutional. For if the leaders of the present can impose unconstitutional laws then we’ve ceased to have a government of laws and have instead a government of men. One Congressman summed up the arrogance of our leaders perfectly. When asked where in the Constitution he finds the authority to impose the burden of purchasing health care on the American people he answered, “I don’t worry about the Constitution.” Since he doesn’t we should.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens dr.owens@comcast.net


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