"The circumstances of the world are continually changing and the opinions of men also change. And as government is for the living and not the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it. . . . The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insulting of tyrannies." -Tom PaineOne might think, listening to the current Presidential debate, that most Americans are asleep. The candidates unceasingly refer to "the American Dream" as if reality was to be found in the slumber state. If, after 209 years, the "American Dream" remains illusory, either the founding fathers are at fault for putting forth an unattainable vision, or the Democratic and Republican parties are at fault for shaping a vision of reality that is out of step with the current global reality.
While the Founders condoned war in the Constitution by forming the new federal army and designating the President its Commander-in-Chief, their "dream" was for a peaceful world, administered by government "with the consent of the governed." Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et al. were political philosophers who "dreamed" of a better world. James Madison saw to it that the principle and exercise of inalienable human rights by U.S. citizens was written into the Constitution through the Ninth Amendment. But few Americans are aware of the power of this principle-that people, not states, are sovereign. And it is unlikely that either Dole or Clinton will apprise them of it, although this is, ultimately, America's founding principle.
It's not surprising that no candidate for U.S. President has entered the race as a declared World Citizen, with the exception of this writer. (See the Open Letter on page 2 of this issue.) Yet, ironically, Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter and Reagan all identified themselves as "world citizens" once they were in office.
No major candidate-not Clinton, Dole or Perot-has addressed the threats that Americans face from global war and environmental devastation.
Is a vote for one of these men a vote for world peace? For global management of the environment? For peaceful exploration and humane exploitation of space, the greatest and most promising frontier in humankind's short history? For human rights protected by world law? In short, for world sanity?
Of course not.
These are indeed "times that try men's souls." The challenge to our reason, our morality, our physical well-being, is today absolute. But when the very survival of the human race is in doubt, politics-as-usual is suicidal. A majority of the public already senses this. Hence, the apathy, disgust and anger with the present nationalistic war system.
Justice William Brennan wrote that "the genius of the (U.S.) Constitution rests not in any status that it has in a world that is dead and gone but, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt too believed, in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs. The constitutional wisdom of other times cannot measure the vision of our times."
A dynamic political/economic/ecological restructuring along global lines is imperative if we all are to simply survive.
This should be the "American Dream" for the next century. Unless this dream is realized, there will be no waking up to reality.