Tag Archives: constitution

CIVICS LESSON #10: A GOVERNMENT OF LAWS AND NOT A GOVERNMENT OF PERSONALITIES

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

John Adams’s oft quoted phrase “a government of laws and not of men” has very specific meaning. Our nation was founded by wise men who realized that a government of laws was stable, but a government of human beings, of personalities, was not. Personalities differ from person to person, as do ambitions, vision, ideas, education and depth. What one person believes may change from time to time thereby also making what he does about what he believes change, as well.

George Washington, probably the most powerful personality of his day, was once offered the option of being a king or a president. He chose to be president and even limited his service to two terms. Washington, in his wisdom, recognized the principle embodied in Adams’s phrase, because kings do not rule consistently, while a president elected by the people on the promise that he will maintain established laws, will be most consistent.

A body of laws tends to remain stable, providing those chosen to enforce those laws, i.e., the elected and appointed government officials and bureaucrats, pledge scrupulous allegiance to uphold and preserve them. In fact, when sworn in, elected officials take such a pledge before assuming office. But the principles embodied in our founding documents are easily lost or transmuted when they take second place to a “leader” in whom vast power is invested to govern without paying scrupulous attention to the pledge he or she has taken. Despite having taken the pledge to uphold and protect the US Constitution and the laws derived from it, Barak Obama promised instead to fundamentally transform America.

Therein is the danger of electing a personal leader instead of a public servant. In such situations, personality trumps the humble promise to keep the nation as it was conceived and instead to fashion laws and policies to suit his intentions. Electing someone on the basis of personality is like saying, “Make up your mind and tell us what to do” rather than “Make sure you uphold all of my established rights and protect them from being stolen by an unscrupulous government.”

To avoid this very danger, the wise founders of our nation gave us a body of laws to ensure our great freedom and of all our rights as American citizens. The founding documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the greatest documents ever conceived by man with respect to freedom and rights, because they chose the individual over government.

The practical fruits of the our system, the proof of its effectiveness and its value to civilization, have been two and a half centuries of freedom and wealth unprecedented in all of human history, not limited to those in political power, but spread among all people who possess energy and wit to pursue their own fortunes. But as Benjamin Franklin warned about keeping our republic, the Constitution and Bill of Rights can be lost to politicians with big, flashy personalities who make false promises. Therefore, as John Adams’s phrase tells us, we must have a government of laws and not of men.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse. You can find out more about FJ over at http://www.candiddiscourse.com/.

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Filed under Civics Lessons, Guest Post, history education

COMBAT DIARIES #5: WHAT HAS AMERICA DONE FOR ME?

Image courtesy of emptyglass / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of emptyglass / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is a guest post by Dana Casey.

It has been so many years since I taught in a school where the Pledge of Allegiance is a normal part of the morning procedures that can’t even remember how long it has been. This year the Pledge was made a part of daily morning announcements at my current school. I do not have a first period class; nonetheless, when the Pledge came over the intercom, I stood with my hand over my heart facing the flag in my empty room and pledged along with Mr. K who leads the school. The flag in my room is one that I purchased, because, just like so many other things, my school does not supply flags for classrooms. I think my room may be the only room in the school graced with the stars and stripes.

One day Mr. K was late getting to the announcements and so he delivered them during second period. I was taken by surprise and was in the middle of doing the drill. I scrambled to prepare the students and to give them quick instructions on my classroom policy. I admonished, “Here is my policy on the Pledge. You don’t have to stand or say the Pledge, but you must respect the moment and sit quietly while others pledge.” Mr. K started the Pledge; I stood with my hand on my heart and said it along with him, and not one — not ONE — student stood up with me.

When the Pledge was done, I looked at my students in disbelief. I said to the class that I was ashamed. I could not believe that not one student had enough pride in America to stand and say the pledge, but the more I thought about it I was not really surprised.

