Is patriotism singular?
Kate Mahoney, Marion, Mass.
The Minot Daily News editorial of July 3, “Has government gone too far in keeping us safe?” promoted a personal introspection of Independence Day and the wisdom, foresight, and intent of our Founding Fathers. I should note that I was born and raised in Minot (go Magi!), and lived there through college at UND. My ND lineage goes back several generations.
The editorial writer noted that “numerous infringements were justified by the British government by claims they were necessary to protect the public” as important to explain why our ancestors no longer wanted to live under British Rule. While true, the statement is incomplete. My first pondering began. What was the impetus for our quest for independence? Was this the relevant reasoning? The Founding Fathers did not reject the King’s justifying claims based on lack of desire to protect the public. Rather, they rejected these infringements as parts of a whole of action leading to, as stated in the Indictment, ” a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States”. To suggest that current government actions made on the basis of protecting the public are stained by those of a defined Tyrant is illogical.
Reading past the first line of the Preamble, I found the continuation of an outline of the philosophies justifying revolution, including “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”. Reflection time. Special note to pronouns, “Their happiness” as it pertains to a collective Government, is not singular, but plural. Our safety, our happiness, The Americans’ insistence on the rights of individual was not created in a vacuum, but rather in combination with the formation of a new democratic government. One which would “Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good” (one of the indictments listed in the Declaration against the King for his refusal to do so.). This is a charge, a responsibility given by our founding fathers. Something to be weighed in the creation and management of our “unalienable rights” of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The editorial also asks “How would Benjamin Franklin, who in 1755 warned that, ‘Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty of Safety’ feel about the epidemic-related emergency orders?” What, I wondered, is purchasing ‘temporary Safety’ “? Actions aimed at preventing one loss of life? One thousand? One hundred thousand?
Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin changed three words in Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration. “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” became “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, a nod to more of the analytical tools of reason and definition. Ponder time: Is self-evident absolute? Where does my “self-evident” end, and where does that of my fellow countrymen begin? How is “self-evident” defined by a collective Government?
Am I a patriot? I looked to our Founding Fathers for guidance. Alexander Hamilton once said, “There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” James Madison noted that “A spirit of liberty and patriotism animates all degrees and denominations of men.” I checked those personal boxes with satisfaction, noting the weight of charge. The commitment to the values set forth in 1776 is a continuous action.
I finally settled on author and libertarian Victor Hugo’s words that “The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins” which comprises in two lines the entire law of human society.
Patriotism, I concluded, is not singular.