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
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."