I completely respect someone’s right not to stand for the Pledge if he feels it goes against his beliefs. The freedom not to do such a thing is an important part of American freedoms. Actually, way back in 1973 when I was 12 years old, I alone in my class refuse to stand in protest of the Vietnam War. One wise teacher challenged me in way that I never forgot. He said that though he respected my right to refuse, he wondered if I actually understood exactly what I was protesting and whether I was sure I was making appropriate protest in response. I never forgot what he said and, after giving it some thought, I once again joined my classmates in stating the pledge.

In 1996, decades later, I remembered that intelligent encounter with that teacher when I had a few students who wouldn’t stand. I presented them the same challenge. One young man replied, “What has America ever done for me?” The first response that I gave to him was John Kennedy’s famous quote “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Then I told him that he should go visit many other countries of the world and he would realize that our poor are their middle class and their poor were always going to be poor unlike in America where a man like Ben Carson could go from dire poverty to being an extremely wealthy and nationally admired man. He would then discover what America had to offer him. His only response was to snort in disbelief.

My current group of students didn’t care at all; they didn’t even throw out a challenge like that young man from earlier in my career. They didn’t refuse to stand up, they just couldn’t be bothered. But it is even worse than that. The students that I teach have no American identity at all. In fact, for most of their school career they have been given a decidedly anti-American education. Common Core will continue that anti-American indoctrination nationally (as I will be further revealing in an upcoming article).

Many of my high school students can quote from Malcolm X, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock; Plymouth Rock landed on us.”, but they couldn’t give you a single quote from a single U.S. president, not even from Obama. Neither can they tell you when the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, or any other war took place, why it was fought, or who it was fought against. They cannot say what is in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Most of them do not even know that the Emancipation Proclamation was over 151 years ago and think that it happened only a few generations ago. Most of them cannot tell you the reason for celebrating the 4th of July, Veteran’s’ Day, or Memorial Day. They have no pride in being American, because no one has ever taught them why America is an exceptional nation and what freedoms and opportunities America affords them.

Instead, my students have been specifically taught that America has done nothing but cheat them. One of my students from Honduras insisted that all white people have five bedroom homes with two car garages. I told him that I had nonesuch and lived just up the street in a three bedroom row house in a neighborhood with many of my students. He refused to believe me. My students also believe that minorities are a majority of the country (I know, it is oxymoronic). When asked to estimate the percentage of African-Americans in the country, the answers that I get are 45% to 90%! My students have told me that life for African-Americans in this country just as bad as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century. The national leaders of these minorities like Jackson and Sharpton and even the Clintons perpetuate these lies to stir up race hatred and keep us divided, while they line their own pockets with impunity.

America had better re-educate our children soon on why she is such an exceptional country. We must teach the real history of America, her failings and her successes. Currently, most urban students are only taught an exaggerated and biased analysis of her failings and only in relationship to their minority population giving a deeply skewed perception of what America really is. We must emphasize the opportunities America offers which are unique and exceptional. This is why so many want to come to this great land. We must embolden the rugged individual, unlike Obama who has declared him dead. We must once again instill a sense of pride in our country so that my students proudly stand with me, their fellow American, and voluntarily pledge allegiance to the United States of America.

Thanks for stopping by! What are your thoughts on the pledge? Consider commenting below. If you liked this article, please share it with a friend and on your social media stream of choice? 

Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system.  She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can find out more about Dana over at http://www.candiddiscourse.com/.

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Filed under American culture, Guest Post, Speaking Out

CIVICS LESSON #9: THE FLAG AND WHY WE PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO IT

Image courtesy of emptyglass / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of emptyglass / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Flags have been around for thousands of years. They have been used for many purposes, including communication, from the semaphore signals that used to be taught in Boy Scouts, to signals among ships at sea (flying the flag) and, of course, for identification. There are flags emblazoned with the crests of royalty, others with symbols of various levels of government, states flags, city flags, county flags. But the most important flags flown and the most recognizable are those identifying a nation.

In the US, we have what is popularly called “the Stars and Stripes.” This flag evolved from the 13 original colonies, each represented by a star, through the addition of states to the present flag which contains 50 stars.

