The Notion of a Nation

On July 4, 1776 we declared that “The American Experiment” itself is an idea as much as it is a national experience. It is an idea that transcends place and provides a baseline for the ideology of a country, as well as for the life of an individual.

Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851

Many people are turned off by the term “American Exceptionalism.” They believe it means that we are better than any country and if taken to its jingoistic extremes would be a problem. But that is not what the term means. It refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty. It means that we are not a nation due to our heritage, but a nation due to the NOTION that people can govern themselves.

There is no doubt that there are some great dichotomies about our country. Two of the most obvious ones are how slavery could exist while liberty was at the forefront of every idea behind the revolution, and how we treated our indigenous people when life and the pursuit of happiness are paramount to our beliefs.

In fact, that strange duality existed nearly 300 years before we declared our independence. Its roots could be traced back to Christopher Columbus.

columbus_1772950b

In my conversation this week with world renowned historian Laurence Bergreen about his book, Columbus: The Four Voyages, we closely examine how this one time admired explorer was himself a walking contradiction. As Laurence reveals in Columbus’s letters to Ferdinand and Isabella, the great navigator truly loved the people he met on his voyage.

All are people of love and without greed, and suitable for every purpose. I assure Your Highnesses that in all the world there is no better people nor better country. They love their neighbors as themselves, and have the sweetest talk in the world, and gentle, and always with a smile.

However, to Columbus this implied that rather than treat these seemingly lovely people with kindness, they would be perfect to enslave. As Laurence writes:

It seemed to Columbus that the Indians were prepared to assume this role; indeed, with their show of subservience they were practically auditioning for it.

Why do such dualities, dichotomies and contradictions abound on the macro level of nations and the micro level of individuals?

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I believe it is because what truly separates humans from other animals are not our opposing thumbs, our large frontal lobes or our ability to produce art. It is that we are the only ones who know better and still do the wrong thing. Now that is exceptional!

So, as we celebrate the exceptional birth of our country, it has been a tradition in our household and one that I share every year with my readers, to spend a few moments with the beginning words of our Declaration of Independence, for you will then experience the notion of our nation.

Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

In Congress, July 4, 1776 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Have a very happy and safe holiday,

Barry

 

EPISODE LISTINGS AND TIMES ARE IN THE TAB AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG.

TO CONTACT BARRY YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT: barrykibrick@aol.com

 

Depth before Dishonor

As we mark the birth of our nation’s independence this July 4th traditionally we do so with family gatherings, barbecues, fireworks and beer. I plan to do the same and think it is a wonderful way to celebrate this great holiday.

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However, we need to add something to the celebration. At a time when many gather together discussing such issues as: Who is a more powerful couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, or Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris? I had this discussion last night, so no finger pointing, but we can improve our sense of self and in turn our sense of country, if we and our media broaden the scope.

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As mentioned, there is nothing wrong with a little “water-cooler” type chat; it only becomes a problem when that is the majority of discourse. The other problem is when we and our media turn even important discussions into shallow sound-bites filled only with surface information. And, often times, what is most troubling is when we only hear information with only one slanted point of view.

The good news is we can do something about it and there is no better time to start than on Independence Day. The reason is because we have the one document at our finger tips that put enlightened thought into action.

Declaration_of_Independence_lasered

Much of the sentiment in our Declaration of Independence stems from the ideas and writings of the great Enlightenment thinkers. The words of such philosophers the likes of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith and many others set forth the ideas of Ben Franklin, Thomas Payne, Thomas Jefferson and many of our Founding Fathers.

The American Experiment itself is an idea as much as it is a national experience. It is an idea that transcends place and provides a baseline on the macro level for the ideology of a country, as well as on a micro level for the life of an individual.

Signing_of_Declaration_of_Independence_by_Armand-Dumaresq,_c1873

They did not just stitch together words but the thoughtful process that went into every single word, why they were chosen and where they were placed in our sacred text took months of deep thought and communication. Thomas Jefferson is given credit for penning the words but many others, especially John Adams, Ben Franklin and some lesser known like Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston gave their input before anyone put their John Hancock on it.

