Monday, June 2, 2014

6: Liberty to ourselves

           The words in the phrase “secure . . . liberty to ourselves” are controversial. What liberty? In 1788, during ratification, liberty from England had been won. Independence was acknowledged in 1783. George Washington had, earlier in 1783, appealed to the people to establish domestic justice and national standing before the world. Perhaps it follows that “secure” implies “ensure,” more than “obtain,” except domestic justice is required for liberty. Perhaps “secure” was chosen for double intent: secure liberty from England and establish domestic liberty in 1787, with the proposed preamble.
Despite the attention to secular gods throughout the colonial period and during the revolutionary years, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided not to conduct daily prayers and wrote a document that places the responsibility for governance on the people rather than on a god. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 84 says the people surrender nothing, and I assert that includes not surrendering civic responsibility to personal gods. Therefore, it seems unlikely that “blessings” means favors from personal gods--hope for happiness in the church’s infinite future or in each person’s afterdeath as opposed to work for happiness for children, grandchildren and beyond. Perhaps in this use “blessing” means benefit. “Liberty” means freedom from something:  arbitrary government, foreign rule, restriction, domestic alienation, or captivity. In other words, the object is personal liberty to a people who agree to the preamble’s civic contract more than national liberty. All of these meanings seem to apply, and perhaps “domestic liberty” was the chief issue. Since sectarian Christian, land-owning men seems to comprise “ourselves,” I doubt I would like a paraphrase of the 1788 goal, but for 2015, I might write, “establish cooperative domestic freedom.” America is far from that goal: Americans do not grant themselves domestic freedom. Instead, Americans work hard for domestic alienation. Many Americans are attracted to entertainment, because it assures them domestic solitude.
            In 1788 the states debated arbitrary Christian sectarianism but had no problems castigating Catholics and atheists and others, such as Asians. Independence from England had been won on the Eastern seaboard, but there were foreign rulers in contiguous lands--Florida and across the vast continent. Some states charged tariffs for passage of goods to other states and withheld their contributions to war debts. In 1790, there were 697,681 slaves and 59,527 free blacks in a population of 3,929,214,[1] so captivity was a significant issue. But blacks and atheists would not have been considered citizens in those days. Atheists were not citizens of "our Creator," and that disqualified them according to James Madison in "Memorial & Remonstrance," June 20, 1785. For the first presidential election, only 6% of the population could vote.[2]
            The history of gradually increasing domestic liberty is illustrated by the timeline of voting rights. In the following table, I will not distinguish between state or federal authorization:

            1776    only land owners could vote
            1790    Naturalization Act requires white race can vote
            1856    all white men, not exclusively land owners, can vote
            1857    Dred Scott decision: African descendants not citizens
            1868    male former slaves could vote but state prevented them
            1870    no discrimination explicitly by race, so other restrictions are created
            1920    women can vote
            1952    Asians may become citizens
            1965    Voting rights act--against discriminations

