American Crisis

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THE AMERICAN CRISIS TODAY

Whether the American constitutional republic survives the present crisis depends on us no less than it did when Thomas Paine challenged the American public at the beginning of the American experiment.

THE AMERICAN CRISIS: THOMAS PAINE

Photograph of original text of The American Crisis Number 1 by the author of COMMON SENSE, Thomas Paine.

These are the times that try men’s souls: the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. – Common Sense.

Thomas Paine was the American Revolution journalist whose pamphlets by the title “Common Sense” supported independence from the British crown. Paine published those words on December 19, 1776 in Pennsylvania Journal. He spoke them to the American Continental Army one week later.

SHRINKING OR STANDING

The American crisis then was the survival of a dream. Would the American people stand up or would they be fair-weather patriots — summer soldiers and sunshine patriots?

In April 1775 the colonists had begun the rebellion against King George and all things royal, but the temptation to return to monarchical rule has never be far away. The result of the revolution was a democratic republic based on a non-monarchical constitution that divided the powers of government into three separate and equal branches — congressional, executive, and judicial. The U.S. Constitution was crafted to establish limits on executive authority. There would be no king in the new American democratic republic.

BEN FRANKLIN WARNING

In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, – if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

BEN FRANKLIN, SPEECH TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, JUNE 28, 1787.

“WHEN THE PEOPLE SHALL BECOME SO CORRUPTED”

Well-administered government is necessary for us. The success of the American experiment. i.e. a non-monarchical democratic republic, depended on an uncorrupted electorate and uncorrupted administration of the three equal branches under the new U.S. Constitution.

Government itself is not evil. Despotism is. Despotic government is the end product of a corrupted people incapable of the uncertain complexities of the separation of powers. The desire for a strong man in times of uncertainty like ours is only checked by the protections of the U.S. Constitution. A strong man is not King George. Franklin saw the elevation of a corrupt despot by a corrupted people above the equal powers of Congress and the judiciary as the nation’s greatest threat. The longing for the return of King George was the stuff of summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.

THE KNOT OF CRUELTY AND RECKLESSNESS

The knot in my stomach has a history. I remember the same knot while watching Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn until Joseph Welch spoke the lines that would stop McCarthy: “Until this moment . . . . I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. . . . . You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency? Have you no sense of decency left?”

The U.S. Senate later censured McCarthy for his reckless character assassinations of his fellow citizens whose left-of-center politics he suspected of communist sympathies or allegiances. McCarthy all but disappeared. Roy Cohn did not. Cohn went on to become the lawyer for media mogul Rupert Murdoch ; Mafia figures Tony SalernoCarmine Galante, and John Gotti;and real estate developer Donald Trump. “In 1986, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court disbarred Cohn for unethical and unprofessional conduct, including misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, and pressuring a client to amend his will.” (Roy Cohn, Wikipedia)

CONSCIENTIOUS PERSISTANCE

Only an informed electorate that persistently demands uncorrupted government under the division of powers of the U.S. Constitution will save us from the despotic government a corrupted people deserve. This is a time that tries our souls. Those who stand now will be loved and thanked by their children and grandchildren.

— Gordon C. Stewart, author, Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness (Jan. 2017, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR), Chaska, MN, October 15, 2019.

Seeing different things and common sense

Not only do we see things differently; we see different things.

Minnpost.com republished Views from the Edge’s “Reframing the Gun Conversation.” The commentary encourged a more thoughtful conversation among rural, urban, and suburban Americans by placing the issue of gun violence within the philosophical context of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” (American Declaration of Independence).

Fifty-nine response were mostly respectful, sometimes contentious, frequently like ships crossing in the night. The differences seemed grounded in something else much more foundational than the rural, urban, suburb settings that contribute to our perceptions.

MBTI Chart

MBTI Chart

On later reflection, the comments struck me as a poster child for the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory  (MBTI), which identifies 16 different ways individuals put their worlds together.

Mr. A, for example, could not understand Mr. Y’s preoccupation with statistical information. To Mr. A’s way of putting his world together, Mr. Y’s facts and statistics alleging to prove that gun violence in America is decreasing are an attempt to dismiss any serious discussion of gun violence in America.

For Mr. Y’s way of putting the world together, hard data are the baseline for any reasonable discussion. Phrases describing “a tidal wave of mass shootings” and “an endless parade of mass shootings” misrepsent the facts. In his view, Mr. A is clearly biased from the beginning. There can be no discussion if the premise is biased by emotion.

