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Why this King George is Worse than the First
August 29, 2002
By Maureen Farrell

Anyone who's ventured into Independence Hall has felt it. Whether gazing towards the chair in which George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, or ogling the spot Ben Franklin occupied during the Second Continental Congress, the energy in the Pennsylvania Assembly Room is palpable. Perhaps it's the "phantoms of lost liberty," one senses, or the spirit of America herself, but whatever it is, it feels as if someone punched a hole in the wall that separates the here and now from the events that shaped our nation.

Down the street, at Philadelphia's 7th and Market, tourists are treated to more of the same. A marker in the Graff House courtyard reminds visitors they're entering the very site where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Upstairs, two rooms Jefferson rented are painstakingly recreated, while downstairs, copies of initial and finished drafts dot the walls. Next to those is a framed quote from philosopher John Locke, from whom Jefferson borrowed heavily. "Great mistakes in the ruling part," Locke wrote, "will be borne by the people without mutiny or murmur. But if a long train of abuses. . .. all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people. . . it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavor to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the end for which government was at first erected."

It's impossible to read those words, especially in light of the imperialistic Bush presidency, and not appreciate from whence we came.

Exploring our nation's most historical mile is always haunting, yet this year, it's as if the forces that forged us cry out to us. The tyranny Jefferson and Franklin warned of is upon us with both a vengeance and a Texas twang, and now that Bush's goons have decided they need not seek Congress' approval before attacking Iraq, Colonial "taxation without representation" seems but an inconvenience by comparison.

When Ann Coulter says that liberals hate America, what she really means is that liberals (and several conservatives, in case she hadn't noticed) hate the Amerika she endorses. Did our ancestors sacrifice for the benefit of Exxon-Mobil? Did Patrick Henry fight for the Bill of Rights so John Aschroft could squash it? And when did "free speech zones" start trumping free speech? Though our right to petition the government has fallen by the pepper-sprayed wayside, most of us love the country to which we were born.

True patriots cringe at the notion that love of country means blind allegiance, however, particularly when our government conducts itself immorally, illegally or shortsightedly. We hate the way our country has been hijacked by thugs to become the very monster our forefathers (and Dwight D. Eisenhower) warned against. The first King George has been replaced by a second, who worries not for the fate of the unemployed or newly deployed, but complains that the "saddest thing about the presidency" is that his daily jog is cut short. Enthroned on a distant self-involvement, our imperial president promises peace though war, and freedom through unthinking compliance. Meanwhile, he and his cohorts hide traces of their true agenda, lying shamelessly and vilifying an unending parade of enemies, while the media dutifully deflects the truth. What is America supposed to stand for anyway? Continuous military intervention and a quest for global dominance? Or a Republic founded upon democratic principals and laws?

For those who love America, the founders' words are hymns. The country we love differs from that proposed by the sullied and sordid voices of those who profess to represent us, as does our notion of what is ugly and unacceptable. Imagine, for example, if Benjamin Franklin or James Madison were to debate George W. Bush or John Ashcroft. Or if Thomas Jefferson were to take on any of today's overexposed talking heads. All it would take is one Hardball debate featuring Jefferson and Coulter to see how far we've fallen, and why King George II is worse than the first.

Though eerily timely, Jefferson's brilliant observations on the separation of church and state or on how a "monied aristocracy" is hoarding power that should be "restored to the people to whom it properly belongs" might not be aired. Because by the time he expounded on the need for a free press and Ann rattled off hateful tirades about Tim McVeigh and the New York Times, he might wonder why he bothered.

Jefferson's belief that an educated populace is "the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty" would only frustrate today's audiences, anyway, especially when Coulter's coarse assertion that "a cruise missile is more important than Head Start" reflects our modern reality. Likewise, her view that "we need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals," confirms Jefferson's notions that "law is often but the tyrant's will." And sadly, though Jefferson swore "eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man" our citizens seem to lap it up. How else can anyone explain how Coulter's assaults on intellectual tolerance and her vilification of those who don't goosestep rightward have made her a best-selling author? "[I]f Americans knew what they [liberals] really believed," she noted in Slander, "the public would boil them in oil." Sure sounds like tyranny to me.

Even worse than toxic pundits, however, are those who have sworn to uphold the Constitution and have instead cynically undermined it. When you compare these statesmen and statements, the danger we face becomes starkly clear. Jefferson's observation that government's most sacred duty is to impart "equal and impartial justice to all its citizens" is countered with the Justice Department's assertion that the president has the right to indefinitely detain some U.S. citizens without filing charges. Benjamin Franklin's warning that, "those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," is tempered by several of this administration's fascist policies, including the mother of them all, the Patriot Act. And Jefferson's remark that, "no one nation has a right to sit in judgment over another" is negated by Bush's "axis of evil."

But James Madison's insights are perhaps the most chilling. In fact, his words would be so perilous to those in charge, that if he were around today, he'd most likely be sidelined from mainstream debate. "Of all the enemies to public liberty," he mused, "war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded." Saying that war creates conditions "for bringing the many under the domination of the few" and leads to "inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud," he wisely concluded that, "no nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." This advice is particularly timely when contrasted with Bush's declaration of continuous war, until "every terrorist" has been "found, stopped or defeated," (or his cronies are covered in defense contracts and American-controlled oil).

After visiting our nation's first capital, it's hard not to wonder what would happen if Jefferson, Franklin and Madison did return, for a time. They'd be horrified by the prospect of forever war and troubled by the emperor's latest decree that, while he may consult Congress, he doesn't need approval before committing us in Iraq.

Chances are, these founding fathers would also be denounced and vilified and called "anti-American" - as part of "a long train of abuses. . . . all tending the same way."

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