So, in the middle of the dismal murk of the Bicentennial year, we had no idea that our peculiar American ideas of freedom were so powerful. The Age of Reason was recalled by historians as a quaint extrapolation from the Renaissance and Cartesian philosophy to Adam Smith and John Locke, that somehow individuals were endows by magical nature of the capacity to be independent and free, and reach their own logical decisions, whether they were born in a barn or from the highly educated classes.
It was an idealism sorely tested by the 20th century. Totalitarianism and fascism were given a whirl, and didn’t seem to work so swell – but the absurd ideas of Jefferson were cast on the same suspect pile as Marx and other utopians.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Lovely declarative rhetoric, but what to be made of it?
In 1976, it seemed only some academic whisper come up through history,rooted in some quaint and unsupportable mistruths and rationalizations about human identity and ability.
One day, some fifteen years in the future, these naive assumptions flowered in reality. On November 9, 1989, years of action of the rational mind, spoken in Hungarian and German, Slovenian and Ukranian between children unborn on that distant day when their countries fell under the yoke of the Warsaw Pact, it happened.
It was not Reagan who did it, nor Kennedy. At best, the voices of America were only gentle goads and reminders. It was the people themselves, responding to an idea not given from afar, but born in their own hearts, that broke the dam.
It is twenty-five years since FREEDOM HAPPENED. Read about it. The headwaters were not at the American Revolution; both are tributaries from the great origins of the human spirit, that arose separately due to our natures, and broke free with mighty power.
That is the Jihad of Jefferson, as I think of it.