Last night, while I was at that half way point of between being awake and asleep, an idea popped into my head which caused me to jump out of bed and scribble it down before it vanished into the fog of dreamland. That idea was that the problem in America today is that there is an almost total lack of respect. That’s it, that’s the grand idea that caused me to pull back from the precipice of sleep to write down; only to then return to bed and struggle to fall back asleep.
Seems like an awful lot of hassle for something as insignificant as the fact that there isn’t much respect anymore; but that is because the idea probably just passed through your mind without you giving it much thought. You see, the reason I struggled to fall back asleep is because once my brain got hold of that idea it began tumbling around inside and all kinds of things began to make sense to me.
What is respect? You might think you know what it means to you, but respect is one of those words that is hard to define using other words. I did an internet web search this morning for the definition of respect and I came up with about a dozen different definitions for it. For instance, here are just four of the definitions I found for the word respect:
-a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
-a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way
-esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability
-deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy
Respect can come in various levels. There is common courtesy which each of us should show one another, and then there is the respect a particular office or position holds; such as the office of the president of the United States. But does that mean that the person in such a position automatically deserves that respect, or should they have to earn it?
In the work environment there is the respect an employer should give to their employees for working hard to make their company successful; as in, an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. On the flip side the employees should respect those who provide them with a paycheck by seeking to do their best at all times and not take advantage of their employer by slacking off on the job.
Most expect to receive a certain degree of respect from others; some go so far as demanding it. Yet how often are these same people respectful of those they demand respect from? Respect is a two way street; for you to receive it you must also be willing to show it to others; and I don’t see a lot of that happening these days. Respect is also similar to a balloon which surrounds each of us. To a certain extent, such as in common courtesy, we are all entitled to a certain level of respect as human beings. But our actions also dictate how much respect we are given. If one is a hard worker, or has learned a particular talent that others appreciate, respect for that person can increase. If, on the other hand, a person is lazy, or has no talent, respect for that person can diminish.
As I said, everyone deserves a certain degree of respect as a human being. For instance, I respect your right to have an opinion on something, but you should also respect my right to have an entirely different opinion on that same subject. In a civil society open and honest debate occurs when those of differing opinions discuss their opinions; providing facts and evidence to support those opinions. However, when society breaks down, the opinions of one are given more credence because they are a majority sentiment, or because those of someone who differs are considered politically incorrect. When a segment of society loses their respect for the process of honest debate, their opinion is all that matters; and no matter how many facts and figures others provide, nothing will sway their opinions.
When this happens, respect for the TRUTH goes out the window, or into the trash heap!!!
Now, I could almost end this now, and in so doing set a record for the shortest article I have ever written; but I’m not quite done yet, there is one other thing I’d like to discuss.
Now I’m gonna say something that, at first, may sound like I’m drifting off topic, but stay with me and it will all come together.
I would like for you to take a moment and ask yourself what your definition of ‘good government’ is. Answering that may not be as simple as it sounds as it will require you to peel back a few layers and put aside your personal thoughts on single issues and get to the core of what is the definition of good government.
In 1776 the Provincial Congress of North Carolina sent John Adams a resolution asking for his suggestions on the establishing of a system of government and the drafting of a constitution. In his response, simply entitled Thoughts on Government, Adams brought up an interesting point, “We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form.”
What this means is that before you decide which form of government is best for a people, you should first determine for what purposes that government is to serve. Therefore, in answering my question as to what constitutes good government, one should compare how well your idea of good government matches up with the reasons for which our government was established in the first place. If there is any difference between your beliefs and the intent of those who originally established our system of government it is quite possible that your idea of good government, might in fact, be something our Founders would have considered BAD government.
During the early political debates that took place in America’s early years, a great many interesting and informative comments were made that can, if taken into consideration, shed light upon the subject currently under discussion. During debates in the Virginia Assembly in 1829 one such comment was made by James Madison, who said, “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated.”
First of all Madison did not say that governments are instituted to grant the rights of persons or property, but that they are instituted to protect those rights. Therefore, it must be concluded that those rights existed beforehand, and that government was established simply to protect, or dare I say, RESPECT them.
You see, that was the general belief back at the time that our nation was founded, that our rights predate any form of government; that they were granted us by our Creator by our virtue of being human beings. As John Adams would say, “You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments: rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the universe.”
Now when I say rights I can almost picture your minds drifting off to rights such as the freedom of speech, or the right to keep and bear arms. But that’s not what I want to discuss; what I want to discuss is the right to property; the lack of respect for which is the root of all our problems in this country.
