Sunday, July 04, 2010

Fourth of July Thoughts

In today's Detroit Free Press, Stephen Henderson offered his views on the Fourth of July. Being an editor at the liberal Free Press, Henderson is no simple-minded cheerleader for America. Sure, we can celebrate, but we also have to acknowledge those less than savory episodes in our country's history.
But the Declaration's principal author, Thomas Jefferson, and its signers in the Continental Congress were clouded by a much more complex morality, principally hobbled by their inability to ensure that the independence they were asserting for themselves would apply to everyone.
There are, for example, our historic struggles with gender equality and the current debate over equal protection for gay Americans. You can see it in arguments over how we treat our enemies in the war on terror and how a nation of immigrants welcomes -- or shuns -- those who want to share in our freedom.
Of course, he's going somewhere with this. And it's his next sentence.
America is a journey toward perfection, defined by its struggles to overcome the frailty of human imperfection.
Perfection? Understanding that all we have to work with in this country, and on this planet, are imperfect, fallible human beings, the quest for perfection is strictly for suckers. I think we have to understand that first, and look at the other plans throughout history that sought perfection, but found instead slavery, fascism, and death.

I began rereading volume II (out of 3) of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (my summer reading project) and came across the following quote:
A people who still remembered that their ancestors had been the masters of the world would have applauded, with conscious pride, the representation of ancient freedom, if they had not long since been accustomed to prefer the solid assurance of bread to the unsubstantial visions of liberty and greatness.

And then there was this, by Nolan Finley in today's Detroit News:
Voters in Port Chester, N.Y., went to the polls last month carrying six votes each to cast in the village board election. They could spread them out among multiple candidates, or plunk them all for one favorite. They were also allowed to cast ballots over a five-day period.

The hope of federal Judge Stephen Robinson was that Hispanics, who make up nearly half the Port Chester populace, would target their six votes each at Hispanic candidates, thus achieving his goal of crafting a board more demographically in line with the local population.

Robinson ordered the scheme, called cumulative voting, under the federal Voting Rights Act, which has turned into one of the greatest perversions of democracy ever imagined. The judge acted on complaints that despite their large presence in the community, Hispanics had never managed to win a seat on the board.

There was no evidence that Hispanics were being kept from the polls or discouraged from voting. Nor was there anything stopping Hispanic citizens in the past from pooling their considerable single votes behind one Hispanic candidate. But the fact that a Hispanic hadn't been elected was evidence enough for the judge to determine racial discrimination was at work.

Even some Hispanic voters found the solution unnerving.
With that kind of voting, why do we need people to vote at all? Our wise progressive judges can let us know who the winners should be, and then votes can be appropriately divided so that the correct candidate wins. All candidates will receive at least some of the votes. Self-esteem of the candidates must also be a consideration . . . mustn't it?

Off to the barbecue!

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