Based on this table, only a niggling atheist, who can vote but cannot be elected, would complain about his/her civil rights. Someone with faith in the objective truth much of which is undiscovered and some of which is understood can just forget about it--nobody can even understand such a faith. (That’s my faith and I don’t want to share it.) And he/she cannot look to secularists for help, because too many of them are both anti-faith perhaps due to pride in reason and anti-religion perhaps due to absolutism. 
            The objective truth yields to neither belief nor reason nor words, so the person who is committed to it must try to discover physics, comprehend, accept, make best use of or benefit from, share, and be quick to change with new input that requires change. For example, a child learns what happens when he/she spits into the wind, does it no more, shares the message with young friends, but remains alert for news, for example, that naturally oxidized spit has a 60% chance of autogenously vaccinating an Ebola patient (imaginary example).  Ideas society takes for granted should be examined. It is not necessary to forgo religious faith in order to commit to the objective truth, but when the two are in conflict, doubt should perch on religion, because the objective truth cannot be denied by faith, reason, art, mystery, revelation, or any other intellectual construct. For example, if you are in the path of a tornado, it is best to take cover. The radical skeptic may entertain himself or herself by asserting that there is no objective truth, for example, claiming everything is a dream, but the skeptic gets hung in the circle that there is the objective truth regarding the existence of the objective truth.
            Should the 4th of July be the people’s premier patriotic holiday? I don’t think so: It seems obsolete. I annually read the Declaration of Independence. Many features confound me. Why did a sectarian Christian majority use deistic terms: "Nature’s God . . . Creator . . . divine Providence"? Since the King’s god was Christian, were they making a war statement like, our deistic god will beat your Christian god? If so, how could the 1776 Christian majority be such hypocrites? And how hypocritical is the claim “all men are created equal” by slave-holding invaders who label the first Americans “Savages”! Most of all, why not take seriously the influence and deadly contradiction of the South's god versus the North's god for the Civil War? Would family members and neighbors slaughter each other without the influence of their gods--gods that were each constructed from the same text?  Confront the invasion of Iraq and other ruinous mistakes that were influenced by George W. Bush's god.
            It seems evident that Abraham Lincoln’s great skill was politics, but can we not gauge his failures and employ his best ideas? In his First Inaugural Address, 1861, hoping to persuade the Confederate States not to cause war, Lincoln said, “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?” It seems each personal god is the best hope in the world. Unfortunately, Lincoln had, in 1857, rebuking the Dred Scott decision, contradicted himself by trumping the US Constitution with the Declaration of Independence’s poetic claim, “all men are created equal.” Not having a similar statement in the US Constitution, he could have lobbied for the Thirteenth Amendment, without war; but then he might not have become President. Lincoln pushed back “the ultimate justice of the people,” at least a century and a half. It is shocking that our generation can stop the stagnation, but we can, by committing to domestic justice for the people--by committing to the preamble. Thereby, a people could establish the preamble as the world's best hope.
            I use the phrase "a people," because "We the People of the United States," is totalitarian and thereby an ideal that can be approached only asymptotically. Not surprisingly, it’s similar to a religious claim to being a god’s people. Today, many people talk of the preamble, but almost no one uses it to guide civic governance. The literal sentence is a civic contract, often misguidedly labeled "social" and worse, "secular," which too often means both anti-religion and anti-faith. Civic is a very powerful term that implies cooperation respecting the common affairs of human needs. Most civic issues, such as queuing to enter a sports arena, can be settled by candid discussion, but some issues, such as vehicular traffic control, add risk and therefore civic laws are required to establish civil order. "Civic laws" distinguish the civic function from military and church functions with their laws. The issues at stake are public issues, but “civic” carries with it the obligation to negotiate resolution, and the basis for mediation is physics, rather than religion. I speculate that about 70% of Americans would use the preamble to establish civic liberty, leaving criminals, evils, and other persons who want domestic alienation as the 30% of "We the People of the United States." Politically dividing inhabitants based on their commitment and trust in the preamble would be beneficial, and perhaps the 30% guess would decline as benefits emerged.  
            A people could create a new, premier holiday toward promoting and celebrating domestic justice, while commemorating Independence Day without mendacity. The domestic-justice celebration could appeal to citizens to be of “We the People of the United States” as defined in the preamble. Such is the objective of Ratification Day Celebration, June 21, 2015. A logical annual alternate is Constitution Day, September 17. Perhaps both days should be celebrated.
            The French may have won the war for American independence as part of decades old French wars against England. Independence came with the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, which resulted from planning by the French, Compte de Rochambeau and Comte de Grasse. For a year, they had placated George Washington’s plan for revenge of an earlier defeat at New York. In October, 1781, the warriors included nine thousand British and Germans against eleven thousand Americans, nine thousand French soldiers, and twenty-two thousand French sailors--over 30,000 French military! In September, 1783, the treaty, in which the King granted the thirteen States independence from England, was signed in Paris only after a treaty between France and England was signed. Other European treaties resulted from the French victory on American soil. A couple months earlier, George Washington said farewell to the Continental Army and told Americans their freedom was won and now they needed to establish domestic justice and global recognition as a nation. Washington, addressing the Continental Army, did not express gratitude to Rochambeau or Grasse or France. Perhaps he wanted to reserve his gratitude to his troops. However, France would not forget their gratitude for Americans, and they gave the United States the Statue of Liberty. The author of the idea is recalled:
[Édouard René de] Laboulaye's views on America were formed in light of the history, to this day, of relations between France and the United States. Alliance with France had been vital, probably crucial, to American victory in the Revolution. This friendship was sealed in blood, for French soldiers lay buried on American battlefields.[3]
The statue commemorates the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
