Monday, October 26, 2009

The Days are Packed with Constitutional Reading

Between getting ready physically for the Continental Congress, the work I have before me still as a BSA Troop Popcorn Kernel, and my part in getting Retake Congress up and running, time for housework and time for reading has become scarce.

Fortunately, three years ago when we moved to this house, I began the habit of an early morning reading period after walking the dogs and eating breakfast, which I am determined to keep, regardless of how busy the days become. This habit is now serving me well, and I am getting more reading time in before walking the dogs, as well. This is because the Engineering Geek rises at 5:45, and now it is too dark to walk the dogs until a little after 7 AM. Meaning that I have been dressing between 6:30 and 7:00, which gives me an additional 45 minutes reading time in bed. (Alas, that will change with the move back to Standard time next week).

Last night, as we took the dogs for their last walk, we felt a chill damp wind from the south, and smelled the moisture in the air, as clouds covered the sky from south to north. Sure enough, this morning saw the first snowfall of the season for Sedillo.

My reading time was therefore spend in the flickering warmth of the Pellet Stove, with a light snow falling outside. It is now mostly gone, but certainly was a promise of things to come.

At the moment, I am reading up on primary texts for the Continental Congress. This weekend, while spending the night at the synagogue to help with Interfaith Hospitality Network, I began reading The Anti-Federalist Papers. I had read The Federalist (in part) in high school, and all through in college (nearly 30 years ago, now), but I had never read The Anti-Federalist. However, a more complete understanding of the intentions and debates of the Constitutional Covention of 1786-87 being important to the mission of the upcoming Continental Congress, I am now reading it, and then I will go back and read The Federalist.

Today, I finished the first chapter, an introduction that discusses the issues confronting the Constitutional Covention of 1787 and the thought of the time regarding the power of government, as well as a desciption of the federalists and anti-federalists and their differences. Although the federalists won that debate, the anti-federalists almost did, and their handiwork is also present in the United States Constitution, and particularly in the first ten amendments.

What caught my attention this morning was that the anti-federalists were particularly concerned with keeping representation as locally oriented as possible. They believed that the representatives should resemble the people they represent, that they should not become a class unto themselves, far removed from the people. Therefore, they argued that representative government should be "inextricably tied to something like a town meeting directness" and that the districts ought to be "a town, ward or region conscious of its own particular identity, rather than being some amorphous, arbitrary geographic entity." (p. 17).

The first statement made me think about how Sarah Palin was treated by the media elite, the people who really have elected our government of late. Although I disagreed with many of her arguments, their attack contained precious few arguments; rather they were a series of smears based on Palin's very resemblance of the people she wished to represent. What the elite press, which panders to the Washington elite rather than informing the people, seemed to resent about Palin was her status as a member of the hoi polloi and her truly American sense of life.

Secondly, I thought about how our federal government has increasingly been concentrating power at the top, and has sought to take that power to the level of a "new world order" (and in the proposed Copenhagen Climate Treaty, a new world government) that is completely the opposite of the ideals and ideas of our Founders. This has been particularly true of the present administration, but previous such from Lyndon Johnson (at least) on cannot be exempted from this criticism. Our Founders, and the anti-federalists in particular, must be spinning in their graves!

In the conclusive paragraphs to Chapter 1, I read the following, which requires a great deal of pondering given today's political bread and circuses inside the Beltway:

" . . . (T)he anti-federalists thought the goal of the American Revolution was to end the ancient equation of power where arrogant, oppresive and depraved rulers on the one side produced subservience and a gradual erosion of the self-respect, capacities, and virtue of the the people on the other side. The result was an increasing corruption and degeneracy in both rulers and ruled. Unless this cycle could be broken, Independence would mean little more than the exchange of one tyranny for another. The aspirations of the federalists for commercial growth, westward expansion, increased national power, and effective world diplomacy, were in some ways attractive and worthy, but they also fitted and ominous and all-too-familiar pattern of "great, splendid . . . and consolidated government" and "Universal Empire" that the American Revolution had been fought to eradicate. Many anti-federalists were unwilling to abandon this ideal and the hope that the New World might be a different and better place to live." (All quotes from: Ketchem, R. (1986). The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates: The Clashes and the Compromises That Gave Birth to Our Form of Government. New American Library, New York.)

Given the truth of this statement, it seems that certain stated goals of the party in power (mostly honored in the breach) and other such put forth by the opposition party (also so honored), seem to be anti-federalist, it is the libertarianism that is arising out of R3volution, that is wholly and consistently anti-federalist.

Very interesting reading indeed.

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