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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on May 17, 2009 7:55 PM PDT

This essay is dedicated to George Washington, whose personal integrity and faith in his cause and his countrymen led us miraculously to defeat a vastly superior British force, then to avoid the usual chaotic power struggles for a time after our revolution. 

Had we consistently followed Washington's example of dignified discourse and respect for all men as equals, the nation might have avoided falling into the state we found ourselves during the panic following 9/11 and the eight years of nightmare that ensued. 

Washington refused to torture in retaliation for British abuses of American patriots, setting an example that was followed until we came to be ruled by those who never learned the lessons of our proud history. Misplaced pride, indulgence of their perceived self interest and fear kept his successors from following his example. It is time that we remember why we fought a revolution.


This is the first in a series of essays exploring the roots of American ideals through examination of our history. Too often political discourse takes place in a historical vacuum. We forget too easily that a people who fail to learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them. 

This does not imply that “history repeats itself.” This phrase is used by those who believe, or would like others to believe, that there is nothing that can be done to change the future. History is determined individuals who have a vision of the future. We must not let those motivated solely by their perceived self-interest dictate the fate of the United States and the world.

It is a national disgrace that failure to accurately recall our own history has caused us to lose our way in the advancement along the path of democracy that others nations have blazed, using as a guide the compass built by the Founders of our country. America has a proud heritage of leading the rest of the world in directions never seen before. Perhaps if we can agree on where we came from, we can more clearly see how to proceed together.

Most revolutions fail after a short time. The reason seems to be that revolutionaries have a disturbing tendency to attempt to exterminate dissidents in post-revolutionary purges. It is likely that the American Revolution seemed to succeed in large part because of the magnanimity of the colonial patriots after defeating the conservative Tories who had defended the English system of inherited wealth and privilege. 

Despite the fact that most of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence had been executed or financially ruined, the American revolutionaries did not follow the more modern practice of attempting to eliminate their former enemies. While most of the wealthy Tories escaped to Canada with the riches they had accumulated as a result of their loyalty to the Crown and there were reprisals against some of the more violent opponents of the Revolution, most of those who chose to stay were invited to join the new democratic Republic.

The debate about whether the people of such a large and diverse nation could govern themselves hinged on the question of whether men were good enough to do so responsibly. Conservatives who opposed revolution were largely followers of the doctrine of Hobbes, who described life then as “short, nasty and brutish” because of the essentially evil nature of man. 

Those supporting independence were more optimistic, believing not necessarily that mankind was perfectible but that in seeking always to form a more perfect union, America would always lead the world in advancing the cause of liberty. It is important to notice that this was a radical concept and by definition anything but conservative.

What modern "conservatives" apparently fail to realize is that the Founders did not think that they had designed a perfect government that should never change. This is why they built into the Constitution a means to change it. The doctrine of original intent promoted by the so-called "conservative" Heritage Foundation and some of our less intellectually honest Supreme Court justices is therefore incomprehensible. 

Jefferson argued in the Declaration of Independence that whenever government fails to represent the interests of the people, “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” The time has come not to abolish government but to alter it so that it serves the original intent of the Founders to protect the power of government from all usurpers who would exercise the tyranny of the majority or of the minority to advance their own selfish interests.

The Constitution itself was written precisely to succeed the original Articles of Confederation, which by establishing a confederation of sovereign states rather than a union had failed to create an effective government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” This early experiment had shown that a weak government cannot perform its essential functions of protecting citizens from abuse by the powerful and advancing the interests of the nation as a whole.

The power of the government is limited by the brilliant system of checks and balances built into the three branches of government. The Founders did not foresee that this nation would stray so far from its roots that its people would cede control of all three branches to a Party which argues that it cannot function effectively. It was clearly not their original intent that such cynics be given the reins of the government. We have witnessed the results of forgetting our history. It is important that we relearn them if we are to move forward as one People.

