A cat by any other name

Just something to think about (guest entry)



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I received this in email from the woman who was my Cadette and Senior Girl Scout troop leader back when I was in high school. As per her (and her father's) request, I'm distributing this outward, posting this in lieu of an entry, just because it's something to think about. I too have read the book of which he speaks, and found it disturbing, not for the plot itself, but for how truly plausible it could be.

The email read as follows:

The fallout from Tuesday's elections has frustrated and depressed me terribly as it is so evident that few people understand why we even have the system we do. It has bothered my father, also. He was motivated to write the following which I think is awfully good and contains information which should be in the hearts of all in the country. He has given me permission to distribute it widely, knowing (as I hope) you will do the same. It's important!
- Robin Pulliam

Are we adrift?

Carl Pulliam
November 10, 2000

More than sixty years ago when I was growing up, I read a science fiction novel about a huge spaceship that set out to colonize another world. It was large enough to house a complete eco-system capable of providing everything necessary for the survival of the colonists on their long journey to their new world. However, before they reached their destination the captain and his crew died.

The story begins generations later as the colony drifts aimlessly through space. The memory of the pilot remains only in legend and the purpose of the journey forgotten. The descendants of the original colonist now worship the "pilot" as a god and entry into the now sacred cockpit of the space craft is taboo. The technical and scientific books and manuals the original crew brought aboard are no longer understood and are now considered sacred texts in this society in their worship of the "pilot" and a secondary god, "the navigator". Memory of this society that had forgotten its roots came back to me this week as I listened to discussions about the Electoral College. Much of our population today seems to have forgotten why we have the system we do, and they show little understanding of how the system functions. The founders of our country were leery of government power and went about designing a system in which it would be difficult for one person, group, or faction to gain an inordinate amount power -- the result was the three branches of government with their checks and balances.

The founders were also fearful of mob rule as developed in France in the same decade. Therefore, they devised a representative type of government rather than a democracy in its fullest sense. And they designed the government to be essentially a union of sovereign states. If they had intended a national government to be supreme, they might have named the country Columbia instead of the United States of America. And they wouldn't have called it a federal system. To avoid the tyranny of the majority, representation by population was limited to one house of the legislature. The Senate consists of two senators from each state, and for more than a century senators were selected by the legislatures of their respective states -- not by direct vote of the people. Even with direct election, the senate represents states, big and small, on an equal basis.

As an additional measure to avoid the large states from dominating smaller one, the electoral college system was devised. But even after adopting the Constitution, the founders still did not believe they had done enough to limit the powers of the federal government, so the Bill of Rights was passed by the first congress and submitted to the states for ratification. Contrary to their name, these first ten amendments were designed primarily to limit the power of the central government. They did this by using often the phrase "Congress shall pass no law", and lastly reserving all duties not specifically given to the federal government to the states or to the people thereof.

The federal government has expanded its role far beyond what the founders envisioned. And the courts have found "rights" in the Constitution that cannot literally be found there. One frequently in the news is abortion. While I favor abortion rights (at least in the early term), I can see nothing in the Constitution that either grants the right or denies it. Even in the absence of Roe v. Wade, I suspect abortion would be legal in most states. The Roe v. Wade decision does damage to the constitution and the rule of law. The Supreme Court justices overreached their authority in interpreting the constitution according to their own personal opinions -- in effect legislating on a matter that should have been left to the states. Not only did the court act on this matter that should have been left to the states, it blurred the separation of power between it and the legislative branch of government.

And the biggest danger of all is interpreting the constitution to fit the mood of the day. This in effect would mean having no Constitution, and no guaranteed rights at all. Like the people in the drifting space ship, I fear much of our population has also lost the knowledge of what our government was intended to be and how it functions. Majority rule without protection for minorities, regions and individuals can lead to tyranny and persecution. Our government is designed to protect individuals and their property and to avoid the concentration of power in any one of the three branches. This separation is what makes it difficult to get things done. And this can be a blessing. It's been said that the best government is the government that governs least.

Mussolini made the trains run on time in Italy, but stifled by fascism and communism in countries with central planning was the freedom and ingenuity of the people. Freedom, the rule of law, and the security of the individual in his person and property are what have released the ingenuity of the American people and made our country great, giving us the highest standard of living the world has ever seen. We may jeopardize all this by not knowing or remembering how and why we got here. Let's not drift aimlessly through time and space.