Posted by Peter Lawler
For placing such thoughtful reflections on Mr. Jefferson and the Declaration in the NYT. According to Bill, our exercise of equal rights depends on unequal honor--on "the worthies" who moved first.
As Mansfield points out, not everyone exercises their rights with equal vigor or defends them with equal courage.In this way rights discourse abstracts from the real persons who are endowed with them.
We are equal in some relevant (and minimal) respects, and unequal in other relevant (and consequential) respects, isn't that it?
Just back from a parade in Springfield, NY (pop. 1350). Every fire company from miles around had a queen. The chicken was not overcooked. We raised a flag, said the Pledge, and sang the national anthem led by a Glimmerglass Opera "young artist." No reading of the Declaration, alas, but a very fine day.
Question to Bill Kristol: How can we call ourselves "self-governed" if we are so "devoted" to the principles of the Declaration? Perhaps by continually and almost reaffirming its principles with question, we should turn a critical eye to them and read some of its most prominent (and less prominent) detractors rather than practically worship the thing.
So, Matt, we should prove our ability to govern ourselves by throwing aside the principles of self-government?
Ivan is right that it's easy to think of rights too abstractly--or not in terms of real persons. His and the other comments remind us that we're not excused from thinking about why and to whom it is self-evident that all men are created equal. So Matt is right in a way that to "practically worship the thing" requires more than uncritical devotion. Self-government requires that we be neither too open-minded (which would keep us from ever doing anything) nor too dogmatic (which is contrary to the idea that the truth is really evident to the self--meaning the real person).
One of the greatest patriots of our time, Jesse Helms, passed away in the early hours of July 4. The true patriot must be willing to face the slanders of the small-minded men and women of his age. The fearless Senator Helms did this better than almost any other conservative leader. He leaves us with both a substantial legacy of political success and a great example to live up to.
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