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Monday, January 02, 2006

Sapere Aude!

When they went to Annapolis and later to Philadelphia, each had their own idea of what should become of America, but all were convinced that what they had in the Articles of Confederation was neither desirable nor sustainable. They advocated, disagreed, deliberated, and finally compromised. They concluded that liberty is an inalienable human right and that tyranny, even when it is commanded by the majority, is the enemy of man. They resolved that the rule of law must reign supreme if the republic were to withstand the test of time.

Those men who founded this nation were surely not perfect. They were neither Gods nor demi-Gods as Thomas Jefferson once ascribed to the attendees of the constitutional convention. They were, however, some of the most impressive political minds produced by the age of enlightenment. Their brilliance was impressively unselfish because they trusted that the human mind can perceive of a reality that rests beyond its direct experience. They did not seek perfection in the summer of 1787 because they did not claim such pretension. Instead they set out to forge, for others to follow, a pathway to a “a more perfect Union” that seeks to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

They hiked to the hilltop, looked over, and sought a land where vigorous debate would yield a durable process of institutional reform that would one day abolish slavery, promote civil liberties, and enforce the equal protection of citizen rights. Clearly, enlightened men have the courage to exercise their own intelligence in pursuit of liberty and justice. As Immanuel Kant would write in 1784:


Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity...Such immaturity is self-caused if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!

That was 221 years ago!!

Today, one wonders if Alexis de Tocqueville was right when he wrote: "The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money." Some of America's leaders claim to hold truths that are not theirs to claim and others seem to have aquired a strong taste for self-interested ambition. They inspire based on fear not hope, fueling resentment and discrimination, and they state their fondness for the rule of law while working secretly to undermine it both at home and abroad.

The best idea brought forth by constitutional democracy is the primacy of the rule of law. When the founding of this nation was underway, James Madison and his peers were wholly preoccupied by the dangers of tyranny posed by the vulnerability of democracy to arrogant, all-knowing leadership. They worried that an individual, faction, or even a majority would rise to undermine liberty and the rule of law by wielding the banner of security and/or moral superiority.

They were right to worry because from slavery to the internment of the Japanese-Americans to the civil rights movement to current discriminatory policies against Muslim Americans and immigrants, some representatives of this nation never fail to answer the hate call. Yet, over time, they have never succeeded because other Americans rise to oppose them in defense of the founding spirit which started this nation down a path not even the boldest and strogest of forces could reverse.

The struggle continues at a time when government is undermining human rights and privacy protections in the name of security and when factions in congress are laboring to reverse the historic course of constitutional amendment. They wish to infuse prejudice in the constitution under the pretext of “protecting families” and they are even advocating for the denial of citizenship on the basis of birth rights - an affront to the 14th amendment.

Fortunately, history is not on their side. It is not on their side because this nation has moved throughout its history to expand individual freedoms and strengthen civil liberties, not to curb them (Bill of rights and subsequent 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments). America has committed the shameful crime of slavery - yet Americans led by Abraham Lincoln went to war, civil war and a bloody reconstruction, to face this wrong. Slavery was abolished but the evil of racism remained and persisted. America was dishonored by its treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII – for that, Congress later apologized saying it was based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". America, as Martin Luther King cried out in 1963, gave “the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” – It turned out that the check was over a hundred years overdue. Congress and the Supreme Court faced their wrongs by finally making good on the century-old promise that were the 14th (equal protection clause) and 15th (voting rights) amendments and declare racial segregation unconstitutional. The Civil rights movement came and went but discrimination and socioeconomic injustices remain in current-day America.

So has been the general hard-fought progressive trend of this nation - the American story of 'path dependence' - despite the utter disregard of this fact by political radicals and extremist media pundits. Arrogance and hate is not what brought about the success of this nation. America rose to greatness despite the arrogance and hate that plagued its history. It has continuously struggled within itself because while its soul is permanently clad in the inalienable right of man to liberty and justice, some of its own limbs never tire about leading it astray.

I remain confident that this nation would once again find its soul and return itself to righteousness, pragmatism, and humble leadership - I know this because I believe in this country's history and its irreversible dependence on the path forged by its fathers.

May 2006 nudge even so slightly that old motto of enlightenment: Sapere aude! (dare to think) - both here and abroad.

4 Comments:

Blogger Sonia said...

Jawad, je reviens de vacances! Tous mes meilleurs voeux pour l'annee 2006, qu'elle t'apporte de la joie, de la sante, et que beaucoup de tes souhaits s'y realisent, pour toi et les tiens. Mes meilleurs voeux aussi a ceux qui lisent ce commentaire.

January 03, 2006

 
Blogger Foulla said...

let's hope it will find its soul..let's hope, my friend..

January 03, 2006

 
Blogger mouna said...

salam
MEILLEURS VOEUX POUR CETTE NOUVELLE ANNEE 2006 !!!
Merci de ta visite, ça me fais plaisir

PS : en fait j'avais perdu mon blog et j'ai fini par créer un autre .. voilà
Mrhba .. c'est quand tu veux !
Mes amitiés

January 03, 2006

 
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

End of the World

For details, see The Ignoble Experiment! *boy, I feel like a spammer!

January 03, 2006

 

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