nations’ building blocks
maybe not what always thought
RIGHT on schedule
I have always wanted to be a history teacher.
Much like Fonzie in Happys Days when Fonzie said he wanted to be a cop because, “It was one of the few jobs that paid you to ride a motorcycle,” being a history teacher would let me have an audience and tell funny stories and get paid but without needing a cover charge or two drink minimum.
Lots of friends and family have told me I would have been a good history teacher and they would have taken my class.
I even had a professor tell me she would take my class.
Take my class for revenge, she said, but that’s another story.
Had I been a history teacher I would have said that from the beginning this nation, the United States of America was built upon the block that are the words Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence when Mr. Jefferson wrote, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.
It has come to me during these recent events that I was wrong.
If I was teaching today I would have to say that this nation was built on the block of words that says, “No one is going to tell me what to do.”
Lets start back in the days of colonial settlement.
Who settled British North America?
People who weren’t happy with things, some of those things being religious based, in Britain.
But mainly, people who weren’t happy.
Crabby, unhappy people, who didn’t really like anyone or anything and when you came right down to it, people who didn’t want anyone to be able to tell them what to do.
Britain had a great response.
Don’t like it here?
Oddly enough France took the exact opposite approach.
To apply for a visa or whatever you needed back in the 1700’s to leave France and move to Quebec, you had to be a good citizen, a good Catholic and support the King.
Louie the whatever sent off his good subjects and when the revolution happened it happened in France.
George got rid of the complainers and when the revolution happened, it happened in North America.
Those Protestants got here and started to protest.
The British went into New England.
What kind of British?
The Dutch went into New Amsterdam.
What kind of Dutch?
The French, New France having been taken by old France, went into Savannah and Charleston.
What kind of French?
French Huguenot PROTESTants.
All a bunch of angry people, leaving there homeland in protest.
They all had a couple of things in common.
They were crabby.
The Indians had to go.
No one was going to tell them what to do.
These people were here for a couple of hundred years and suddenly Great Britain asked them to pay taxes.
Seems that pushing those Indians out made the Indians kind of mad and Great Britain had to maintain forts along the frontier to protect the crabby colonists.
And those forts cost money.
It made sense to the Brits that those crabby colonists ought to help pay.
I think we all know how that turned out.
That hit those PROTESTants right where they lived.
Flags with snakes and the words, ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ came out.
Boston even had a tea party!
The tea party made the Brits so mad they closed the port of Boston.
Those crabby colonist called that what?
We aren’t going to tolerate that!
We aren’t going to stand for that!
No one is going to tell us what to do!
(Anything about this sound at all familiar?)
So the colonists began that great American tradition of board meetings and held a Continental Congress.
So much for manifest destiny I guess.
Like most board meetings it took two years for them to figure out what to do but an independent nation came about.
Not, as Mr. Lincoln said, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
But conceived in protest and dedicated to the proposition that no one is going to tell us what do.
With the country off and whining and with a win under their belts its no small wonder that we turned on ourselves.
Slavery for some was the ultimate in someone telling someone else what to do.
The south didn’t see it that way as they were ones telling someone else what to do.
But it just bit the north in the butt that those southerners were getting away with that.
And if slaves could be told what to do, it was just one short step or slip along the way to other people trying to tell the north what to do.
It was the thin of the wedge argument.
When it came to slavery, well sir, no one was going to tell the south what they could and could not do with their slaves.
This was the political question that dominated America for 60 years.
Folks got so worked over it that they would rather wreck the country as they knew it just so long as no one was going to tell them what to do.
The people in the south would rather leave then be told to give up slaves or give up their states rights to keep their slaves, depending on who you were talking to.
The north would just as soon let the south leave if they were going to keep their slaves.
‘Wayward Sisters – Go in Peace’, was the slogan of many in the north.
But along came possibly the single most unelectable candidate for President in history.
At least until Bill Clinton convinced Ross Perot to run in 1992 and take 20% of the Republican vote but I digress.
Abraham Lincoln, nominated as just the 2nd Presidential candidate by the young Republican party was guaranteed to lose.
Unless the Democrats, who outnumbered Republicans 2 to 1, did something really really dumb.
And so they did.
The Democrats split in half and Mr. Lincoln won and the country split in half but Mr. Lincoln said the country, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, was bigger than any stupid argument.
Mr. Lincoln said it in such a way that all those crabby protesters looked a lot of stupid and they stuck their hands in their pockets and kicked the floor and said, ‘ah geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ but they went along with Mr. Lincoln and put the country back together.
Somehow Mr. Lincoln had a way of saying stuff that made folks want to be less petty and to grow up and even get along for a bit.