A few years ago we adopted a family tradition from a dear friend, and now every year, I share with my readers and viewers the Introduction and the Preamble of the document that started it all. We read these revered words at our barbecue and hopefully you will wish to do the same. Then, take it one step further and discuss some of the individual words and sentences. I am certain that you too will find the conversation exhilarating as the discourse not only fills your heart, mind and soul but is as much fun and entertaining as any great power couple debate. I am willing to bet my Brad and Angelina against your Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello.

Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

In Congress, July 4, 1776 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

us_declaration_independence_signatures

Wishing all of you a joyous Independence Day and remember, you can have as much fun in the deep end, as the shallow end of the pool.

Barry

What Would George Washington Do?

According to the most recent Rasmussen Poll nearly 70% of all likely voters believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.
As alarming as that statistic is, it is not the first time our nation has felt that we were headed in the wrong direction. In fact, the father of our country, George Washington, at one time also felt very disappointed in the direction of our newly formed nation and was not afraid to state it:
Virtue, I fear, has, in a great degree, taken its departure from our land.
This week airing on most of our stations is my conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward Larson about his book The Return of George Washington.
The focus is on the role Washington played from the period between the Revolution and the forming of our Constitution.  
The wisdom of Washington was that he knew to set things right we had to COME TOGETHER to fulfill the goals set forth in our Declaration of Independence.
We exhibit at present the novel & astonishing Spectacle of a whole People deliberating calmly on what form of government will be most conducive to their happiness…
Just imagine what we can accomplish if we heed his advice and begin “deliberating calmly” rather than the constant political bickering that currently dominates our government, our media, and then seeps into our own consciousness which explains those dismal polling numbers.

There may never be another Washington, but there certainly still is a whole People (us) that has the ability to pull together and create what is most conducive to our happiness.
If not, we will be heeding another warning of Washington:

Something must be done, or we shall disappoint not only America, but the whole world.
Let’s not disappoint. We have it in us; we just need to let it out.

Enjoy the show, the week, and look forward to continuing this great American experiment,
Barry
EPISODE LISTINGS AND TIMES ARE IN THE TAB AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG.
TO CONTACT BARRY E-MAIL HIM AT: barrykibrick@aol.com

Why Vote?

Whenever I receive or give a “VOTE OF CONFIDENCE” it always feels good to both parties. However, this Tuesday is a very important election on the national, state and local levels yet I feel NO CONFIDENCE on any level. What’s more disappointing is that according to every single poll I am not alone, and in fact, sadly in the majority.

In a recent discussion I almost felt guilty defending the importance of voting, and at first, the other person had better reasons not to vote than I had to vote, which in my heart I knew was not right. Thankfully, it finally came to me and I swayed the other person to come to the same conclusion.
Even if you believe that your single vote does not matter, and this happens for various reasons, you still are obliged to cast a vote on very important grounds.
Low voter turnout does send a message but the message can be interpreted in very dangerous ways. In one sense it does show that the populace is disgruntled with the choices, but it also sends a message that we are apathetic and complacent. And as a dear college friend once reminded me: “Apathy is a political position.”
We can never, in a truly enlightened society, let our representatives think we are complacent. It gives them far too much power over our system and as time goes by we have a powerful, but ineffective government, and an even more ineffective citizenry.
The lack of a strong citizenry comes about when we feel we are being governed rather than controlling our own destiny.

When we think of the citizenry as an underling to the government we are forgetting President Lincoln’s most important words of his Gettysburg Address:
… That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
However, to just vote for the sake of voting is not a satisfactory reason to do so. You must realize why your vote is important and how you can make it important if in some cases you see only the futility in it.
Here is the key – You do not have to vote for everything on the ballot. Plus, you can also vote in protest. Let me sight some specific examples:
In this year’s California Ballot, depending on the county or municipality, you will have between 12-20 candidates vying for everything from Governor to Comptroller to members of the Board of Equalization. Now, even if you know what the Board of Equalization does, and I assure you most of us do not, how can we possibly know which candidate is right for the position?
In fact, California is the only state that even has such a position. In most states it falls under the supervision of the Comptroller and it makes sense to know about the politics of one candidate, rather than the four we must choose from. The Comptroller, for the record, is basically the State’s accountant.
By having the citizenry directly vote for the people under his/her control is the ultimate move away from a true republic. It puts the burden/blame on all the citizenry rather than the elected official. If we don’t like how the Comptroller is doing we can vote him/her out the next go round, but if there are an additional 4-5 people whom we know nothing about, we actually weaken our position as citizens.
The same holds true for many of the propositions on the ballot. These, for the most part, should be decisions made by the people in office and if we do not like their decision we can vote them out over the next 2-4 years.
Who do we vote out if a particular proposition stinks, ourselves?