According to the MBTI profiles of different types of cognition, Mr. A and Mr. Y demonstrate contrasting extremes of perception and decision making, very different ways of putting their worlds together. “ST” types (Mr. Y) “know” by collecting information and analyzing it; “NF” types know” by intuiting a situation and approach an issue based on values.  Sometimes never the twain shall meet.

Despite all their differences, the majority of comments and exchanges made one thing clear. The word ‘gun’ is a trigger word. For gun rights advocates, it triggers a defense in fear that “they’re coming to take away our guns” or an outcry in fear that”they’re going to keep and us their guns no matter what.”

Most interesting was the comment by a gun-owner and Second Amendment rights advocate who seemed to bridge the gap in search for “common sense” solutions to gun violence in America.  We’ll call her Ms. Q. She wrote:

I am one who grew up in a rural area. I own guns. It may surprise some, but not others, that it wasn’t uncommon to find student vehicles (pickups, mostly) with guns openly stored in them. That has probably changed…it’s been a while. But I would venture to guess that guns can still be found in the vehicles of students, just not so openly.

My dad was a member of the NRA. One day, I realized (or maybe Dad mentioned it) that there was a junior membership. Well, being a daddy’s girl, I considered it. I enjoyed hunting, I enjoyed spending time with Dad, I respected what Dad thought and did. So, I read some of the NRA literature. Being somewhat precocious, I realized that the NRA wasn’t about hunting or hanging out with Dad. It was about guns. Guns Guns Guns Guns. Even back then (as I said, it’s been a while), it wasn’t about freedom or happiness, the NRA was about guns. I realized that I didn’t want to join the NRA because my gun ownership wasn’t about guns. I didn’t love guns. I loved being an American kid who had the freedom to be happy doing things like hunting with my dad. There were better organizations that more perfectly captured that feeling for me.

As I’ve aged, I am still a defender of Second Amendment rights. But not the NRA way, which seems to be the dominant position among the loudest gun rights advocates. We need to think practically about the problem. Sure, we law abiding gun owners are doing the right thing. Right? I own 3 guns and have never sold those 3 guns. However, only 1 of those guns was new when I got it. The others were purchased…well…without any safeguard at all. Friends of friends type of deal. Yeah, it’s been a while, but I guarantee you that those types of sales haven’t stopped and they are certainly not subject to background checks. How do you suppose people who commit crimes with guns get them? All of those guns were likely sold legally at some point, but eventually ended up in the wrong hands. How do we stop that?

I agree that certain restrictions will have absolutely no effect. But I also submit that many legitimate gun owners are failing to see how they contribute to the problem. What do you do with a gun you no longer want? How about this: in 2010, about 4 million babies were born in the US…but 5.5 million new guns were manufactured in the US and another nearly 3 million were imported. How many guns does each baby need? Seriously, the pace of gun manufacture has outstripped the growth of the country, which means that there are a significant number of people who are buying multiple new guns and either accumulating them (most gun collectors are harmless) or selling some. Once a gun leaves the hands of the original owner, it is harder and harder to make sure that the next owner is not one of those “inner city criminals.” That is, if you’ve ever sold a gun, you’ve contributed to the problem.

Further, I submit that keeping a gun in such a way that results in harm to someone else, particularly children, is a criminal act. Which suggests that even some law abiding gun owners are actually not law abiding. At the very least, every gun owner should be properly trained in gun use and storage. And, if gun owners oppose that measure, then for the sake of their unfortunate children, laws should be allowed to physically restrict who can use the gun. A dead child isn’t a good way to learn that lesson.

Finally, not everyone is a hero. No, not everyone should have a gun on them to “protect themselves.” Half of all people are of average intelligence or less. Combine that with the fact that common sense isn’t so common, and disaster is waiting to happen. Case in point: the woman who decided to fire upon a SHOPLIFTER leaving a home improvements store while they were driving away in a parking lot that had other people in it. She had not been threatened and none of the stolen items were hers. That woman showed all the intelligence and common sense of a dead slug. Fortunately, her Second Amendment right didn’t kill anyone, but not for lack of trying.

Can we agree that we should consider applying real common sense to the problem?

Thank you, all, but special thanks to Ms. Q for the final question.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 2, 2015