Monday, August 13, 2007

Do Not Lend Your Faith To Princes

George F. Will and I have something in common: we both have bylines on Starbucks coffee cups.

Stopping at a Starbucks coffee shop in Bellflower last night - Cindy Sheehan's home town, I hear - I ordered a venti and caught Will's cup. In his cup, Will likens to true conservatives to pessimists and explains why conservatives, being pessimists, are generally happier. The piece is mostly cute, but his third point is a howler:

Third, pessimists do not put their faith in princes - in government. They understand that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. Happiness is an activity; it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

That sounds wonderful until you consider the author and the kind of government he has, in fact, supported in his column, in speeches, and in other writings, across his entire career. George Will has backed a political party that favors aristocracy over true populism, and leaders who rule like princes rather than democratic representatives. George F. Will supports a society where elite privilege is faithfully preserved, even if it comes at the expense of justice, and then sings lusty odes to "individualism." And in this coffee cup piece of his, George F. Will posits a kind of happiness that is arbitrarily denied to a great many of his citizens, who are truly left to fend for themselves.

Can we put the Declaration of Independence on a coffee cup? Or at least the opening words? Let us in any case send a copy to George F. Will. Can he argue that the authors of those words were pessimists? These were people who believed optimistically in what they could accomplish individually, but also understood that they would need to do some things collectively. They tried - I don't know how successfully, but they have succeeded farther than most in history - to design a government by, of, and for people. Wisely, they designed it as a republic, so that people could send representatives to legislate on their behalf. Sagely, they worried in their letters and journals about the President ruling as a monarch and abusing the freedoms of citizens, of Congress being less than vigilant on behalf of the people - all of which has come to pass time and again, certainly during my lifetime, and most blatantly in the last decade.

In an atmosphere where justice is not actually a commonwealth shared by all citizens, where people prefer to fend for themselves and not worry about such things, princes and aristocracies will continue to preserve their power. Where is this man's reading of history? If he does not love the founding documents of the United States (note the adjective - united), can he not appreciate the history of our world?

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