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Date Posted: Fri, Sep 29 2017, 13:10:36 PDT
Author: Ken de Russy (Offense is taken, not given)
Author Host/IP: NoHost /
Subject: Modeling behavior

It is said we should model the behavior we wish to see. I continue to hope for intelligent, mature conversation constrained only by the bounds of civility. Anyone care to join in?

Our flag means different things to different people. Along with honoring those who founded our country and those who fought in support of our Constitution it should remind us that the United States was the first country founded on ideas. The Enlightenment thinkers had discovered and defined the idea of individual rights as the superior alternative to being the property of the state or society. Our founding fathers gave us a system that explicitly acknowledged those individual rights. Our inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were guaranteed by the language of the Bill of Rights. Those who have served at least since WW2 have all sworn the Oath of Enlistment. "I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Athough the period of enlistment is time delimited most veterans feel forever bound at least to that portion "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same". At the time I made that solemn pledge I had only the most simplistic appreciation for what it meant. My pledge to bear true faith and alligiance to our Constitution requires of me, at least, to understand and live those great principles. Failing to do so dishonors me, all those who fought for the Constitution, and those great founding fathers who were genius enough to construct an unprecedented system of liberty. What kind of man would I be if I was not able to intelligently define and express these ideas?

James Madison, writing of freedom of conscience, reminds us that our rights are not "granted" to us, not by government or society. This passage is from "The Greeks and America’s Founding Fathers Part 2: Learning What Not to Do" by Timothy Sandefur.

“Wherever the real power in a government lies, there is the danger of oppression,” Madison wrote. “In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.”

But for Madison and his allies, toleration was not enough. Instead, they insisted on religious liberty. Madison’s friend Thomas Paine denounced the idea of toleration: “Toleration is not the opposite of intoleration, but is the counterfeit of it,” he wrote. “Both are despotisms. The one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, and the other of granting it.” George Washington agreed. “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of,” he wrote, “as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” In the United States, “[a]ll possess alike liberty of conscience.”

The purpose of government is to protect individual freedom, not to empower the majority to do its will. If the majority is subject to no will but its own, then they are essentially above the law.

Offense is taken, not given, and that offending is sometimes necessary; not only to point out absurdities, but also to fight for complete freedom to criticize.


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