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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 11:58 AM
Original message
The Deification of the Founding Fathers and why it's simply wrong.
Seems that a belief in God isnt enough for us Americans. Nope, we have to elevate the Founding Fathers to godhood as well.

See, I made this post: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
and pretty much got skewered. Nope, it simply couldnt be possible that ole Tom Paine (or Jefferson, depending on your source) was absolutely WRONG.

Welllllllllll, lets just think about those Founding Fathers. To begin with, they were only men. No, no Men as in Mankind, men as in all male. I daresay that at least half of DU is better educated than most of them and yes, they did put their pants on one leg at a time.

The Constitution, usually cited by those who glorify the Founding Fathers beyond reason as the document our country was founded on (it isnt), was not written to decrease the power of government but to increase it. It was an admission by the Founding Fathers that they had royally screwed up. In 1776 they followed that creed of best government governs least and drafted the Articles of Confederation. It only took ten years to figure out that governing least was not going to work. So, in 1787 they got together again to form a more perfect union by endowing the Federal Government with much more power than was popular with some of them. Thats where a lot of the best/least and necessary evil quotes came from.

Okay, so the Founding Fathers worked out a much stronger central government. Howd they do on the second try? They limited participation to white male property owners. Yeah, thats a good idea! Oh, then theres that 3/5 of a person thing. Howd that work for ya? And that Electoral College where the guys we elect to cast votes for us dont have to vote the way we want them to and a minority of popular votes can over-ride the will of the majority. How about all the vague language that keeps constitutional lawyers employed 220 years later telling us what they reallllly meant? I mean, gee whiz, weve been arguing the 2nd Amendment so long theres nothing left to be said about it and still theres no agreement.

I will give them one thing though; they learned from their first mistake and made provisions to change the Constitution. See, they knew they were just a bunch of guys trying to fix the first screw up they made and they knew it, unlike some of us contemporary people. Somehow weve lost sight of that; THEY WERE JUST ORDINARY MEN, not Gods. They made mistakes and were still fighting over them today.

Did they do a good job? Of course they did on the second try and given what they had to work with. Is it still working today? Yeah, with 27 formal corrections and hundreds of different interpretations.

So just give the Founding Fathers their due and recognize them for the sometimes flawed men they were, not some form of Deity.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. I agree with a lot of this, but they lived in their time and were enlightened by the day's standards
Hell, they didn't let Hamilton talk them into having a kind and GW would not accept it.
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:04 PM
Response to Reply #1
5. Sure, but to raise the Godhood? To simply accept everything as
perfect? If they said it, it must be right?

Sorry, they were just men. I daresay that if they had a third try at in 1797 they'd have done even better.

The way I see it to deify them as we have is to diminish their accomplishment.
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anonymous171 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:01 PM
Response to Original message
2. I love the vagueness and brevity of the Consitution
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #2
7. I honestly believe that they did that on purpose so the document
Edited on Thu Jan-14-10 12:06 PM by flamin lib
would remain a living thing.

They knew they didn't have all the answers. Hell, they proved that with the Articles of Confederation!

Why should we pretend that they did?
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:07 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. It was deliberately vague. nt
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
20. Some argue that it was intentionally vague and some have thought
that after screwing up the first time they didn't think it would last more than 20 years so why nail down every detail? Another thought is that after the acrimony at the convention they just wanted to get the hell out of Philadelphia.

Can you imagine a convention that had both Teabaggers and DU as participants? I think that's why they didn't keep minutes of the actual discussions . . .
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tnlurker Donating Member (698 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:02 PM
Response to Original message
3. K &R
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niyad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:02 PM
Response to Original message
4. interesting view, for which you will be skewered. the 3/5 person thing was always weird
but women counted for nothing at all. they really should have listened to abigail.
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:05 PM
Response to Original message
6. I'd argue they weren't "ordinary men". They were more educated, broader minded, and saw much farther
Edited on Thu Jan-14-10 12:06 PM by KittyWampus
than ordinary men of their day and even ordinary men of today.

History has seen bursts of brilliance in art and politics.

It's one thing to put the Founders in context, it's another to try and pretend they were your average work-a-day schlubs.

