According to Wikipedia, this is arguably the best known phrase in any of America's political documents.
I've been thinking about the crappiness of this phrase for a long time now. I was going to devote an entire posting to it, but I changed my mind.
Tonight I watched a documentary on Thomas Jefferson on PBS. They confirmed the crappiness of this phrase. Only I think they called it magically abstract. It's abstract enough that you can't argue against it and it's honest enough to make you feel good.
This is one of the few times in my opinionated blog spewing that I can't put into words exactly what I'm thinking (okay, it happens a lot). On one hand, I'm afraid of the people that I might offend in my effort to explain my thoughts in a politically correct fashion. On the other hand, I am confident that even if I manage to not offend, I'll still not be able to adequately articulate my thoughts.
Thomas Jefferson is probably the best known hypocrite in US history. He was the 2nd largest slave owner in Virginia. When he wrote that magically abstract phrase, he owned 200 slaves. When George Washington, John Adams and other well known figures of the time were freeing their slaves, Thomas Jefferson continued his ownership. He even went so far as to write papers explaining why blacks were inferior.
Whilst watching this program on PBS, they have various historians who tell you what Thomas Jefferson was thinking. I'm sure they do it for entertainment value. How can anyone know what he was thinking just by reading his various writings? You can get some ideas on how he lived and how he wrote (he was a very good writer), but you can never know what he was thinking.
The magic of Thomas Jefferson's writings was that (on the surface) it appears larger than life and unimaginably insightful. But when you start analyzing the words, he was just spewing forth ideas that are agreeable from a variety of perspectives.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure."
"The republic will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."