Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Victory Center at Yorktown, in Va.

During my recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I went to the Yorktown battlefield, and its Victory Center (done superbly well by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation with the National Parks System).

I was browsing the exhibit at the center and noted there were attractions featuring English writer John Locke ("The Second Treatise of Gov't," 1690) and American writer Thomas Paine ("The Rights of Man," 1792).

This was interesting because I recalled something an anonymous blogger once said on one of the message boards. I brought up that people like John Locke, Thomas Paine and Jean Jacques Rousseau (a French writer who penned "The Social Contract," 1762) were the 'ideas' behind the founders of this country.

This anonymous blogger, defending the administration for the GOP, disagreed with me about my point that government's mission is to adequately serve all residents, all the time, without bias to parties and the like, and without prejudice to responsible criticism of the government by residents. Yes, this was disputed for some reason. Whatever the blogger's point was lost to me by that time, but fascinated me the way one might be looking at a car wreck as they pass by.

Anyway, I made mention of these writers, and this blogger said he heard of Paine, but "looked up" Locke and Rousseau because he had "never heard of them." Well, according to the research by this anonymous GOP blogger, what he did find was that Locke and Rousseau were "early communists" and suspect.

I dismissed the blogger as at least ill-informed but something occurred to me at Yorktown. First, this blogger was probably somehow affiliated with government or politics in the county where I live. Second, he or she knew next to nothing about the sentiments of the Founders and what they considered good ideas and was involved with government and/or politics. Finally, it was a 'knee jerk' reaction for this anonymous blogger, serving in government and/or politics where I live, to freely label writers (regardless of their historical context or work) as somehow terrible if their work disagreed with the party or person the blogger was defending at the moment. So people like Locke, Rousseau and Paine are out of vogue these days, I suppose, in favor of who? Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter? Is that the best of ideas for this society today? These opinions are so better informed, I guess, then those that formed the imaginations of people like Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson and the like.

Yet, these ideas are what made this country, inspired the people who created this country, who first "conceived of our liberty." Have notions of rights by citizens insofar as safeguards against their government, and about private property rights, become so threatening to warrant venom from members of this county's ruling party? I know that is not the case in the vast majority, but the small minority is concerning.

I wonder what the guys who started this show in the first place would have thought of that, or the fact that the influences that stirred their ideas of the rights of citizens have basically been forgotten or reduced to a one-line glitch term by some (they were "communists").

Well, if anyone is ever interested, there's this great book, called "Keystones of Democracy," which is printed by Barnes & Noble of New York (Introduction Copyright 2005 by Barnes & Noble). I suggest these are not bad ideas for anyone to be familiar with, and probably more so for people involved with things like politics and government. My anonymous blogger, I recall, had used something called "Wikepedia." Maybe that's not the best. Some things still require reading actual books or cannot be reduced to a few moments on the radio.

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