Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Balance of Power Concept as Applied to Domestic Issues Today

Signing of the Constitution, Sept. 17, 1787 
As nearly all of us learned in our earliest Early American History classes, the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and other founding documents for our nation had been written primarily by a bunch of white males. White males with primarily good intentions put their lives on the line to create a nation built on the concept of Rex Lex, Latin for Law Is King, based on a document by Scottish Presbyterian Samuel Rutherford.

Lex Rex stated that The Law of God Is King, the idea here being that we have the right to exist as a nation under the jurisdiction of God's laws, not arbitrary laws based on the whims of monarchs or mobs.

Another feature of the Constitution and these early documents was the concept of limited government. One of the biggest threats to individual liberties was oppressive and intrusive big government, hence restrictions on government were set in place.

Though the ideals may have been right and good, it proved to be flawed in practice. Women, from the start, had no voice in the decisions of power. They could not vote. And slavery remained an institution that dehumanized the Negro to the extent that the Law treated slaves not as people but as property.

As for the Native peoples who inhabited this continent before our (Western caucasians) arrival, well, they certainly had no voice at the table of power.  Details of that forgotten story can be found in Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.

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Early tanks and machine-age killing machines.
This weekend I have been listening to a series of lectures by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennesseee titled World War I: The "Great War". In the second lecture he lays the groundwork for the war that could be cited as the century's first great catastrophe. The ruling principle that "maintained the peace" for those many decades previous, was the notion of a Balance of Power.

Having grown up during the Cold War, I believe the idea of balance between the superpowers was something we experienced ourselves in a real way. The tension created by means of the threat of nuclear annihilation was real. The Cuban Missile Crisis certainly made it visible and films like On the Beach and Dr. Strangelove gave it a visual//emotional/psychological tactile aspect that resonated with deep-seated anxieties.

Is "perceived powerlessness" the underlying cause of our current crisis?

As Professor L. outlined the manner in which the strengthening of Germany threatened the balance of power in the years preceding the war, I could not help but believe a primary fundamental issue today is derived, in part, from an imbalance of power.

Women's Suffrage was all about giving women a voice at the table of power. The Civil War certainly upended the power structures that dehumanized blacks and kept them powerless. After the war, however, the Ku Klux Klan and later Jim Crow laws strove to keep the balance of power imbalanced. That is, no balance at all.

It takes humility to relinquish a measure of power, something uncommon in a political culture more inclined toward Machiavellian values than virtuous ones. To craft solutions will also require honesty, listening, integrity and wisdom born of dialogue, a dialogue where all voices can be heard.

This in and of itself is a challenge. Social media gives a megaphone for the loudest, drowning out much of the wisdom that resides in the quiet people who are less assertive about speaking up, sometimes for fear of being on the receiving end of a smackdown.

Gardens produce their best yields when the conditions are right. What we need is to create a culture committed to working together to produce the best solutions for all. There are a lot of good, caring people in this country, but many don't feel safe speaking out.

The problem seems mountainous. And yet, Jesus once said, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Can this really be so? Right now I am searching the pockets of my heart for that mustard seed.

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