U.S. presidents shape country

Charles Powell

When I was younger I recall having a deep admiration for the presidents of the United States of America. I remember learning about George Washington and the cherry tree. Then, I learned about Abraham Lincoln’s honesty and how he built a log cabin and freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation.

I grew up and my feelings toward the government and its heroes changed. I learned how Washington was prepared to send troops to put down an uprising over an excise tax on whiskey in Pennsylvania. According to the ‘Whiskey Rebellion,’ by Murray N. Rothbard, there was wide spread civil disobedience in other states. The history of which has been obscured. The method of taxation was the same as used by the English upon the then colonies, so for the new government to employ them must have been viewed as a betrayal.

By the time I was 15 my respect for Lincoln became tarnished when I learned the emancipation only applied to the slaves in confederate states, which he had no immediate authority over. I read things asserted about him by libertarians like L. Niel Smith who view Lincoln as the American Lenin and asserts the Civil War was about tariffs, not slavery.

I came to believe the government itself was antiquated and unable to cope with the modern world.

The civil war was bred in part from this to me because monetary profit for both north and south came at the expense of human dignity. It also showed how liberty and the pursuit of happiness did not extend to all. It was not a new issue nor did it begin in the United States. The ancient Roman economy was built on slave labor and conquering.

Since its founding, this notion of a government for the people and by the people has been an engine of transformation. The progress has come in fits and starts with Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pathology at times such as going to war against fascism with segregated troops and the spirit of the 13th and 19th amendments not being fully honored with Jim Crow laws.

Barack Obama in some ways represents many of the changes of this nation. However, there is now anther crossroad with that of the sequestering, which creates rampant budget cuts without sufficient consideration of the impact on lives and livelihood. It is a war of finances waged on battlefields of ledgers and spreadsheets. It is a campaign of obfuscating political jargon, blustering and grand standing.

At its core, is the question how you fund government without dehumanizing the people it is meant to serve? The fiscal figures represented by phrases like cuts to domestic spending masks someone’s life being impacted. The Whiskey Rebellion and the Civil War, in my mind, came about in part to me because this question was not adequately addressed.

Our society has changed. The particulars of how people live their lives are different, but the human condition remains the same. We are flawed creatures who aspire to greatness, but fall short. At times we look to others to be paragons of virtue and wisdom like Washington, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony and find out they too are flawed.

People and their institutions must always do the best they can then seek improvement. The Constitution represents this ideal with its built-in ability to be amended so it can correct itself to represent the nation. There has to be an end to harmful theatrics and cuts to spending do have to be made, but, not in a way that boils down to Democrats and Republicans playing political chicken with people’s lives which is all sequestering amounts to.