Wednesday, May 14, 2014

3: Insure Domestic Tranquility

            I’d like to state what “insure domestic tranquility” means to me, and let the committee that discusses this goal take it from there. [The conference envisioned has yet to be scheduled due lack of interest.] 
            I just received my copy of Noah Feldman’s book, Divided by God: America’s church – State Problem – and What We Should Do About It, 2005, recommended to me in the Supreme Court’s decision regarding prayers in Greece, NY[1]; don’t expect more than what I think.
            I think Federalist 10 initiates a discussion of domestic tranquility; at least it talks about the people of 1787-8: 

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Nowhere does Madison juxtapose “personal liberty” and slavery. People compete to gain preeminence and power for their own interests. Those with common interests naturally associate into minorities, and there can be a majority group. Democracies favor the majority at the expense of the other citizens. However, the Constitution proposes a republic, wherein patriotic, highly moral representatives consider their constituents yet maintain the long-term good for everyone.

When a majority is included in a larger faction--the whole, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables the majority to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.

Somehow, the reader thinks maybe “popular government” means “democracy,” and suspects that the rule of law—republican governance under “We the People of the United Sates,” as defined in the preamble--has been sacrificed. Madison judged the government a “desideratum,” something needed, but he totally ignored the preamble. Perhaps the preamble was Gouverneur Morris’s creation, and for Madison, it only had ceremonial significance. Our generation has the opportunity to change that, because all citizens who came before left that privilege to us. Let me repeat that: our ancestors could have taken the opportunity to use the preamble's power, but fortunately, we have it.
In my mid seventies, I have a perception of the meaning of life: It is to discover yourself, as Max Ehrmann may have. His poem, “Desiderata,” published in 1927, when he was fifty-five years old expresses, in his way, self discovery.[2] Please stop at this footnote, pull the poem up, and read it. Ehrmann died at seventy-three, perhaps still advocating, “Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.”             
To mimic Ermann I say the god is the-objective-truth much of which is unknown, and I want to conform to it. If facing an unknown, utilize hard-earned opinion, and otherwise accept the actual reality.[3] At fifty-five I had comprehended that I could not, would not choose a god instead of the-objective-truth; even though I had not yet discovered the definitive phrase “the-objective-truth.” Since then, I realized I am not impressed with Aristotle’s opinions about ancient thinkers’ intellectual constructs called “soul.” I don’t know; but it seems to me there are no phantasms and spirits and other worlds. I am at peace with my person: the entity that is supported by my body and mind. I placed my faith in the-objective-truth of which most is undiscovered and some is understood and trust my afterdeath, that vast time after my body and mind stop, as certainly as I knew not my conception.
            The-objective-truth yields to neither reason nor faith nor trust nor commitment nor a god:  it simply is, and it is up to humans to discover it, based on evidence. Radical skeptics question the existence of the-objective-truth, but there is the-objective-truth about the-objective-truth. The-objective-truth certainly cannot be governed: humankind can only respond to it. Since much of the-objective-truth is unknown, my position about things I do not know is, “I do not know.” For all I know, the-objective-truth involves God, whatever that is. For all I know, my soul will be judged by Jesus, and I am prepared: but I don't think such judgment is in the offing. Judgment of my person is happening now. Self-discipline is my servant now.
            Many professors have studied the stages of life and most arrive at something like Ehrmann’ peace with God and soul or my faith in the-objective-truth regardless of soul. Professor Orlando Patterson seems to understand psychological maturity, stating, “[P]sychologically the ultimate human condition is to be liberated from all internal and external constraints in one's desire to realize one's self.” However, differing from me, which does not make him wrong, he confines this "liberation" within the spirituality of the Son of God.[4] H.A. Overstreet considers the child’s challenge to discover self as a member of humankind, chastises Christianity as keeping people in a child-like psychological state (Page 263), and concludes about humankind, “Man appears to be [a] mind on the way to knowing more than it has known before.” (Page 265) andThe chief end of man [is to] move toward wholeness of life.”[5] Erik Erickson described the end stage of life, usually beyond age 65, “Many people, who have achieved what was important to them, look back on their lives and feel great accomplishment and a sense of integrity. Conversely, those who had a difficult time during middle adulthood may look back and feel a sense of despair."[6] James Fowler explained a rare sixth stage of Christian faith: “The . . . felt sense of an ultimate environment is inclusive of all being. They have become incarnators and actualizers of the spirit of an inclusive and fulfilled human community.”[7] The consensus seems to be that psychological maturity includes the attainment of peace toward self and mankind. (Peace toward mankind does not imply mankind's peace returned.)
            It seems to me that, respecting the difficulties the delegates to the first Continental Congress had due to their division over sectarian gods (1774), the Constitutional Convention’s decision not to divide their effort over gods (1787), and the First Congress’ arrogance against the-objective-truth by unconstitutionally reintroducing gods into government (1789), it should be clear to America that change is needed: citizens need to be neighborly toward each other, and  mixing gods into civic governance will always divide, not establish civic integrity. Neighborliness can be brought about by a super-majority of citizens committing to and trusting in civic governance according to the preamble. Civic governance has to do with how citizens treat each other on the land because they are in the land--not as preferences as in societies or cultures. Separation of state from church has long been held to be in favor of religion, and it seems to me legislators should be held responsible for maintaining the problem of state meddling with religion. Religion is for believing adults only.
            Domestic tranquility can be insured by most of citizens living according to cooperative autonomy and mutual accommodation of others, who provide the same, collaborative opportunity to everyone else. If a majority of citizens are committed to the preamble as the civic mediator, they will serve as their own collaborators: in integrity, you can’t communicate with your no-harm neighbor and not happily support his pursuit of happiness as he perceives it. Fear of this reality, by American tradition holds neighbors apart. Neighbors must require our elected and appointed government officials to fulfill the literal preamble.

Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised on June 29, 2018

[3] By “hard earned opinion” I mean four practices: do the hard work to comprehend the issue, act according to understanding, express the understanding and listen to responses, and be alert for the need to change. For example, I oppose abortion but moreover oppose forcing a woman to remain pregnant.
[4] James Q. Wilson. The Moral Sense. Free Press Paperbacks. 1993. 1997 ed, Page 195.
[5] H. A. Overstreet. The Mature Mind. 1949.  Norton, NY. Page 266.
[7] From Joann Wolski Conn (ed.), Women’s Spirituality: Resources for Christian Development. (Paulist, 1986), pp. 226-232.