“In the days immediately following the slaughter of so many young people, articulate student voices are reminding America that the right to life supersedes the right to kill. De Tocqueville said, ‘The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.’ It’s true. I believe in my heart that this is absolutely true. And I’ll end with one final quote from Democracy in America: ‘America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.’”—Helen Noakes
By Helen Noakes
SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—May 2018—Something compelled me to reread Alexis de Tocqueville’s marvelous Democracy in America . It’s a book worth reading, especially in our current political situation.
Although written almost 200 years ago (it was published in1835), de Tocqueville’s observations are uncannily relevant to the America we’re experiencing in 2018.
Consider: “There is not, I think, a single country in the civilized world where less attention is paid to philosophy than in the United States.” Americans, de Tocqueville points out, “. . . are universally preoccupied with meeting the body’s every need and attending to life’s little comforts.”
Astute opinions, it seems to me, and the fact that they are still relevant, still define two of several basic reasons we find ourselves in our current morass, is not lost on me.
Today’s America, for all its bluster about The Constitution, has largely ignored the basic tenets of The Declaration of Independence. One can effectively argue that both documents, The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence, were based on solid philosophical premises.
But how many Americans can recite the all-important segment of The Declaration of Independence which specifies basic human rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” has been drowned out by the loud espousal of the Second Amendment. Those doing the shouting have deliberately twisted the meaning of “the right to bear arms” to suit their marketing agenda. I’m speaking, of course, of the NRA and the gun lobby, who’ve acquired such power over our politicians as to render the United States a dictatorship headed by people and corporations whose only business is providing weaponry, and whose real purpose is not to support anyone’s civil rights. Their true philosophy is easily encapsulated in a simple motto: “Our business is killing, and business is good.”
To see the politicians who’ve been bought by the NRA, and the leaders of that organization spew platitudes and decimate propaganda is not only disgusting, it points to the fact that many vulnerable people have been manipulated to a dangerous degree by ruthless and morally bankrupt agents provocateurs. When the revolting bromide, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” is spewed after the latest killing rampage by these predatory, greed-driven “public servants,” I wonder at the level of evil possessing their souls.
How many more children and people does their god, Mammon, require to satisfy its blood lust?
How many more lives does the NRA require to keep its coffers full?
I am proud of the young people who are spearheading a campaign against gun violence. Seeing their suffering; hearing, again, the heartbreaking pleas of parents who’ve lost children to hails of bullets; listening to people who’ve lost loved ones to massacres, I think that perhaps, with the joining together of all these groups fighting to bring sanity to America’s gun-madness, change is forthcoming.
I’m heartened by the companies that have cut their ties with the NRA. And it occurs to me that attaching a stigma to politicians who accept NRA dollars will ensure their not being re-elected; encouraging more corporations to cut their support of that organization will, in fact, end the NRA’s stranglehold on our nation.
For it’s Mammon who keeps them in power, and starving Mammon will bring them down.
We must further ensure that the responsible gun owners in this country be repeatedly reminded that “the right to bear arms” did not include assault weapons designed to slaughter masses of people in quick order.
And we should repeat, as often as possible, that all-important paragraph in The Declaration of Independence which follows “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—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.”
For beyond the right to bear arms, beyond everything else, every human being has a right to life.
In the days immediately following the slaughter of so many young people, articulate student voices are reminding America that the right to life supersedes the right to kill.
De Tocqueville said, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” It’s true. I believe in my heart that this is absolutely true.
And I’ll end with one final quote from Democracy in America: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”