For Father's Day
WISDOM OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS
A dead man, Edmund Randolph of Virginia, attended the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1789. He explained why America needed a constitution: â€œThe general object was to produce a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origins, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.â€
Another dead man, James Madison, made it even clearer: â€œDemocracies,â€ he wrote, â€œhave ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.â€
So, we leave you â€œa Republic, if you can keep it,â€ added Ben Franklin.
Well, we couldnâ€™t keep it. Now, we have a curious empire, with a constitution as f lexible as its money.
Everybody gets a vote in this new democratic Valhalla. Every halfwitâ€™s ballot is worth as much as George W. Bushâ€™s. Every fool and miscreant gets to have an opinion. Only the dead are left out. Excluded. Ignored. Forgotten.
It is as if only the living had opinions worth hearing, as if only the here and now counted for anything; as if the small, arrogant oligarchy of those who happen to be walking around had all the answers; as if the present generation had found the ultimate truth and reached the end of history.
Your authors have never killed anyone, but we read the obituaries with approval and interest. We look for the distilled wisdom of saint and sinner alike. (The editorial pages, by contrast, we read only for entertainment.)
The trouble with the news is that it is impossible to know what is important when you must rely solely on the judgment of people who happen to be breathing. The living can imagine no problems more urgent than the ones they confront right now, and no opportunities greater than the ones right in front of them. We prefer the obituaries.