They were endowed, individually and as a group, with an EXTRA-ordinary admixture of the Practical and Visionary.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:07 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. It's all relative, isn't it? A lot of what they did irks me, but
Edited on Thu Jan-14-10 12:07 PM by Captain Hilts
considering the times and the freedoms for us they copped from the French, they did a pretty good job.

Madison is still my guy. And Hamilton has that bad-boy appeal. Franklin was our first rock star.
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:08 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. they seem to have caused a sort of dividing line in history. Sort of like the Beatles
;)
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:09 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. You liked my analogy? I can't take credit for it, but yes, they had the right
amount of ingenuity and pizzaz.
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:18 PM
Response to Reply #12
14. Loved the analogy. Paul lives around here and you can run into him just walking around.
It must be so odd to have people deify you.

But then, I did kind of think he'd get a kick out of that analogy.
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:10 PM
Response to Reply #6
13. And yet another thing to argue they are some sort of uberman.
It isn't either/or.

I can accept that they were visionaries but I can't accept that they made no mistakes and therefore deserve some sort of sainthood.
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AuntPatsy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:07 PM
Response to Original message
9. Something I can firmly agree with.....well said
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rurallib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:20 PM
Response to Original message
15. Not sure we could put together a similar group today in America
BUt I agree - they were men with all the human and male flaws. An that is why the document was made to be amended - they knew they were fallible.
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:28 PM
Response to Reply #15
17. There are Statesmen here today, but they aren't in Government.
Edited on Thu Jan-14-10 12:33 PM by flamin lib
Ex-government but not currently actively in office or party politics.

Jimmy Carter and the Clintons come to mind. Madeleine Albright maybe. The likes of some of our Supreme Court justices, both sitting and retired. Probably a lot of people we have never and will never hear of.

My only objection is the knee jerk reaction we seem to have about the Founding Fathers. They were men, they were flawed and they did some things wrong.


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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:28 PM
Response to Original message
16. If not for the Founding Fathers we'd be Canada and everyone would have decent healthcare.
Those yahoos screwed up trying to recreate a bloody Roman Empire because they did create a bloody Roman Empire.

(hunter runs for his life...)
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:32 PM
Response to Reply #16
18. Awww, man, and I thought I was gonna' take some heat . . .nt
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KittyWampus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:40 PM
Response to Reply #16
19. Andy Griffith Show had an episode about erecting a statue to a Founding Father
Edited on Thu Jan-14-10 01:08 PM by KittyWampus
Episode # 208 from Feb 1967, The Statue:

They find out the Founding Father they just erected a statue to was a swindler who sold land in Mayberry at inflated prices by promising that the railroad would be coming through the town. The railway eventually when through Mount Pilot and a lot of people lost money.

So the people of Mayberry decide he WAS actually a hero since by preventing the railroad going through Mayberry, he saved it from becoming a big town.

:)
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Libertas1776 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:43 PM
Response to Reply #16
29. That's on the assumption that
there ever would have been a single United Canada without the United States (i.e. Westward Expansion, Fenian Raids, US Civil War all were motivations for a United Canada) and on the assumption that there would be a great upheaval like the Second World War that in its wake would leave people clamoring for a welfare state, particularly health care. Who knows what kind of empires would have risen or fallen without the existence of the US. There probably would not have been a French Revolution as we know it, along with a myriad of other nations that were inspired by the American War for Independence. Change one little thing in the past and you skew off into a completely different time line of unimagined proportions.
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ItNerd4life Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:46 PM
Response to Original message
21. Lol! This is a joke right?
I love people who put their 'modern' idealism and self righteousness on display instead of understanding
the times and what the world was like when the consitituion was being written.

Next, you'll tell us the Declaration of Independence is a flawed document.

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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:57 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. And DU is big enough to let those of limited acceptance of other ideas
post to it.

I believe I have as much understanding of the times and contemporary language as anyone on DU or elsewhere.

Perhaps more than some . . .

Take, for instance, the 3/5 person. There was a bitter fight over slavery between those who believed it was, for lack of a better term, manifest destiny and those who actually believed that ALL men were created equal. Count slave for representation or not? 3/5 was a compromise made for political convenience. Political convenience by the Founding Fathers? In all their wisdom and God-like provenance they actually made political compromises?

