Monday, 22 July 2013

Returning to the Issue of Keeping Our Eyes on the Ball


 As something of an arch-revolutionary, it is true that my approach is a bit Hamiltonian.   It is also something of an Americanism to understand that we think of Jefferson as being a real live "peoples'" man, a vanguardian figure espousing democracy in form, substance, and outcomes, while Hamilton is the cool....even cold...aloof, aristocratic closet Royalist who recognised the obligations of the betters to protect the interests of the commoners who cannot comprehend their own self-provision and discipline.
     All comparisons break down into a heap of useless bent metal and broken glass. each of these Great Founders are a contradiction of himself.  It is impossible to feel that either should be the absolute cornerstone, or the keystone, of any Great Temple of Public Philosophy.
   In the case of El Gringo Viejo there is nothing salvageable.  I am an unfortunate person in that I am the likeness of all my forbearers.   They look like me, and I look like them.   They, however, were mainly very comely people while I was left to be homely....but looking like them in an ancestral way....both sides.  But they were also equally conflicted concerning the desired complexion of the compact between governor and governed.
    Hamilton, the closet royalist, was actually an un-fathered child  who had an extremely difficult childhood and adolescence.  One need not belabour the point, but his mother had to run from her first husband, she married the man who gave her two handsome sons, he left for legal reasons to her benefit.   She later died, and then her original husband came back and sued her estate because she deserved naught, in that she had never divorced him...By Danish law, he recovered her entire estate (very small) and left Alexander and his brother socially adrift. That is just a sample of his "aristocratic and privileged upbringing".
Alexander Hamilton portrait by John Trumbull 1806.jpg
Alexander Hamiliton
('nuf sed)
    Hamilton was sent, scholarshipped by the people of St. Kitts, to attend school in the British Colonies in 1772.   Suffice to say that Hamilton's brilliance and industry led to rapid academic advance, finally graduating with honours from King's College (now Colombia) in New York.   A brilliant military career, at the elbow of fellow by the name of George Washington, and participation with the iconic Marquis de Lafayette at the critical Battle of Yorktown, where the French and Americans gained an heroic victory over Cornwallis assured Hamilton of perpetual adulation and placement among the ranks of near gods of earthly origin in America.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale.
Thomas Jefferson
     Thomas Jefferson, 20 years or so the senior of Hamilton, and to the manor born in almost all ways, was Hamilton's equivalent in terms of studies and brilliance.   The Great Democrat, as his detractors called him, was really anything but.  Direct ownership of inherited and purchased and birthed slaves numbered, at their peak, nearly 1,000 if one includes partial interests and departed slaves who rested in the bosom of Abraham.   Jefferson was a scientist, a "Christian Agnostic" who had arguments with Jesus of Nazareth and the latter's "absurd assertions", although he tended to think of the Rabbi as probably being the Son of Yahweh.

    Jefferson had many rambling contradictions within his range of opinions and studies and beliefs.   He opposed slavery, but was reluctant to manumit many...only seven or eight...because he thought them incapable of self-provision.  He admired much about the Indians, but his were the cited sources of legal opinions and intellectual writings  when Andrew Jackson decided to break of all agreements with the Cherokee and others of the peaceful and adaptive Indians in the South.   This led to the expulsion in the 1830s, even over the outcry of whites in the South, of thousands of Cherokee and Creek over a three year period.
     Jefferson was also something else.  He was an incessant revolutionary.  One must read, and read, and read to find out how this man was committed to the idea of perpetual study and perpetual order, to authority, and even to his own conventions.   Very peculiar.

     So here we are, recognising the value of both of these proven, heroic, men. And, perhaps El Gringo Viejo follows the both of them, although, even as a person disposed to the Confederate position in the War Between the States, my favourite betwixt the two would have to be Hamilton.   This is said with full knowledge that he was also a fool for ever having agreed to meet a cold blooded, experienced Aaron Burr on any field of honour.    Alexander allowed his ardour to get the best of him.  He should have simply stated that he would  not stain his beloved State of New York's soil with the blood of a syphilitic viper.


