When I was a kid attending school one of my least favorite subjects was history. It didn’t matter if it was world history, or U.S. history, I simply found the subject dry and boring. I felt, as many kids must feel, that who cares what happened a long time ago, it was the past and it isn’t important any more. How I wish I knew then what I know now!
They say that as you grow older, you also grow wiser. I can’t say that this is true about everyone, but it certainly may explain my fascination with history, particularly U.S. history, at this stage in my life. I only wish I get other people to share in my enthusiasm for the subject instead of caring more about video games and television shows.
When I write my articles I try to provide as much supporting evidence, through quotes from the people who affected the course of our nation, to support my point of view. As of late I have begun to wonder if people even know who some of these people are.
Some people may know some of the names, while others may sound a bit familiar. Thomas Jefferson, for instance may sound familiar to some, but I would be willing to bet that there are many who don’t know who he was and what he accomplished.
Did you know that he was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence? How about that he served as a state legislator then as governor for the State of Virginia? How about that he was the third president of the United States under the Constitution? Did you know his face adorns Mt Rushmore, and that it is engraved on a nickel? Those are all facts every American should know, but unfortunately they don’t.
As I have gotten older, and began my quest for knowledge regarding our system of government, I began learning more about the history of our country. Inevitably I began learning more about the history of the men who were alive during the formative years of our republic. They were not all perfect me, far from it. Jefferson, owned slaves and made mistakes as governor of Virginia during the Revolutionary War. Samuel Adams was far from being a keen businessman, and Ben Franklin was rumored to be a bit of a lady’s man.
But they all had one in common; they had studied history and shared in a love of liberty. For so many men with that wealth of knowledge, and the same desire for liberty, to come together at one point in time in any nation’s history is extraordinary. All these men had studied history and systems of government. From the lessons history taught them they knew what systems worked, and which ones didn’t. They knew human nature and how people reacted under each system of government; they saw the flaws of each system, and in human beings themselves.
With that treasure trove of knowledge, they attempted to create a system which balanced the need for a central government capable of managing the affairs of a nation, providing for its defense, and regulating commerce between the states and foreign nations, while balancing the jealousy to which the states, and the people, regarded their sovereignty and their liberty. I think they did an incredible job under the circumstances.
It simply boggles my mind that anyone would choose not to understand the document they created, or the history that led to its creation. You owe it to yourselves to try to learn the history of your country. You owe it to them as well, for they toiled in a time wrought with danger to secure to you the rights you enjoy today. Almost a year after our nation declared its independence, but before it had achieved it in battle, John Adams sat down and wrote a letter to his wife Abigail. In it he stated, “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
John Adams cousin, Samuel, was also among those who lived during the time of our nation’s coming into existence as an independent entity on the world stage. In a letter posted in the Boston Gazette in 1771 Adams wrote, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.”
James Madison is another founder whose name may sound familiar, even though few know that much about him. Madison was our 4th president and, along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, one of the authors of the Federalist Papers, a comprehensive set of arguments in favor of the Constitution. In a speech delivered to the Virginia Assembly which was discussing the ratification of said Constitution Madison declared, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
I’ll be the first to admit that fifteen years ago I didn’t know much of this. But the thing is I care about my country more than I care about some football team or some silly TV show. I am willing to take the time to learn about my country’s history, and the lives of the men who were there when it came into existence as an independent nation. I can’t say that about most people.
Far too many people today are willing to accept the version of the truth that is fed to them by politicians, the news media, the educational system, and a whole gaggle of so-called political experts. If all you have been fed is lies, then I can understand why the ramblings of someone such as myself must sound preposterous to you. But if you were to take the time to do your own research, instead of relying on others to provide you your information, you may be surprised to learn who has been telling you the truth and who has been lying to you.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and start at the dawn of man and study all the empires that ever came and went over the course of man’s existence on this planet. But you could at least start with the birth of the country whose benefits and liberty you enjoy. Noah Webster, whose name is embossed on dictionaries across the nation, once said, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”
Unfortunately, as I stated in my previous article, the human mind is akin to a muscle in that if you don’t use it frequently it will atrophy. The human mind is one of the most incredible things. It is about 5 inches long, weighs around 3 pounds, and has a consistancy similar to Jell-O.
Although modern computers may process information much faster, the human brain is alone in that it alone can decide what information to store for use. Computers have to have an operator load the information into them, or programs, which utilize the data. Brains, on the other hand get to pick and choose what data they wish to store.
Unlike a computer, however, a brain must be taught how to think, at least perform critical thinking. Much of what the brain learns it learns by observation, repetition, and from experience. But the act of critical thinking is something that must be taught. To take information and process it, analyze it, and formulate an opinion based upon that information is something that must be taught.
If all one does is take information that is provided them by one source and store it, then claim that is their opinion or belief, then all they are doing is repeating information they have stored. Critical thinking demands that you analyze things from all perspectives. It means that you must consider thoughts and beliefs that run contrary to yours, and give them equal credence. Critical thinking is almost like being on a jury where both sides present an argument and you must decide which side is telling you the truth.
I’m not saying it is easy, especially if you aren’t used to it, it isn’t. But if you don’t do it then can you really state that you have any opinions of your own? Honestly, if all your doing is repeating party slogans from one side, not looking at both sides of the story, not comparing things now to things say one hundred, two hundred years ago, are you really thinking for yourself or are you just a robot repeating what you have been told?
What course do you think our country would have taken in 1775 had not our Founders thought for themselves, been students of history and philosophy? Do you think you would enjoy the same rights you do now had they been as inattentive to history as you are?
I’m no big fan of Howard Zinn, but he hit the nail on the head when he said, “History can come in handy. If you were born yesterday, with no knowledge of the past, you might easily accept whatever the government tells you. But knowing a bit of history–while it would not absolutely prove the government was lying in a given instance–might make you skeptical, lead you to ask questions, make it more likely that you would find out the truth.”
I know I ask too much of people. I understand that TV, Facebook, and even raising your families is more important than opening a book and learning something that might set your mind free from the lies it has been fed. I would, however, ask you to consider one thing. If you are incapable, or unwilling, to think for yourself, do you honestly believe that there aren’t those who wouldn’t take advantage of your ignorance, your inability to analyze data? Can you really be that naive to think that those who hold positions of power in our government are saints and above reproach?
That is why Madison said the following in Federalist 51, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
You can continue going about your lives believing that things will get better in America if you want to, I choose to use history as my guide when it comes to what happens to a people when they become ignorant, complacent, and apathetic. I will give you a clue though, it never turns out well.
George Santayana once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Alexander Fraser Tytler also said, “Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.”
So go ahead, go about your lives believing whatever you hear on the news and from the mouths of those you elect. Believe it all if you want, but do not be surprised when the above mentioned cycle completes itself and you find yourself in bondage to a government that controls every aspect of your life…we’re almost there already, so you shouldn’t have to wait much longer.
As I have said so many times in the past, when that time comes keep this Sam Adams quote in mind, “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
When that time eventually comes I will simply pretend that you do not exist. You will have had your chance to save this country but your entertainment and self-gratification were more important to you than your freedom. You will have earned your just reward for your inaction.
When that time comes you will pray that there are still a few left such as me who cherish our liberty to come and rescue your sorry ass. Just remember though something that Winston Churchill said, “If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”
That last option will be just about all that is left for those of us who have taken the time to learn our nation’s history, and been able to see and understand what is happening to this country because YOU choose not to.
It’s truly sad that you care so little for the freedom you enjoy that you choose not to become better informed and more educated in regards to your own country’s history.