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What The Founders Intended

Originally written April 15, 2010.

I find it hysterical that people continue to harp on the fact that this country is moving in a direction "different from what our founders intended" -- in other words, that the core values of America as a nation have changed. Isn't that obvious? The founders lived at a time when the country was less than ten percent of its current population and less than a third of its current size. The demographics of the country have changed completely, and new technology has rendered many of their initial fears moot. And fear really is the key word here. The "founders" were white men who lived in fear every day of their lives. They were afraid that Britain and the other European powers would disrupt their fledgling nation at any time using their superior naval prowess, larger numbers, and superior strength of arms. More insidiously, they were afraid that a popular European monarch could simply win over the colonial population and have himself elected or declared ruler. Hence the parts of the Constitution that prohibit non-native citizens from holding the office of President or Vice President. They were extremely afraid of the Native Americans they trampled and demolished in order to found this country, and even more afraid of the African slaves they used to build it up. They made sure that the Constitution guaranteed them the right to bear arms so that they'd always have a way to defend themselves against the people they knew they wronged. And finally, these white, educated framers were afraid of their fellow white people. They were afraid that the unwashed, uneducated masses would elect ineffective leaders because they didn't know enough to pick the "right" people for the job. The electoral college was created to prevent this from happening, to literally prevent the general population from directly electing their own executive branch of government.

Why should our current nation be ruled by this same fear? It's utterly senseless. We have the technology and the education that make it possible for people to choose their own leaders directly. We may wince at the choices we don't agree with, but it's ludicrous that in this day and age we could EVER have a president who actually LOST the popular vote. That is not a representative democracy. And the framers didn't intend that we HAVE a representative democracy, so why are we so bent on having it exactly the way THEY wanted? They excluded women, non-whites and non-property owners from having the same rights and privileges that they enjoyed, and yet some people are actually nostalgic for these times.

The most laughable part of this argument that the country's founders should have the final word on decisions we make to live our lives today is the moral argument. Many social conservatives seem to feel that we should take our cue from these God-fearing men of old when it comes to setting social policy for our society today. What I fail to understand is why ANYONE would look for moral guidance from a man who owned slaves. Beyond that, it's evident that many of these people simply don't know anything about the founders. Several of them were Athiests or Agnostics, and nearly all of them had personal foibles that would fail to get them elected in this day and age. Can you just imagine what the Tea Party morons or a network like Fox News would do to a guy like Thomas Jefferson? Every word in his Declaration would be picked apart line by line and compared to his personal life -- every detail of which would have been dragged out into the harsh light of day for pundits whose own personal flaws make them no better to dissect, judge, and devour.

This is NOT the country our Founders created. Of course it's not. Time passes and things change. The founders, for all their flaws, understood that. They created our Constitution as a living document that could be amended and changed as the world itself changed, so that it could always reflect the current generation's needs and responsibilities. Despite what Fox News is trying to convince you of, we don't have any reason to be afraid of this change. It can only make our nation stronger. Remember the old proverb about the oak tree that broke in a strong storm because it didn't have enough sap to bend in the wind? That is what this country is quickly becoming, thanks to the people who drag their feet through the mud and refuse to change. Change is inevitable. The end of slavery was inevitable. Voting rights for blacks and women was inevitable. A black president was inevitable. Gay marriage is inevitable. You simply cannot arbitrarily deny a single group of people its equal rights as citizens under the law. So at this point the only question is, will we have to break the backbone of our nation before these people finally understand that there is nothing they can do to stop it?

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