Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thomas Jefferson, George W. Bush and the events in Egypt

Protesters flee from tear gas fire during clashes in Cairo, January 28, 2011.
REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The revolution in Egypt has provided a reminder to all those who govern that their power ultimately rests with the people.  They can be oppressed, coerced, imprisoned and controlled for a while, but eventually the human desire for liberty will overcome the fear of recrimination.  One of the greatest political minds of all time, our own Thomas Jefferson had quite a bit to say on this subject and its worth a few minutes to reflect on some of his quotes in light of the current events in Egypt.

In my opinion, George W. Bush (through the efforts and sacrifices of the US Military) did more to enable Jefferson's optimistic vision for human liberty than any other President in my lifetime.  And one could argue if liberty was really a goal or just a convenient excuse for the war in Iraq, but its difficult to argue that GWB "kicked over the tables" in order to preserve the staus quo.  Maybe Bush was right and the example of a functional representative government in Iraq would stir an awakening for others in the region.  Perhaps liberty is not out of reach for them after all.  

Some selected quotations from Thomas Jefferson...  

1775 June 26-July 6. (Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms) "Our attachment to no nation upon earth should supplant our attachment to liberty."

1820 Dec. 26. (to Marquis de Lafayette) "The disease of liberty is catching; those armies will take it in the south, carry it thence to their own country, spread there the infection of revolution and representative government, and raise its people from the prone condition of brutes to the erect altitude of man."

1823 (to M Caray, vii 318)  " Possessing ourselves the combined blessing of liberty and order, we wish the same to other countries."

1795 (to Tench Coxe, Ford Ed. vii 22) "The ball of liberty is now so well in motion it will roll round the globe."

1807 (Reply to Address, viii 119) "I sincerely pray that all the members of the human family may, in the time proscribed by the Father of us all, find themselves securely established in the enjoyment of liberty."

1799 (to Elbridge Gerry, iv, 268. Ford Ed., vii 328.) "I am not for joining in the confederacy of kings to war against the principles of liberty."

Now, its also very clear that Jefferson was set against any form of religious authority imposing its will on the people, so I'm sure he wouldn't be in favor of an Islamic regime replacing the current dictatorship in Egypt.  However, I think based on the political strategies he employed regarding the subject of slavery, he would accept that liberty may not come for all at once, rather its a tree that grows from a sapling.  When the masses recognize the ultimate power resides in them, the tree grows roots.   

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