No, it's not a joke.
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roguevalley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 04:18 PM
Response to Reply #23
35. there wouldn't have been a constitution or a country without the
compromises they wanted. John Adams was adamant about not giving in on slavery but he had to compromise. I doubt that anyone there thought the issue was settled. given the times, given the state of the world and the history that had gone before, they were an amazing collection of people. I love them, understand their flaws and am grateful to them for what they could accomplish. Tell me any one other country that did equally or better at the time. You can't.
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 04:04 PM
Response to Reply #21
34. Everyone wants to identify with the winners...
That's what patriotism is all about -- identifying with those in power, even when you yourself have none.

My particular genes got to America because their carriers could no longer identify with the nations they were born in. Europe sucked bad for them. Maybe America would suck less. Maybe in America there was work, and maybe they wouldn't throw you in prison or kill you for being a misfit, a pacifist, a religious freak, or even an ordinary hungry-bread-stealing troublemaker.

One of my great great grandmas had a rotten husband in Denmark and she didn't like Denmark much either so she sailed off to America because she'd heard a runaway wife could put everything behind her and find work and maybe a better husband here. It wasn't much of an ideological decision to leave.

If I'd been a couple of years older and subject to the draft to fight for no good reason in Viet Nam, and I'd not been able to wrangle conscientious objector or Alice's Restaurant crazy naked status, I would have left the U.S. without regrets. Fuck this party, I'm leaving.

It's pretty much an accident where a person is born. Did you chose to be born in the U.S.A. and not Haiti? But we do have choices after that. it's a natural human trait to walk or sail away from the really crappy places, even to risk one's own life doing it. For many of us it's strong in our blood, and that's why there are humans scattered all over the earth.

The Founding Father's were a bunch of white guys I don't know. They had their revolution. Other folks had their revolutions later. Martin Luther King Jr. is a Founding Father and that revolution is still going on all around us.

If I was starting a revolution it would be one that sees patriotism and nationalism as rotten stuff, every bit as distasteful as racism. We're not anywhere close to that world yet.
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ItNerd4life Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:46 PM
Response to Original message
22. Lol! This is a joke right?
I love people who put their 'modern' idealism and self righteousness on display instead of understanding
the times and what the world was like when the consitituion was being written.

Next, you'll tell us the Declaration of Independence is a flawed document.

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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 12:57 PM
Response to Original message
24. They were just men, but they had a greater impact on history than other pants-putter-oners.
And that makes them more than men in the effect they had on us.

More than that, though, they are personifications of what this nation was created for, and how it functions best. Most people can't understand abstract ideas like equality, freedom, rights, sacrifice. They serve to illustrate why we founded this nation and why it is different from what came before.

This nation has imperfectly worked for 230 years, and may work a while longer, and the Founders are a personification of what it was that made this place work--as opposed to France after its revolution, for instance. Rather than explaining abstract concepts like representative government, we can just quote a Founder or two. They are a useful touchstone that we can all use to center our arguments. There are times we have to move beyond what they wanted or did because the world is so different, but using them as a focus for that debate keeps us understanding what it was they did that made this country work.

They gave us an adaptable Constitution--the amendments you mention were made possible by the Founders, who know that they hadn't thought of everything, and who hoped the nation would survive long enough to need changes. They fought, defended, and framed this nation in the early years, and they set a workable example. That's why people refer back to them so often, I think.

I lost where I was going. Like you, I've thought about this topic a lot, and reached some of the same conclusions, but a couple are a bit different. They were human, as you say, and we sometimes need to remember that we are dealing with issues they wouldn't have understood. At the same time, they play a role that's bigger than just what you or I play. They personify a lot--maybe beyond what they deserve--but if we lose them as symbols, we may lose the ideals they pointed us towards. You mention that the Constitution was a stronger government than the Articles, but it was still weaker than the monarchy that came before, and more responsive than what came before (in Europe, anyway--we really don't pay enough attention to the contributions of the Iriquois Nation, for instance, on our concepts of freedoms and self government). The Constitution also set up the ideals of equality, even if not living up to them. And it codified the concept of inalienable rights, and although this nation has never perfectly lived up to that ideal--or any ideal--it is still a guiding principle.

