October 26, 2003

It will roll around the globe...

I recommend this essay, The Pursuit Of Happiness By Carl M. Cannon, National Journal. (via Betsy Newmark)

I especially liked this part. The thought of Kurdish leaders reading the same books I read is too too cool...

..."I'm confident that a government will emerge," he [Bush] said late in April 2003. "I dismiss the critics who say that democracy can't flourish in Iraq. It may not look like America. You know, Thomas Jefferson may not emerge... or a John Adams."

Or perhaps they will. Jeffrey Goldberg laughed with pleasure when apprised of Bush's remarks -- but he wasn't laughing at Bush.

"Oh, the Kurds know all about the Declaration of Independence," Goldberg said. "Some of them have read Founding Brothers. They'll tell you who among them reminds them of which Founding Father. Some of them like Adams; some prefer Jefferson."

Goldberg told of having dinner at the house of Barham Salih, the English-educated prime minister of one of the two rival Kurdish factions. It was Salih who had read Founding Brothers and who reminded the American journalist that even the Founding Fathers had quarreled among themselves, argued, and nurtured grudges. One of them (Aaron Burr) actually shot and killed another one (Alexander Hamilton), yet they had managed to produce this remarkable document and its timeless revolution. Excitedly, Salih opened Joseph Ellis's book and pointed to pages where Jefferson predicts that democracy will eventually replace tyranny everywhere. "This ball of liberty, I believe most piously," Jefferson predicted in a 1795 letter to a friend, "is now so well in motion that it will roll around the globe."

Ellis also quotes briefly from the letter Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman days before dying. A nostalgic Jefferson totes up the accomplishments of the "host of worthies" who met in Philadelphia. "All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man," he wrote with pride.

Fifty years earlier, Jefferson was saying, the patriots of 1776 had convinced the world that freedom and self-government were unalienable and undeniable -- and on his deathbed, Jefferson was predicting that this "palpable truth" would ultimately find its way to the far corners of the Earth.

The house of Barham Salih, in the town of Sulaimaniya, is just such a remote corner of the globe. And it's a dangerous place for the apostles of liberty. In an assassination attempt against him a year earlier, the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group had detonated a bomb in that dwelling that killed five of Salih's bodyguards.

But on this night, as he pointed intently into the pages of an American book, this Kurdish revolutionary remarked that the ball of liberty set in motion in Philadelphia in 1776 had indeed made its way to his time and to the remote reaches of his lands.

"It's even reached here!" he said. "So, you see, Jefferson was right."

I think one of the reasons people in far corners of the world are picking up our ideas is because we are rediscovering them ourselves. Our excitement is infectious.

The period of the dominance of the Democrat Party was a time when our traditional love of liberty was eclipsed by a belief in the power of the state, and its bureaucrats and academicians, to rationally organize life for maximum efficiency. We learned all the wrong lessons from the Depression, WWII, and our alliance with Stalin. If Barham Salih had been active forty years ago, he probably would have been planning to raise taxes to finance a "War on Poverty."

And not only are we rediscovering our basic ideas, but today that's where the energy is! The fizz, the fun!

Those people who still think the government can provide the best health care are today's sourpusses and stuffed-shirts. Graybeards. Piecrusts. (Literally "graybeards:" Imagine you meet a man with a gray beard, longish straggling gray hair, limp and droopy clothes....you just know he thinks Castro is a "Progressive" and that the 60's were some sort of high-point.)

Posted by John Weidner at October 26, 2003 11:50 AM
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