Post # 595 E PLURIBUS ACRIMONIUM [Editorial essay]

The forecasts, dreams, and aspirations of our Founding Fathers, of an envisioned Nation of Republican unity, derived from a multiplicity of mankind, [“E Pluribus Unum”]and enjoying equal status and rights, was unquestionably commendable, if somewhat pollyannish. In reality, that optimistic dream has never yet attained the metaphysical status of reality. The disciplines of sociology, history, and literature which pursue the examination of human societal behavior, eternally describe its altering, developing and transformative contextual development, in the empirical progression of human experience. One’s definitional reality and his aspirations would appear to be properly and necessarily understood in relevant relation to the context of his particular moment in time; which thereafter acclimatizes and alters as time continues. 

Accordingly, it is our confident view that any close reading of the U.S. Constitution by the incisive reader would reveal that it was intentionally drafted in general terms; the foreseen application of which, to be based upon the extant facts as they present themselves. It is obvious and inarguable that the 18th Century World and its Colonial ambiance, had little in common with contemporary America, with the salient exception of the Founders’ assurances of eternal citizen equality and liberty, our Nation’s creditable mantra.

Admittedly, our modern, appropriate use of the word, “equality,” was expressed with an entirely different impact in the days of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. The emblematic American phrase, ”All Men are Created Equal,” [at the time, solely applicable to white male property owners] is eons apart from the contemporaneous moral and legal conception of the word, “equal.” The Founders, focusing on the grave injustice and human suffering experienced due to the  institutional, European system of privileged birth, radically declared that all men were “created [born] equal.” In the context of today, the Constitutional word, “equal,” has morally, legally, and morally evolved, to assure equality of rights and opportunity, for all citizens.

An analogous dynamic is empirically true for the entirety of the Constitution. The principled intention was generally prescribed, applicable to its period, and thereafter, intended to be properly and relevantly interpreted, in accordance with the times and context at its needed application. Justice Benjamin N, Cardozo [in our view, the finest and most brilliant, Supreme Court Justice in our Nation’s history of Jurisprudence] in his brilliant writings, espoused the “Sociological Interpretation of the Constitution,” declaring that its proper interpretation be referrable to and relevant with the times existing at its needed application.

We have previously observed that those who argue for “original intent” do so, strategically, and tactically, to avoid a contemporary application of the Constitution, which would oppose their legal position; or conceivably perhaps, due to a presenting matter of systemic legal illiteracy.

The Founders may be guilty of having been overly optimistic in their personally projected assumptions, as to the nature and character of the future citizens of their new and unique Democratic Republic. An express assumption, for example, was that informed and intelligent citizens of divergent views, would regularly and in neighborly fashion, debate the disputed issues of the day and that the outcome of such responsible debates would be a useful guide in the Nation’s governance; thereby, resulting in a “government by and for the People.” Their optimistic expectations, whether originating in the times’ accessible, Colonial Rum, the effect of smoking fresh-cut Virginia tobacco in their clay pipes, or simply, from optimistic and anachronistic expectations, never materialized. What unfortunately developed instead, was a general populist disinterest, existing simultaneously with the emergence and growth of insular groups of loyal, like-thinking [“group think”] people, existing in a relationship of mutual “Cold War,” with other like insular groups of divergent opinion. Contrary to the intended, informed, and good-natured discussions, there developed an exchange of rancor and hatred. Our early essay on this disappointing phenomenon may be recalled “The Death of Civic Amity.”

We would selectively choose two relevant [ apocryphal] statements of our Founding Fathers as usefully and especially relevant. As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall, after a meeting of the Constitutional Convention [1787] when he was asked: “Doctor, what have we got? A Republic or a Monarchy? ” To which question, Franklin responded wittily, but also ominously, “ A Republic, if you can keep it.” Another statement of relevant interest was the wise and prophetic admonition of Thomas Jefferson: “For a Democracy to succeed, it is required to have literate and informed citizens.”

We would hazard the opinion that the administration of a “democratic” (uniform and identical)  policy of education, in contrast with to a more effective, flexible, and more efficient, standard of education, viz, open to all, but varied, and tailored, dependent on capability. Populist equality in education, notwithstanding the virtue of its humanitarian and egalitarian motivation, seems not to have been desirably successful. Recent events continue to highlight the dilemma, that we do not have a sufficiently educated and informed citizenry, as prescribed by Jefferson.

Too many Americans have become part of a huge National underbelly of inadequately educated and poorly informed citizens, whose life and contributions to society are perforce limited. Ominously, they have consistently proven to be fair game for tactically cynical, self-interested, demagogic Pied Pipers, with ready “solutions” to their sad plight and general disappointment with life. We have often referred to this large segment of the population, constrained by limited perception and ignorant reductionism [ and thus vulnerable to tactical demagogic appeal]  as America’s population of “flat-earth, poorly educated and ill-informed citizens.”

This segment of America was recently instrumental, in the successful Presidential election of an ignorant egotist, Donald Trump, who will be memorialized, among his unique cornucopia of shame, for his recent un-American, seditious call to the insurrection, at the U.S. Capitol Building.  Like many of our fellow, mainstream, law-abiding citizens,  we were shocked and greatly troubled by the event but, conceivably, not entirely confused nor non-plussed by it, in our general expectation of something despicable occurring, by reason of a Trump defeat.

 Most Americans, perhaps, understandably engrossed in the contextual minutiae and issues of their everyday lives and recently, further challenged by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, deem that the items on their minds are sufficient. But, if our Republican Democracy is to continue, threats to its existence mandate consideration, and necessary amelioration.

Our American population has precipitously evolved into an amorphous conglomerate of uniquely disparate citizenry. Differences in opinion and a  variety of ethnos and cultural affinity are healthy and positive  [E Pluribus Unum].  But, by contrast, in the new Nation of E Pluribus Acrimonium, the existence of threats to our Nation by sundry, poorly educated groups of misguided adherents, to un-American tropes and enjoying paranoid delusions of being “patriots,” [the underbelly of our Nation] is an existential concern. It is our view that such danger can likely be ameliorated, over time, by (a) a flexible and rational program of needed adjustment to our universally identical, failing educational system, and (b) the maintenance of an ever-watchful reconnaissance, and when applicable, strict deterrent action, for those who would threaten existence of our intended, and ever-developing, morally and egalitarian Nation. 


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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