When John Locke wrote his Second Treatise, he said, “The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property. To which in the state of nature there are many things wanting.” What he meant is that man, living alone in an absolute state of nature, was left to himself to defend all that was his, up to and including his life. Man, therefore, joined into civil societies and commonwealths, and established legislative bodies to provide better protection of his property.
But what is property? Today we might consider such items as our homes, our vehicles, or the clothes we wear as property. Those things are, indeed, property, but that is not all that property entails.
In 1792 James Madison wrote a short essay on this very subject; property. Madison defined property as, “..that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.” But Madison would expand upon that by saying, “In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.”
Property is much more than the things you purchase with the money you earn. Madison goes on to describe all manner of property as follows:
In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.
In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.
He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.
He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.
In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
Madison then goes on to describe, what I consider to be, ‘good government’, “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.”
If property is all those things Madison described, then good government is one which protects those things, not restricts them, or takes a portion of them for the overall public good…or need.
You see, there is something else Madison said that we must take into consideration. In Federalist 51 Madison wrote, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” If our government is bad, it is because we choose for leaders those who are bad. If government does not respect our rights or our property, it is because we as individuals do not respect those things and choose for leaders those who reflect our attitudes.
How is it that a person can work a job, then have the government take a portion of their pay and just give it to those who are in need without it being considered theft?
You see, also included in Locke’s Second Treatise is the following, “Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being, or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every common-wealth; yet, First, It is not, nor can possibly be absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people: for it being but the joint power of every member of the society given up to that person, or assembly, which is legislator; it can be no more than those persons had in a state of nature before they entered into society, and gave up to the community: for no body can transfer to another more power than he has in himself; and no body has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another.” (My emphasis)
If you or I were to go up to someone else and demand that they give us a portion of their pay so that we could just up and give it to some beggar or other needy person, we would be laughed at, perhaps even charged with attempted robbery. If we cannot do these things as individuals, and we cannot delegate to legislatures any more power than we as individuals hold, then how can we justify laws that take from one class of citizens and give to another? What, does our government think that its job is to play Robin Hood; take from the rich and give to the poor?
If our rights predate our government, how can something that was created by the people take away something that is inherent in every human being alive? If the protection of our liberty is one of the things which define good government, how can you call our government good, (no matter who sits in the Oval Office), when government as an entity continues to strip people of their ability to freely exercise their rights?
Samuel Adams once wrote, “Among the Natural Rights of the Colonists are these First. a Right to Life; Secondly to Liberty; thirdly to Property; together with the Right to support and defend them in the best manner they can–Those are evident Branches of, rather than deductions from the Duty of Self Preservation, commonly called the first Law of Nature.”
It is the right of each of us to resist any attempt to deprive us of our rights; which include our life, our liberty, and our property. By agreeing to a system of government, as the people of this country did, they never surrendered that fundamental right. If the government was established to protect our individual rights, and the government no longer serves that purpose, then it is our right to resist government.
If our Constitution is/was the Supreme Law of the Land, and if it’s purpose was to better secure the Liberty of those alive when it was written, and their posterity, then if government no longer obeys that law, how can you say that we have good government? For, as Locke said, “Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.”
Locke also offers the solution when government no longer respects your right to property, “…whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence.”
The problem in this country is that not only does our government no longer respect our rights and our property, the vast majority of the public no longer respects those things as well. As Madison said in his essay on Property, “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected.”
If the protection of persons and of property were the reasons our government was established; how can anyone with a clear conscience say that our government even comes close to resembling ‘good’ government?
And if you are honest enough with yourself to accept that, then why do you continue to support the existence of this government by choosing whom will fill the various seats of power within it? Is it that there remains a lingering hope in you that makes you continue to believe that by voting for just the right batch of candidates America can be restored to the land of the free? Government is a poisoned well, and no matter how much fresh water you pour into it, it will remain unfit to drink.
Give up your hope that by voting you are going to change anything. The real change needs to occur within each American who loves liberty and understands that any government which would restrict it is NOT good government and must be resisted. I’m not saying pick up a gun and fight them, but there are other means if you understand both jury and State nullification of unconstitutional violations of our rights.
But first, and foremost, you have to begin respecting the rights of others, even those you disagree with. Because those whose rights you have been trampling upon are growing mighty weary of you and one day you find that when you try to push another law which further deprives us of our liberty, we are going to push back; and when we do all that pent up anger and frustration is going to come pouring out like a tidal wave upon you.
All I’m saying is that a little respect now might save you a lot of heartache and trouble later