Maybe appealing to “the better angels of our nature” did work.
But that didn’t make them like it.
Also there was now a history of letting the country go to pieces so long as no one told the people in the country what to do.
And that thought stayed there in the back of their minds.
And every once in awhile that thought comes back.
Those folks were always there.
The far right.
The thin end of the wedge – next thing they will be at the door – no one is going to tell me what to do far reactionary protesting right.
In the north, this group stayed in with the Republican party not that they liked that very much.
In the south, they stayed with the Democratic party and more or less figured out that as long they kept their mouths shut they could think and do what they wanted which they did.
Up north they fumed and sputtered anytime it looked like someone was going to tell them what to do.
When Theodore Roosevelt decided that the country missed him as President and tried to come back, there was a faction in the Republican Party that would rather lose then let TR tell them what to do and they lost.
The reactionary far right faction stuck with Big Bill Taft and lost and lost big in every way.
Neither here no there but President Taft once stood on the veranda of Kent Country Club and was heard to say, “What a tremendous view,” before he went in to lunch, but I digress.
Then came TR’s cousin Frank.
Frank loved telling everyone what to do.
And this reactionary far right faction hated Frank.
They tried everything and everyone they could to stop Frank until Frank finally died.
Frank had been President so long, an entire generation grew up thinking his first name was President.
Many historian’s feel that Frank was elected FIVE times.
It just happened that Harry Truman’s name was on the ballot the fifth time but Frank still won.
And that just burned up that reactionary far right faction.
The reactionary far right faction found a man in Robert Taft.
Robert Taft was Bill Taft’s son.
Robert Taft was known as Mr. Republican.
Robert Taft was crabby, didn’t like anyone and wasn’t going to let anyone tell him what to do.
The reactionary far right faction knew he should be their candidate but they also knew he couldn’t win.
They wanted to win so bad that they turned to man who beat Hitler.
They all liked IKE.
But Ike wasn’t one of them and a lot of the reactionary far right faction were not really happy with Ike.
Which was okay with Ike as he wasn’t really happy with most of the reactionary far right faction.
Ike was not the voice that the reactionary far right faction wanted to hear.
The reactionary far right faction found a voice in Joe McCarthy.
This is the feller who more or less lost his voice when he was quietly asked, “At long lost, sir, do you have no decency?”
(Isn’t this scary?)
Ike retired and the reactionary far right faction turned to his Vice President, Richard Nixon.
A card carrying member of the reactionary far right faction.
But JFK had better hair, a better tan and a cooler accent and he squeaked by Nixon in the 1960 election.
This really pissed off the reactionary far right faction and they proclaimed that the next time, come hell or high water, they would pick candidate.
It wasn’t hell or high water but LBJ who came along and the reactionary far right faction candidate, Barry Goldwater set a record for losing that would last until Walter Mondale.
As a side note, Barry had a great smile that my Mom loved and my little brother Pete ended up with Barry for a middle name.
This is really getting long so lets move along quickly.
Ronald Reagan is elected and he is calm enough and cool enough that the reactionary far right faction sits tight.
RR might not have been Lincoln but he could still get the reactionary far right faction to look a lot of stupid and stick their hands in their pockets and kick the floor and said, ‘ah geeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ and behave for a bit.
Now we get 9/11 and that reactionary far right faction starts getting loud.
The pot is back on the stove so to speak.
The Tea Party shows up.
Loud mouthed voices taking up the cause of the reactionary far right faction are being heard louder and louder as social media and cell phones arrive on the scene.
Not only do we have access to news and misinformation 24×7, we also carry in OUR HANDS the means to access this information 24×7.
No more listening to the radio when a radio is available.
No more watching TV when we are in front of a TV.
But a mind blowing assault on our minds blown by the ourselves carrying the phones and internet access everywhere we go.
No opinion not expressed.
No thought not given to words.
No time given to think about what is being said.
That flag is back warning, “don’t tread on me.”
As if we are inside of circle of people with baseball bats and the people are taking a turn to smack us with the bat.
Then on top everything we get flu.
For some, the only thing that makes sense is to yell the words that should have been carved on the liberty bell.
No one is going to tell me what to do!
No one can tell us to get a shot.
No one can tell us to wear a mask.
We don’t care if it splits the country.
We don’t care.
No one is going to tell us what to do.
No one is going to tell me what to do.
Well, I can understand.
I can sympathize.
It’s who we are.
Aristotle once said, or at least is credited with saying, “No democracy can exist unless each of its citizens is as capable of outrage at injustice to another as he is of outrage at injustice to himself.”
The sad part are the words, “No democracy can exist … “
We are RIGHT on schedule.