So in whatever State you reside and whatever “state” you are personally in, go to those polls this Tuesday. Vote only for what you really know about. Vote in protest if you do not like the party or individual currently in office. Vote for a person you truly do believe is a better candidate and even if you only check one box on the entire ballot, those in power will know you are not a complacent citizen because you made the effort to go to the polls.
We must reclaim our role as CITIZENS for that is where the true power must reside.
Have a great week and vote with pride, and most importantly, don’t forget to turn your clocks back one hour this Saturday night.

Barry
EPISODE LISTINGS AND TIMES ARE IN THE TAB AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG.

CONTACT BARRY: barrykibrick@aol.com

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking on “comment” just below this post.

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How the Poor Can Save Capitalism

Today’s post and this week’s episode, airing on most of our stations, focus on the work of John Bryant, Chairman andCEO of Operation Hope

To simply meet John is to be inspired. His energy is boundless and he is constantly seeking ways to better the individual and the society. His book How the Poor Can Save Capitalism brings a fresh approach on how to rebuild the middle class and the importance it plays in revitalizing America.

John does not see poverty as merely a statistic of finances. He looks much deeper into the problem and defines it to be not a lack of money but a lack of: Self-confidence; role models and having little or no aspiration and opportunity.
The most dangerous person in the world is a person with no hope.
-John Bryant-


John himself is a true capitalist in the vein of the father of capitalism, Adam Smith.
No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.
-Adam Smith-
John always sees opportunity even where others don’t.

Where most people see poor neighborhoods and discarded people, I see emerging markets, entrepreneurs, small business owners, investment growth, and job creation waiting to happen.

John Bryant’s enthusiasm and deep belief is contagious. It will reawaken your own sense of the power within you.
Enjoy,

Barry

EPISODE LISTINGS & TIMES ARE IN THE TAB AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG.
TO CONTACT BARRY E-MAIL HIM AT: barrykibrick@aol.com

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America Transformed – Celebrating our Nation’s Birth

This week on most of our PBS stations we will be airing an episode featuring the renowned American Historian, Professor Richard Abrams. His book, America Transformed looks at all the changes our country has been through since World War II.
What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to be gathered with friends and family around the barbecue pondering all the changes not just since World War II, but since our Founding Father’s signed the Declaration of Independence and put it all on the line for LIBERTY and FREEDOM.
As I do every year at this time I want to pay tribute to those brave souls who put their lives, the lives of their families, and all their fortunes at great risk for the notion of independence. The penalty for this treasonous act was death.
The list of what actually happened to many of the signers would make anyone’s heart swell with emotion. I will tell you just about a few from my home states of New York and New Jersey.

Francis Lewis, a New York delegate saw his home destroyed by the British, his wife captured and tortured, then die from the abuse.

Lewis Morris, another New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

John Hart of New Jersey risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. While his wife lay on her deathbed, British troops ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead and then he was hunted across the countryside. When he was able to get back home, his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779.

We are blessed that we do not have to risk “Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor,” but we must appreciate all those who have.
It is important for us as citizens to have a ritual that befitts the occasion to give it deeper meaning. That is why I always include the words of our Declaration every year for you to recite at your gatherings. When you read the words at your holiday celebrations it too will deepen the experience for all.  
And please, due ponder what our Founding Fathers and Mothers would think if they were celebrating with you. Would they be disappointed in the results of their grand experiment, or honored and blessed with what America has become. I would not be surprised if they had as many different reactions to it as you will.
Enjoy the words, the great discussions, all the fun and have a joyous and safe Independence Day. We truly are blessed to live in the greatest country in all of history.

Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In Congress, July 4, 1776
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to 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.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
(List of Grievances against England)
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Enjoy this special day and share it with friends and family. Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday and remember all those who risked life and limb over these last 238 years to allow us this grace filled opportunity.
EPISODE LISTINGS & TIMES ARE IN THE TAB AT THE TOP OF THE BLOG.
TO CONTACT BARRY E-MAIL HIM AT: barrykibrick@aol.com

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