The Founders help people who can't think in abstract concepts to remember those things. I don't want to de-deify them to the point where we no longer have a bottom-line justification on those things. Some people need that unarguable final statement. "The Founders fought for freedom of religion," for instance, inspires people when an abstract discussion about inalienable rights just doesn't.

I don't know if that makes any sense.
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:06 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. It makes perfect sense and to a very large extent I can accept it as
basic agreement with the OP.

Like I said in the OP; did they do well? Yes. Has it worked? Yes with lots of tweaking. Was it and the men who wrote it perfect? No, and some have lost sight of that.

Thanks for actually thinking about what I wrote and considering it with an open mind.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #25
27. You
said it all well, and I'm glad to see good discussion still happens around here. :) And thanks for actually reading my response and figuring out what I meant. :hi:
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flamin lib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:12 PM
Response to Original message
26. This has been a very gratifying exchange.
It has gone from 0 to <0 to +1 and back to 0 recs.

That tells me that it is controversial in a good way. Being sent to the Greatest is nice, but having fellow DUers read and consider my thoughts is much more gratifying.

To all of you who have replied with considered opinions and responses, thank you.

This is what a discussion board should be. You have done DU proud.
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jobycom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #26
28. The Greatest page isn't always the Best page.
Sometimes it's just cheerleading. You get there by posting something a lot of people agree with. Good discussion is harder to achieve, and less popular. You could have thrown in words like pony or hater, maybe that would have gotten more recs. :)
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Warren DeMontague Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 01:53 PM
Response to Original message
30. They existed, they were not imaginary. Therefore, they were not "Gods".
Neither were they Unicorns, Superheroes, or Smurfs.
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 02:33 PM
Response to Original message
31. Agreed, mostly.
Of course, there's a difference between deification and respect. Some don't like the idea of respecting a group that's not properly constituted. A group of all men? White men? Puh-lease, like I could ever respect a group like that. Eh.

There's also a difference between saying, "Dunno, they must be wrong" and saying, "They must have meant something, what could it have been given how culture and academics were at the time?" The former makes room for me, but I already know what I think. The latter poses a question that makes me think. I prefer the latter.

A lot of their language is vague. Some is vague because of language change and change of context--it was clear enough at the time, given the referents at hand. Some was vague, but limited in its vagueness--sharing a common culture, a common historical context, a common set of events, they knew the parameters set by their text. We have a difficult culture, context, are unfamiliar with their events and so we wonder what they could possibly have been thinking. Sometimes it's clear to us, sometimes it's not. And some things were left poorly defined--separation of church and state, for instance.

Now, the Constitution we have does two things. It increases the power of the US government. The confederation they had was fairly pointless. They overreacted and tried to get it right the second time. But it also limits the power of government. They didn't live in a vacuum, they remembered the actions of the Crown, they knew what happened elsewhere and often enough saw it. Their context was much wider than the context you say they worked in. Limit their context and, yeah, the purpose was a strong central government. Augment the context to include what they'd know and be aware of, and the purpose was to make a fairly weak central government, but one that was strong enough to govern.
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galileoreloaded Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 02:42 PM
Response to Original message
32. I think you got spiked because this comes off very autocratic and self
aggrandizing.
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RufusTFirefly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-14-10 02:56 PM
Response to Original message
33. This whole thread seems like a straw man argument to me. n/t
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Festivito Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-16-10 12:48 PM
Response to Original message
36. The author, perhaps, allows a loophole that allows it out of context.
Edited on Sat Jan-16-10 12:50 PM by Festivito
Perhaps he should have said that the government of the people is best when it governs least, inasmuch as the people in charge of their own government would discipline themselves.

Haiti, by its ownership disparity, then takes this out of the context of rule by the people -- despite Haiti's start with good intent.

ADDING: The DU rift seems to arise, and does arise from me, from the implication that bigger government would therefore be better government just for the sake of being bigger. Not gonna fly.
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