The Revolution has not ended. There have always been conservative elements who would let us give up our hard won freedoms in time of war. From John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Act to the Bush administration that has trashed our First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth amendment rights, nominally conservative counter-Revolutionaries have battled throughout history  to use the power of government itself to undermine the principles on which it was founded. Each time, there has arisen someone who opposed them and put the nation back on course.

From Thomas Jefferson to Teddy Roosevelt, great leaders have beat back the efforts of these counter-Revolutionaries. Unfortunately, the leaders opposing Revolutionary principles now use the fascist strategy of combining violence with corporate wealth and power to achieve their aims. They have used conservative businessmen like Rupert Murdoch to seize control of the media to propagandize and confuse our people, blinding them to the true nature of our history and allowing self-serving politicians cover to push the counter-Revolutionary agenda.

While some argued early on that President Obama had sold his soul to corporate interests, I tried to believe him when he told us repeatedly that he could not be the change, but that we have to be the change. Despite President Obama's many failures to address critical problems facing our nation, I still believe that when we expect the worst of our politicians, they tend to live down to our expectations in a tiresome self-fulfilling prophesy. If we collectively demand freedom from corporate control of the Senate and President Obama does not stand with us, then and only then will history have the right to judge him. 

The Revolution only began 234 years ago. It continues to this day. Which side are you on?

For those who love democracy, no one says better than Mick Jagger what our relationship to a democratic government should be:

I’ll never be your beast of burden.
My back is broad but it’s a hurting.
All I want is for you to make love to me.

I’ll never be your beast of burden.
I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting.
All I want is for you to make love to me.

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see.

I’ll never be your beast of burden.
So let’s go home and draw the curtains.
Music on the radio,
come on baby make sweet love to me.

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see.

Oh little sister,
pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, girl.
You’re a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl.
Pretty, pretty,
such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl.
Come on baby please, please, please.

I’ll tell ya,
you can put me out
on the street;
Put me out
with no shoes on my feet,
but, put me out, put me out,
put me out of misery.

Yeah, all your sickness
I can suck it up.
Throw it all at me,
I can shrug it off.
There’s one thing baby
that I don’t understand.
You keep on telling me
I ain’t your kind of man.

Ain’t I rough enough, ooh baby?
Ain’t I tough enough?
Ain’t I rich enough, in love enough?
Ooh! ooh! Please.

Ill never be your beast of burden.
Ill never be your beast of burden.
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be.

I don’t need no beast of burden.
I need no fussing,
I need no nursing.
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be.

To learn more about the single payer model of universal health care or to join Physicians for a National Health Plan or its sister organization Health Care Now, go to  the PNHP website

The economic benefits of a single payer system are compared to the 2010 Democratic medical insurance "reform" bill in Appendices I and II.

Rick Staggenborg, MD

Coos Bay, Oregon

1 comment:

  1. I wrote this entry for the Advocate newspaper in my hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. The Advocate is a wonderful paper written by members of the local Democratic Party who are uoften pset at the Democratic leadership for their failure to follow through on most of their promises, yet some continue to support even the Democrats in Name Only (DINOs) when push comes to shove.

    I consider the members of the Coos County DCC my personal friends, as are a number of the members of the Coos County RCC. I just hope that I can convince enough of both groups by November that their differences are not as important as the similarities among the leaders of the two "major" Parties, who have both sold their souls for corporate campaign cash.

    we all want to think of ourselves as patriots. Since this is the case, I encourage all to remember Washington's warning to "beware the rise of factionalism. The British were unable to use their old trick of dividing and conquering during the Revolutionary War. We put aside our diffferences and fought side by side against the greater evil.

    The essence of aristocratic privilege was seen in the special corporate tax break granted the East India Company owned by the Queen and her wealthy friends. This was the reason for the Boston Tea Party and the spark that lit the powderkeg of the war.

    Why are we fighting each other while American and international corporatists invoke "corporate personhood" to give Constitutional rights to these soulless entities that are sucking America's economic lifeblood dry? It is time to recognize our common interests, unite as one nation of free individuals and Take Back America for the People.


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