How Things Work

Betraying A Nation: Pt . 1- Paine On Government

Betraying a Nation, a simple expression consisting of a mere six syllables, will take many thousands of words to describe, explain, and put into context as it relates to modern America. It’s going to require research, study, and reflection. Overlaying factual observations of past histories with provable truths about the current state of our nation is also going to require us to come to terms with the reality that we have no one else to blame for how close we are to National collapse, should it come, than ourselves.

As we begin this series, it is incumbent upon me to share a few paragraphs from the book that inspired me to follow the path ahead; the last several paragraphs of the introduction should suffice.

“There is no prerequisite here that readers ascribe to, practice, or even disavow any particular faith, religion, or dogma. It is important, however, that you accept as at least possible the notion that the universe, of which we are each little more than a microscopic part, is comprised of far more than what we can see or even possibly fully comprehend and that some things can only be taken at face value and in our own personal context and perspective. Such was the case with our founding fathers as well as, and perhaps even more so, the life and times of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the generations upon which much of the foundation of the American Nation was built.

This point matters going forward because, after Abraham built up the foundations of a new nation, it was Moses and the Israelites who left Egypt and wandered in the desert a very long time before settling in and rebuilding the nation Abraham’s descendants had squandered and lost generations before. That process included writing laws and organizing social structures in the name of their God, their faith, and their hopes for better lives for themselves and the generations that would follow.

In the chapters ahead, we will draw parallels between the rise of the Abrahamic nation and its ultimate collapse under the weight of his descendants’ vanities and self-indulgences and the extent to which the modern-era generations, brushing aside the inconvenient truths of our Judeo-Christian origins with seemingly willful ignorance, stands the whole of the American Nation athwart its very own risk of collapse under the weight of its vanities and self-indulgences.

History may be flush with tales of nations that have risen and fallen in the past, but America doesn’t have to suffer the same fate. We have the capacity to weather this storm if enough of us refuse to let it go without a fight.”

All of this is to say that it is of little consequence whether you, individually, believe any of what is written in the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, or any other spiritual or religious texts, and it doesn’t matter whether any of you believe in God or hate organized religion. What matters is that the Founders understood that Freedom, Liberty, and self-determination could never be fully realized without acknowledging that the belief in these things and the willingness to fight and die to protect them came not from the hand of government but from a belief in higher powers than government.

To put a finer point on this, remember that 102 people had already distanced themselves from the English King and Parliament a century and a half before Independence was being considered. It has been written about why those first settlers came here: “Some [were] seeking religious freedom, others a fresh start in a different land.” By the time the Founders had set the fledgling American Nation upon a course of declaring independence from the King and Parliament of England, six generations of “new” Americans had already well-established the foundations of a new nation, built – literally and figuratively – from the ground up and had done so not in service to a King thousands of miles away, rather they were honoring their God and securing better futures for subsequent Generations.

The Founders took all of this into consideration, along with their extensive study of the histories of all the kingdoms and monarchies and dynasties that had risen and fallen over the course of “civilized” humankind’s history, and designed a system of governance they believed would incorporate the best of what our species had done to, and for each other, while eliminating the worst of these things, or at least attempt to discourage or restrain them.

They were not all religious zealots, but they understood the extent to which faith in a higher power than Kings or governments was the driving force of our species and that all attempts to displace human nature, spirituality, and unique faith systems with a central ruling Authority positioned between the people and their deity would, as it has always been throughout human history, sooner or later be the primary reason for the total collapse of the entire system.

Six months before the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine published a book addressed to the “Common Man” intending to bring forward, in plain language, the seriousness of the problems American citizens were being confronted with by the iron-fisted rule of England’s tyrannical King and his corrupt Parliament.

It was a simple enough book, only 47 pages… a pamphlet really… With a word count under 20,000. Hell, I have written books more than three times that figure that very few people have ever read, let alone having made even a small dent in changing the world. It has been written that Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, “In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.” Still available, it remains the best-selling American book ever written.

Britannica gives us (Google cannot be relied on) the reason Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense in the first place: “Thomas Paine arrived in the American colonies in 1774, as the conflict between aggrieved colonists and Britain was reaching its height. After the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, Paine argued that the colonists’ cause should be not just a revolt against taxation but a demand for independence. He put this idea into Common Sense.” That pamphlet, broken up into four parts, begins with a very important introduction followed by part 1, titled”OF THE ORIGIN AND DESIGN OF GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL, WITH CONCISE REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION”. These two pieces will be the focus of the remainder of this essay, and parts two, three, and four will comprise the subsequent three essays yet to be published.

