About Our Heroes…

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Jefferson-2.jpgWe all have heroes that we admire in life. They have done some extraordinary things to merit our attention. One of my heroes is Thomas Jefferson. The words he penned during his life had a very distinct effect on how our country was formed. One of those things was his “abomination” for slavery. He knew it was a major flaw in his world. BUT…

While Jefferson was appalled by slavery it did not reflect into actions. As the sign found in Monticello says he had 110 slaves on his estate and only freed two in his lifetime. He just didn’t seem to practice what he preached. Does that take away from the ideals he put into our public documents?  Of course it does, but it doesn’t destroy them.

If we dig deep enough all of us have our dark sides.

Being a Writer… Jefferson Style

After the recent post about not judging the past by the criteria of the present, my heroes  have been on my mind. The two most influential founders of our country were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They were the most dominant thinkers of that period and are among my primary heroes. One of the things that draw me to them is that I like to think of myself as being like them in one small sense or another. Madison, like me, was a small guy who didn’t really like public attention. He was a thinker who was also an introvert.

But this post is about Jefferson.  Here is some quotes from the book entitled The Quotable Jefferson  Collected and edited by John P. Kaminski:

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Throughout his life Jefferson had a romance with language…

This allure of language, however, did not extend to the spoken word. John Adams recalled that in the Second Continental Congress Jefferson “never spoke in public; and during the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together”…

Jefferson was, perhaps above all, a great letter writer. He wrote literally thousands of letters. He delighted in corresponding with old friends, especially Benjamin Rush and after the rapprochment in 1812 with John Adams… Nearly everyday he found himself figuratively chained to the writing table — sometimes writing ten or twelve letters in a sitting — a drudgery that kept him from his love of reading.

When I read these words it dawned on me that I too “have a romance for language but not the spoken word”.  I love putting my thoughts to paper, so to speak but loathe having to get up and give a speech. I have given some talks to pretty broad audiences in my time but I agonized with the preparation and the especially the actual delivery.

Being deaf gives me a good excuse for not being very vocal in public but the real reason is that every thought I seem to have is almost immediately self-edited in one regard or another. I just never seem to find the “right” words the first time out.  When I am writing that is not a problem, I can go back and edit it later, but when public speaking that is impossible. Once they leave my mouth they are out there.

My blog posts are, of course, my letters. Some people are amazed that over the five year or so life of RJsCorner I have written almost 3,000 posts but to me it is simply something I  do. I just can’t leave everything stewing on the top of my mind. I have to put it in print for it to make sense and to make room in my brain for the next thing that percolates up.

Its nice to see some personal qualities that are similar to my heroes. It makes me feel that  maybe my present life is worth living.

Judging The Past By The Criteria Of The Present..

2015-11-21_10-20-43.pngI saw a short snippet on the PBS Newshour a while ago about a drive to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name for several Princeton building because of his not rejecting racism strongly enough in his times. This is very much in line with my latest favorite words found in the title of this post.  It is easy to look to the past with the wisdom of hindsight but in my mind it is simply not valid to do that.  For you sports nuts out there this is often called “Monday morning quarterbacking”. It easy to see problems when you take them out of context.

Wilson continues to be one of my heroes from the past. He stood for so much of what I currently embrace. Was he a racist by today’s standards? He definitely was.  I could wish it were otherwise but I can’t condemn all the good he did because of it.

Jefferson, another one of my heroes, is caught in similar circumstance. Here he was saying that “all men are created equal” while at the same time being a slave owner who had sex with his owned slaves.  Does this tarnish his character? Sure it does, but it doesn’t take away from all of the things he accomplished in his life. It doesn’t take away from his wisdom as a founding father of this country. If not for him we might be a very different country.

Knowing what we have accomplished today at so many different levels it is easy to look back on our historical figures of the past to see where they did not meet today’s moral standards. But in reality that serves no purpose except to almost eliminate their recognized contributions in other areas that made us what we are and that allowed us to eventually conquer those obstacles since their time.

Lets always remember to keep from judging the past by the criteria of the present.

Jefferson

Washington DC – Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson was perhaps the most eloquent of the founding fathers. He spent his life before and after the White House with books and his writing. Even though it is a little out of the way of the other memorials don’t miss it if you are touring DC.

An American Hero…

Monticello, VA – Jefferson

I can’t image what America would be today without the words and ideas of Thomas Jefferson. For anyone who has visited my main blog at RJsCorner knows that he is one of my primary heroes. The sculpture above is just outside the visitor’s center at Monticello. In some very insignificant ways I like to think of myself as a chip off his shoulder. He was not afraid to think and speak of things that needed to be said. He was not without his dark side but are any of us really?

Banking Establishments…

2014-09-13_09-50-19I sincerely believe . . . that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

Thomas Jefferson in a letter 12 June 1815

Anyone that has studied Jefferson to any degree knows that he was an agrarian. That is he believed in power to the people, particularly the farmers who were the majority of the population in his day. He seemed to have a standing feud with Hamilton about this topic.

I, like Jefferson, believe that almost all the power in a society should reside with the citizens but unfortunately in today’s world our financial institutions and the 1% of the population that control them seem to have kidnapped a large share of power. Another famous quote from Jefferson was that a democracy depends on an informed electorate. If only people were to realize that with their votes they have the capability to radically transform this condition. If, as the polls indicate, the vast majority of us believe that our present government is totally dysfunctional we could sweep out 85% of them within the next two months. Wouldn’t that send a message to those gridlocked groups who say they represent us. If only our actions backed up our words things would change and change quickly.

Never Take An Active Part…

2014-09-13_09-50-19I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war.

–A Thomas Jefferson Letter, 11 June 1823, to President James Monroe

Thomas Jefferson just didn’t trust government very much. He was always skeptical that they would get us involved in things we had no business being involved in. The constant wars in Europe were one of those things to be avoided at almost all costs. In the intervening two-hundred years much has changed with the world. It has definitely gotten smaller such that anything happening anywhere can affect others in at least some way. But, I kind of think that Jefferson’s words above still apply today especially in the Middle East.

The Middle Eastern countries including all those we have spent trillions of dollars trying to reform are fundamentally different from the U.S. As Jefferson said their mutual jealousies, their balance of power and their forms of government and particularly religious beliefs are very foreign to what we practice in this country.  We can spend trillions of trillions of dollars and thousands of our kids lives trying to make it otherwise but that just won’t happen. If only we would recognize that fact we would save ourselves much agony.

There have been many “doctrines” in this country. The Monroe Doctrine, The Marshal Plan, The Bush Doctrine (I don’t think Obama has a doctrine except maybe “send in the drones”) but I believe the only successful plan for our times is :

We will leave you alone if you leave us alone

But of course our dependence on their oil reserves negates that possibility. Maybe we need another wall? The Wall of China was meant to keep out foreign invaders. The Iron Curtain was meant to separate two very different doctrines. Maybe it is time for a Islamic Wall to separate us from all those constantly feuding religious doctrines of the Middle East? Maybe if we get out of their business they will get out of ours.  It worth a try….

 

Less Power….

JeffersonI wish President Bush and many of those presidents before him had taken the words of Jefferson to heart before they did many of the things they did.  I know it is against basic human nature to not utilize the power you control. Just look at all those yahoos in congress to see an example of abused power.

I have read quite extensively on Jefferson so I know the words above were at the heart of his nature.

OOPS –  I guess I was in too much a hurry to get this weekend quote out and forgot to add the quote!!!   Sorry about that.  Can’t find it now. But isn’t that a nice life size bronze of Jefferson at the visitors center outside Monticello. 🙂