The stripes also have meaning. While stars are added every time states are added to our union, there are always only 13 stripes representing the original states. The stars represent the current size of the union, while the stripes represent our origin as a nation.

The colors too have meaning. Red symbolizes courage, white symbolizes honor, and blue symbolizes loyalty. Consider the struggle American patriots endured to revolt against the English King, George III, and make the American colonies into the United States of America, unabashedly and proudly the greatest nation in the history of mankind. That struggle, from the Battle of Bunker Hill, through the hardships of Valley Forge, to the final victory and English surrender at Yorktown, those who fought, suffered and died for American independence possessed honor, loyalty, and courage in so great a measure that we celebrate them to this day.

Our nation is great for many reasons, but not for its long line of monarchs, for its conquests or for its subjugation of peoples. We are not a conquering nation. Even in our most recent wars, we have tried to liberate people who were subjugated by enemies of freedom. In only one episode of American history has the US acquired territory, during the Spanish-American War, in 1898 when Puerto Rico and the Philippines became US protectorates. Puerto Rico remains a US territory, but the Philippines are now an independent nation

Because we are a nation settled and built by immigrants, we have no ethnic American identity. What we have is identity according to the philosophy embraced by our Founding Fathers and enshrined in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. That philosophy is founded on the principles that each and every independent citizen is endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the acquisition of property. Each and every citizen is free to say and do whatever he wants, providing he does not violate the right of others, and every citizen has the right to move unobstructed throughout the nation and to gather in groups for any legal purpose. Those rights are guaranteed, but not conferred, by government.

The flag of the US symbolizes all of these things. Therefore, when we declare our patriotism by saluting or pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, it is not a declaration of fealty to a king. It is not an oath to an ethnically oriented nation in which citizens share racial or national origins. It is most certainly not an act of “nationalism” as has often been the case with the flags of other nations. It is, purely and simply an act of celebration and the recognition of our nation’s founding principles. When on July 4th the sky lights with breathtaking displays of fireworks and people sing anthems to the greatness of our America, it is a reaffirmation of our belief and our faith in the eternal need and right of human beings to true freedom.

The Pledge of Allegiance has not always been said in public school classrooms in recent years, largely because some people, who claim not to believe in the principles of America, are offended by our patriotism. But those principles are established and those who object to them have a right to protest them precisely because of them. Without freedom of speech, their protests would be criminal. Too many people speak about our nation in a negative way. This includes President Obama’s repeated apologies for our international sins. In fact, our children should be taught that this is wrong, not merely factually—the US has done more good for more foreign people than any other nation with ulterior motives of colonization or politics—but because it creates a national voice that is no longer proud.

The reason we should pledge allegiance to that flag, is so that we remind ourselves daily of the struggles, sacrifices and achievements that comprise our national character. Pledging Allegiance to the Flag is a deeply important act to remind our fellow Americans, as well, that they too are the recipients of the vast potential they have been given by the freedom in this nation. Pledging Allegiance as a daily exercise when opening the school day is vital to shaping our children’s view of America as a great nation, so that they hold their heads up proudly to be Americans and to demonstrate to all people everywhere what it means.

The flag is a symbol not of the glorious past of our nation, but of the glory of its promise. Many people live in other places on the globe where freedom is not guaranteed, and where opportunities for a better life are contingent upon status—for example class, caste, birth or inherited wealth. In some of these places, opportunities for a better life are rare and people dream of coming here to partake of the promise America holds out to them. To them, pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States as naturalized citizens is an honor.

My father came from France in 1921 and became a citizen in 1926. He never failed to extol the virtues of this great nation and he pledged allegiance to our flag with deep joy and pride. He used to say, “Remember, you are an American because you were born here. I CHOSE to be an American. I’ve still never heard it better said.

FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse. You can find out more about FJ over at http://www.candiddiscourse.com/.

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Filed under Civics Lessons, Guest Post