All politics may be local, but it’s not all personal. We have to balance our care for local institutions with a new willingness to adopt protocols and conventions, some theoretical and some seemingly silly, to shore up our freedom and, as [Richard] Sennett puts it, to “learn to act impersonally” (The Fall of Public Man 340).
Both solitude and poverty protect the hiddenness of our lives.
If solitude is akin to Locke’s state of nature, then poverty is akin to Jefferson and Lincoln’s notion that all men are created equal. The work of poverty, in whatever form it takes, brings us into solidarity with our neighbors. If we are not weak, we cannot relate to the weakness of others, and community is not possible.
Reading this 1791 letter from Benjamin Banneker, the son of a former slave, to Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson makes me understand Jefferson better. How could someone who penned the lines Banneker quoted and who received the letter Banneker wrote not be, as Jefferson’s enemy Hamilton kindly put it, “a man of sublimated and paradoxical […]
According to historian David Hackett Fischer, “. . . the original meanings of freedom and liberty were not merely different but opposed. Liberty meant separation. Freedom implied connection.” Theologian Chaim Wirszubski points out that “ . . . the Romans conceived of libertas as an acquired civil right, not as an innate right of man.” But Fischer says that “by the eleventh century, most men in Iceland were born free. This prior condition of freedom was a birthright that all freeman shared.”
Regional pride doesn’t make one side wish to re-prosecute the Civil War; philosophy does. States’ rights in their politics and strict constructionist in their jurisprudence, Confederate apologists are apt to see the war’s sesquicentennial as a gift – as a megaphone for their argument in favor of a federalism based on the states’, and not […]