            The facts, shocking to a boy educated under the American propaganda but curious about foreign views, beg a humble view of the 4th of July. Obviously important, Independence Day, intentionally or not, distracts citizens from the injustice they suffer by long-standing failure to establish domestic justice and goodwill. Propaganda on the 4th of July helps citizens ignore events like alien domestic comments following the dedication of the Statue of Liberty:
Shortly after the dedication, The Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue's torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation "in reality": "Liberty enlightening the world," indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the "liberty" of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the "liberty" of this country "enlightening the world," or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme.[4]
This outrage is mistakenly discharged on France's gratitude for America's contribution to the human quest for personal liberty and goodwill to all.
            In contrast to the world’s attention to slavery in America, the despotism against non-theists is not as extreme; but that minority, approximately 23% of the population, is required to brook the imposition of personal gods into their civic governance; the god is taken for granted, even though none of the majority knows what the god is and none of their personal constructs agree! Without domestic justice, there can be no freedom. Also, the English are among our most reliable allies and it is loathsome to remind them of past divisions. Yet, letting divisions in Europe fade into history is a reason for the unseemly practice of not expressing gratitude to the French during each American Independence Day. Lastly, while national independence is a key to the America republic’s availability to immigrants, the failure to deliver them domestic justice ruins native freedom. When new citizens are welcomed on Constitution Day, September 17 they are likely to understand “We the People”[5] to mean either the divided Christian demographic majority or the cooperative minorities who can accomplish 50% plus one vote and be the voting majority. Like the rest of citizens, immigrants take no stake in the god competition if they are of a people as defined by the preamble. But immigrants are very unlikely to perceive that opportunity under domestic traditions, such as during celebration of Constitution Day, September 17, when they are greeted with “We the People” and then depart to face traditional Americanism.
            We know what Americanism is: It’s, “Mother, personal god, and country: love it or leave it.” The battle to establish a civic god has been waged in this country for over 400 years, and in the last couple decades the US Supreme Court has called the tyranny “ceremonial references to the divine.”[6] But what the American god means to a Buddhist boy in Shreveport, Louisiana in 2014 is despotic attack on his thoughts.[7] His teacher, backed by “ceremonial reference” gives her despotism a Christian slant by calling it “conscience,” but bottom line, she is attacking a boy’s human right to think. You may mistakenly class me just another niggling nut, but Americans are paying the out-of-court settlements for this long-standing ignorant despotism, originated by the likes of James Madison. Madison and others mistook arrogance regarding their gods as humility and dictated that every citizen express it according to “conscience.” I prefer no substitute for humility. I prefer no substitute for love. Citizens continuously bear the cost of settlements of lawsuits generated for the regimes who impose what has become the Supreme Court’s “ceremonial references to the divine.”
            Repeating, it is American citizens who are slaves to civic defense of a god; that intellectual construct is represented by the political regimes at citizens’ expense. It seems self-evident that all people are subject to whatever power may be in control of reality, whether it be chaos, energy, a supreme being, or a being that requires worship. However, because that power is not only unknown but not known to exist by any person, no person has the prerogative to impose its imaginary substitute on other citizens, whether the label be God, god, creator, Creator, supreme being, Mother God, Father God, Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Ceremonial god, energy, chaos, the objective truth, or the myriad other constructs. That does not imply that citizens cannot discuss the names or use their faiths in discussions to reach civic compromise, but they cannot state civic needs in religious terms and there must be mutual accommodation: a Buddhist cannot impose no god into civic governance with a Christian and a Christian cannot impose Jesus into civic governance with a Buddhist. There must be a civic mediator, neither a religious one nor secular one. "Secular" is the antonym and thus is circular to "religious." On entering the symphony hall, the ticket taker and usher are the mediators, and the convention empowers peaceful, expedient entry. The preamble can operate the same way to mediate direct, domestic compromise, leading to domestic justice and domestic liberty.
            The god dilemma is self-imposed slavery for Americans, and, so far, eight generations have fallen prey. Justice and liberty are accessible—domestic peace is accessible—if a supermajority commits to and trusts in the preamble as civic mediator with citizens as the compromisers. Members of a people also either pursue spirituality or philosophy or art or do not, according to personal preference, and they allow institutional religions to serve followers without civic conflict. The long-controversial idea of separation of church and state—religion versus secularism--imposes a false impression on the issue of civic governance. Citizens need cooperative autonomy and mutual civic accommodation. Justice supports personal inspiration and motivation for each individual, whether a god is involved for a person or not.
            Some people are constrained to ask how a society can for so long oppress people who seem different, when in fact everyone has the same origins and a common hope:  To be free to live in peace according to personal opinion respecting what liberty is and allow others the same opportunity. I think the people who signed the 1787 US Constitution saw a provision—nine civic goals, which they wrote into the preamble--that could make this promise come true, despite all the injustice they were part of—slavery, oppression of women, etc. But the First Congress could not overcome the traditional fear of personal gods, and they imposed that fear on civic governance. Subsequent regimes have done everything in their power to keep the divided-Christian majority in power, but it is time for that majority to free themselves from a false paradigm and help fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s vision for the source of justice, which I repeat: “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?”
            Citizens who secure justice secure freedom.

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 April 26, 2015

[1] Online at: .
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[3] Online at: .
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[6] Online at: re TOWN OF GREECE v. GALLOWAY .
[7] Online at: .