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View Diary: Bill Maher rips Focus on the Family for being so, so wrong all the time (82 comments)

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  •  Pretty irrelevant (10+ / 0-)

    I don't care what kind of person he was. Obviously he was a shameful disgusting hypocrite. But his brilliance and his seminal influence in our system of government can not be underestimated. That he foresaw this threat to our democracy is very significant, given his prescience on nearly every other issue we would eventually face. Clearly he was outplayed politically on this provision in the Bill of Rights. Clearly the plutocrats in the 18th century were equally prescient about their need for freedom to exploit their fellow man economically. After all, to true conservatives, no other freedom is more important.

    •  you cannot separate the man from his actions (3+ / 0-)

      To argue we cannot examine a man's actions in the context of his character strips us of some of our most useful tools in understanding his successes and his failures.  Otherwise you have a sort of historical deconstructionism which places all actions in a sort of vacuum, lacking context

      •  At this great historic distance, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blueoasis, Killer of Sacred Cows

        we certainly can separate a man's character from his historic influence. One is now historic trivia. The other is determinative of the nature of our system of government.

      •  It's also pretty difficult to separate a person's (11+ / 0-)

        views from the prevailing views of society, speaking of context and vacuum.

        The fact is, during Jefferson's lifetime, slavery was pretty damned normal. He was not an aberration in his acceptance of slavery, or his making use of slaves. He was an ordinary member of society, at that time.

        The British transported about 3 million slaves to the Americas between 1700 and 1810, yet the British led the efforts to end slavery - which didn't get underway as an organized effort until 1787, when the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was organized in London. Hard to fault Jefferson for not ending slavery at a stroke, in America, in 1788.

        While slavery was outlawed in Massachusetts in 1783, one of the earliest such instance in the US, it was a judicial decision that was based on the wording of the Massachusetts constitution, not an act brought about by popular vote. Even Vermont's constitution, banning slavery, didn't really end slavery in Vermont:

        Earlier, in 1774, New England-area colonies Rhode Island and Connecticut had outlawed overseas slave importation, but still allowed inter-colony slave trade.

        Regardless of the good legal intentions of New England legislators, black Americans continued to be treated with disdain and cruelty in the North.

        While Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut abolitionists achieved laudable goals, each state created legal strictures making it difficult for “free” blacks to find work, own property or even remain in the state.

        Rhode Island, while legally ending slave importation from overseas, continued to have the highest number of slave auctions in the New England states. Additionally, Rhode Island's laws governing the treatment of African Americans — free or slave — were continually revised and updated and were among the harshest in the colonies.

        If free blacks associated with slaves, both could and would be whipped. Anyone giving an African American a cup of hard cider was leveled with a heavy fine, whipped or both.

        Vermont's July 1777 declaration was not entirely altruistic either. While it did set an independent tone from the 13 colonies, the declaration's wording was vague enough to let Vermont's already-established slavery practices continue.

        The harshest treatment for free blacks in New England was found in Connecticut. Through a series of different legislative acts created before and after the Revolutionary War, it became nearly impossible for free African Americans to live in the state. For example, free blacks could not walk into a business without the proprietor's consent, nor could free blacks own property.

        In fact, Connecticut lawmakers were so strident in their efforts to push blacks out of their state, the property law was rewritten to be retroactive. The few free African Americans who did own land were forced to void their titles and return property ownership to the town.

        This was the status quo in America, during Jefferson's middle-age years. Slavery, then, was like internal combustion engines, today: ubiquitous, accepted, normal - yet with pockets of people fighting for cleaner alternatives.

        I'm not defending slavery, far from it. I'm simply pointing out that denigrating a person's accomplishments due to personal behavior that was completely within the norm for his lifetime is short-sighted.

      •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

        I recognize Jefferson's achievements, but I also acknowledge his serious faults and blatant hypocrisy...You cannot separate one from the other.  What we can do, which he obviously didn't, is try to actualize his proclamations regarding equality and liberty and the application of these principles to all citizens.

    •  For the time period in which he lived (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Carol in San Antonio

      ... Jefferson was a man thinking ahead of his time in mega-concepts.

      That he also conformed to the mores and ethics of the world in which he lived (owned slaves) is also true of the great thinker who saw things as they should be and tried to re-create that for this new country by writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      One of the reasons slavery still existed after the United States of America came into being was to appease the southern plantation owners who had a monopoly on cotton production and tobacco.  If it had not been for the northerners capitulation regarding slavery, I suspect it would have been abolished with the signing of the Constitution.

      Slave ownership vs advanced thinker and author of the Constitution with its taken-for-granted freedoms that still exist (in theory nowadays) is a juxtaposition that seems odd to us nowadays..., but it was completely normal for the time period in which Jefferson lived.

      I say "in theory nowadays" for the simple reason that our Congre$$ Critter$ voted in favor of us giving up our freedoms when they passed the Patriot Act, MCA '06 (and modifications with MCA '09) and FISA fiasco '08..., and while those things had "sunset clauses" they've been extended instead of allowed to expire (but should never have been passed in the first place since they took away virtually all of our Constitutional rights and privileges and negated almost all of the ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights).  On top of that, Dumbya used an executive order to create the 'office of faith-based initiatives' to be run out of the White House and it's unconstitutional (even he wasn't stupid enough to think Congress would pass a law to put religion in the executive branch since it's forbidden by the First Amendment and the Constitution says there shall be no religious test to hold office; creating that office was the first step in bypassing Congress to get something done for Dumbya)..., and Obama extended and funded it when he took office, an intention he announced in the summer of '08 three days after he voted for the FISA fiasco after saying he wouldn't vote for it if it included the immunity for telecoms (some Constitutional expert to keep religion in the executive branch as the first step to a government-mandated religion).

      ALL of those things need repealing (and the latter needs a counter-executive order to UNdo Dumbya's executive order and religion needs to be kept separate from the affairs of government).

      I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

      by NonnyO on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 02:39:45 PM PDT

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    •  I find the phrase (0+ / 0-)

      "trials by juries in all cases" to be foretelling as well given that so many cases involving bad corporate behavior is being decided by arbitration instead of law suits.

      “It is the job of the artist to think outside the boundaries of permissible thought and dare say things that no one else will say."—Howard Zinn

      by musiclady on Sat Oct 13, 2012 at 02:58:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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