Self-Government–Is It a Myth?

Self-Government–Is It a Myth? July 4, 2016
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Photo Credit: Mike Licht

Self-government–is it a myth? Who chose the Republican and Democratic Party candidates for the U.S. Presidential election? We the people? If so, then why are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton among the least liked candidates for the Presidency in American history? See for example this Wall Street Journal article. Is the problem us, our representative democracy, or something else? Perhaps a combination of all three.

Today we celebrate the independence of our country, but are we still under the tyrannical grip of political and economic powers? The Continental Congress adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson, its principal architect, marked the 50th anniversary of the Declaration with these words:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them. (http://www.pbs.org/a-capitol-fourth/history/history-independence-day/)

Jefferson believed in the rights of men–all men, or the privileged few? Recall that he owned slaves; his own stance on abolition and practice of slavery are the subject of controversy, as this Smithsonian article argues. Slaves were excluded from achieving self-governance in his day. How much better off are we now?

The movie, The Big Short, would tell us that we have all been shorted by big business–and the government? While we rightly separate church and state, we have not given diligent attention to the separation of government from corporations. Trump and Clinton may be the candidates of big business, but are they our candidates? How might we declare our independence this election year?


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