     All of this wordiness and casting backwards glances bears upon our problem here...and now.   We are well beyond that point where radical solutions must be employed to salvage what is left of the character and strength of the American Republic.  Huge entitlement programs must be localised, reduced, and/or abolished.   We have become as is the monkey who can reach through the bar and grab the banana, but he cannot bring his hand back into the cage without releasing the banana.
   We are so prosperous that a 40 year old man learns in the local saloon that he can slide into a Social Security Disability payment by learning how to limp and whine just right. And after studying the symptoms and manifestations of his chosen disability he can find an attorney to escort him into a compliant hearing at the Social Security Administration and "presto" he's disabled and on the gravy train. He frees up hundreds, even thousands of free money Yankee dollars every month to pay his bar bill and membership at the Water Buffalo Lodge where he can go down and hobnob with Fred and Barney six nights a week.

     Then there is the issue of Detroit which is the issue of all of us.  We, the rightwing crazies and hard noses and "uncompromising" are aware that we were not crazy, hard nosed, and uncompromising enough apparently.   A combination of national socialist-capitalism...where the businesses and businessmen line up to "get their share" of the free bacon...and labour unions where malingerers are paid to do what they do best and then complain about it, public employees who are certain that there is a Right somewhere in that Constitutiary thing that says they retire at 55 years of age and receive whatever can be milked out of the current accounts of the public employer's tax base....have all come together to prove one point.
    That point is that Republicans hate homosexuals and women.  And white people are always going around shooting innocent Negro children all the time.   And if it had been thirty five years ago, they would have shot the current President right now.  Because he looks a lot like the same campaign speech he gives continuously if he can wrap it back around to pointing out that America is the worst place or concept that has ever existed in the history of the Universe.

     This finally is a call to gird the loins, water the camels, to strike out on a difficult mission.   We simply must stop spending money that, not only do we not have,  but just does not exist.   Go to sleep to-night, and do not count sheep....count Detroits.   There are approximately 240 that are presently teetering over the abyss.  Whole States, such as Obama's home sweet home, Illinois and the Beach Boys' delight...California are swirling in the toilet awaiting that inevitable death rattle as they head for the sewer treatment plant of history.   It all comes from the notion that the Government is the source of money and the withholding of Government money from the people who need it most is an extreme and selfish position.
Patrick henry.JPG
Patrick Henry
Governor of the Old Dominion
    Another term for this kind of "moderate" thinking is "social psychosis".   And if there ever were a time to think like Jefferson and Hamilton, to seek uncompromisingly appropriate solution and commitment to these overwhelming challenges...this is the time.   We cannot compromise with any fool who is on the Titanic who says, "I refuse to board the life-boat until the waiter brings me my hamburger".    There is no longer any time left to entertain the fools who say, "We had a contract, and they better damned well pay me my 4,000/month USD pension payment, or I'll sue!!"   There is no more money.   We fed it all to Solyndra, subsidies for everything from ethanol to the Soil Bank, to feeding diabetic 300 pound fifth graders, and providing Medicaid to slugs who feel like someone ought to pay for their lifepath...and their staypath....and their eatpath ...and their utilitypath.

     Why are we so bound....?   Another hardcase, uncompromising, Tea Party nutcase who did not want to reach across the aisle and compromise spake thusly:

St. John's Church, Richmond, Virginia
March 23, 1775.

MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfil the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.
Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House? Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with these war-like preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled, that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask, gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done, to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free² if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending²if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable²and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
So with these things said, and re-represented, and considering the trials and tribulations these above cited personalities endured, I renew the call for us to accept the challenges wrought by the defence of liberty.   These men fought for much less...a tax of tuppence...on a gross crate of tea.   They fought for ideas. And they fought for honour, although, even among themselves they said that their honour had been cheapened through life by their own excesses.
    But they knew that they were being enslaved by a mercantile tyranny. And they risked all to free themselves of the arbitrary nature expressed in the salon of an arrogant Parliament...and worse was found in Buckingham.   We have worse now.
We appreciate your time and patience.
El Gringo Viejo