In the second paragraph of Paine’s introduction, he reminds us that, after enough time being kicked around by the government, we have every right to stand up and ask some hard questions, saying that “As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his own Right, to support the Parliament in what he calls Theirs, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.”

He’s not wrong; Human Nature requires us, of a higher priority than any other, to survive. Food, water, shelter, safety, and security, along with successful reproduction, allow the species to continue. It is by our basic human survival instinct that we are driven to risk everything if necessary to prevent these things from being taken away from us, and from where we derive our willingness to give up our own lives if necessary to keep them. America’s Founders, as it had likewise been with that first group of 102 settlers a century and a half earlier, understood this, but the King and his corrupt Parliament were indifferent to the individual needs of the colonists, concerned only about their grip on wealth and power.

Taking a huge step backward or, as some like to say, looking down from the 30,000-foot level and reflecting on the past five presidential administrations (give or take, between these men) and between these administrations and what is irreverently referred to as “The Swamp,” it is impossible, objectively, to avoid drawing direct parallels between the vain and self-indulgent government of England in 1776 and the vain and self-indulgent government that has operated over the last six decades or so.

Putting aside the universal temptation in American society today to point fingers at this president or that president, or this or that member of Congress (a luxury Paine had that we do not), it is fair to suggest that the cancer plaguing the American Nation today is spreading rapidly throughout all of the layers of opportunistic nihilists and unelected officials that have positioned themselves between the Constitutional pieces of our country – the original representative Republic – and the rank and file American citizens.

This is not to suggest that our elected officials are blameless for the countless crises that plague the American people at this moment in our history; vanity and self-indulgence, along with the lust for power and wealth, most easily corrupt those already in possession of enough of it that they can’t help themselves from selling every bit of their soul trying to have more of it. Beyond the justified criticisms of the collective weakness our elected officials can’t seem to overcome, however, it is the extent to which the collective Congressional efforts of the last six decades have convoluted, bastardized, and made a nearly nonsensical mockery of the original design of American governance. That Thomas Paine had the same complaint about what the British King and Parliament had done with England’s Constitution 247 years ago is breathtaking in and of itself.

Before moving on to Part II of this series, I offer the final four paragraphs from Paine’s first section of Common Sense for readers to consider. The paragraphs before these discuss at some length the absurdity of presuming the English Constitution provides adequate checks and balances between the centers of power in government. He rightly observed that it is easy enough to write laws so complicated and convoluted that, by the time the citizens figure out where the proper solution to a problem might be found, it is far too late and could take many years to effect any real sort of productive change.

This pretty much describes the state of affairs with laws and regulations in modern-day America. Our own system of government is arguably incredibly more complex and convoluted; the most recent publication of the US code, for example, consists of 60,000 pages encompassing 54 volumes. Even to the objective mind, it cannot be argued that our government is extremely top-heavy and excessively burdensome, as well as being quite vulnerable to opportunistic misuse at the expense of the American people.

Thomas Paine’s close to Part I is far better than I could muster, so here it is directly from his pamphlet.

“That the crown is this overbearing part in the English constitution needs not be mentioned, and that it derives its whole consequence merely from being the giver of places and pensions is self-evident, wherefore, though we have been wise enough to shut and lock a door against absolute monarchy, we at the same time have been foolish enough to put the crown in possession of the key.

The prejudice of Englishmen, in favour of their own government by king, lords and commons, arises as much or more from national pride than reason. Individuals are undoubtedly safer in England than in some other countries, but the will of the king is as much the law of the land in Britain as in France, with this difference, that instead of proceeding directly from his mouth, it is handed to the people under the more formidable shape of an act of parliament. For the fate of Charles the first, hath only made kings more subtle—not more just.

Wherefore, laying aside all national pride and prejudice in favour of modes and forms, the plain truth is, that it is wholly owing to the constitution of the people, and not to the constitution of the government that the crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey.

An inquiry into the constitutional errors in the English form of government is at this time highly necessary, for as we are never in a proper condition of doing justice to others, while we continue under the influence of some leading partiality, so neither are we capable of doing it to ourselves while we remain fettered by any obstinate prejudice. And as a man, who is attached to a prostitute, is unfitted to choose or judge of a wife, so any prepossession in favour of a rotten constitution of government will disable us from discerning a good one.”

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