Consent of the Governed

So the next few bits of the Declaration are ultimately a rehash of Humanist philosophy from Locke’s Rights of Man to Rousseau’s Social Contract.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.

In that one sentence, the Signers completely disavowed any concept of divine government. There was to be no Noblesse Oblige, no Divine Right. The existence of government relies entirely on the People’s need to secure the rights that are native to the human spirit, and may exist only as long as the People, who created it, allow it to exist.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or 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.

Humans have two attributes that propelled a plainsland ape from being lion kibble to becoming the single most successful species in the 4 billion year history of the world. We like to associate with other humans, and we can think—and communicate—in abstract symbols. We engage both of these attributes when we create a government, because we have created a small, abstract group that has authority over the individuals of a larger group.

But the abstract group is owned and controlled by the larger group, and all of the individuals therein, have the right and the responsibility of ensuring that government obeys the laws and ethics of the larger group. This is a basic foundation of American life; it’s something that we are taught in subtle, iconic ways from the cradle to the grave.

It is the single key to the American mindset, because we make no distinction between a government and its people. Why? Because the government is the tool and the responsibility of the people. If a government is evil or destructive, then it is the responsibility of every man, woman and child in that nation to change it.

The saddest, most aggravating part of that is the surprising number of Americans who seem to forget this one basic truth. Every person who refuses to vote, every person who closes their mind and ears to political discussion and debate, everyone who doesn’t scream in outrage when a person in power commits an outrage, is complicit in the creation of a dictatorship.

Look at America as a farm. Everyone needs to help pull the weeds; it doesn’t matter if those weeds are dandelions or daisies, they’re choking out the life of the crops and that means they’re destroying the farm. That means your destroying the farm. Enjoying the way the parachute-seeds from dandelion puffballs fly is no excuse; neither is loving the simple beauty of a field of daisies. Every puffball is about a hundred new dandelions, and every field of daisies is a field that’s not feeding the farm.

Anything wrong in government, especially those things that come close to what we want, has to be inspected and discussed, objectively, dispassionately, and with an open mind. The USAPatriot Act addressed fears that a lot of Americans had, but it opened unbelievable and nearly overpowering doors to government power that should never even exist. The ACA addressed the growing crisis of medical treatment in the country, but it did so by handing out corporate favors and intruding on personal rights in ways never before seen. Both laws have their proponents and detractors. Both laws are broken and need to be fixed or repealed. Turning a blind eye to that fact just lets the weeds grow.

When someone complains about NSA phone-tapping or unlimited interment in Club Gitmo, it is everyone’s responsibility to ask the hard questions. “Can we do the same thing without such extreme measures? If not, is our safety worth our liberty? Is a nation where boarding an airplane is like a border crossing in Occupied Europe, and having a common name can relegate you to the bus station even really free?”

Same thing with the ACA. It’s not a matter of how many people were driven to bankruptcy before its passage. You have to ask the questions that trouble you, even if you support the overall idea of the act. “Why has nothing been done to regulate hospital billing, or the cost of medications and supplies? Why are prescription drugs advertised on national TV? It’s one thing to say that everyone should have access to health insurance but why does that mean everyone must be insured? Does a Right to Life presuppose a Right not to Die? Should it? Ever?” Ask and keep asking until the answers are the ones you like.

Because governments are instituted among men to protect those rights, but it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. The rights are all of ours.

So is the responsibility.