By Ravi Batra
Do any lives matter? The answer may surprise: No, only the Sovereign’s life mattered and was divine.
It was not until King John gave up some of the powers of a Sovereign to the feudal nobility in the Magna Carta in 1215 that landed gentry had some rights.
Over 500 years later, thanks to a great hero of mine, Thomas Jefferson in 1776, July 4th to be specific, did the Declaration of Independence, unanimously passed by the committee of the whole, assert an “individual’s right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was and remains a watershed moment in human history. And, proceeded to subject the Government to honor same. The sovereign King, an owner-principal, had now become an agent-fiduciary.
Today, after the gasping death of George Floyd, who was no angel, but has become one since death – indeed, his portrait with angel’s wings graced his near-state funeral. The peaceful protests, that gave life to “Black Lives Matter” and “Bent Knee,” went global – speak to not just racial injustice, or excessive police force on occasion, but loss of confidence by many young people of all races and color in the American Dream’s viability in the post-Wuhan Virus-driven economic shutdown and the “new” normal.
Yet, a re-look at our past will guide us as we confront invitations to “de-fund the police” and even eliminate police departments – when we saw rioters turn violent, looters run amok, and even two lawyers allegedly throw Molotov cocktails at the police. A nation of laws we were at birth; now, we confront an invitation to become a nation of men, women, children, fetuses, BLM (Black), BLM (Blue), LBGTQ, et al. So, become nostalgic for our roots:
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
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.
This tells us we need to tinker, not throw out, our exceptional roots and Constitutional structure. Maybe it’s time for slavery reparations, not unlike that we gave to Japanese-Americans.
Our Original Sin of slavery, persons being untaxed and worth only 3/5th when calculating for House of Representatives, was a compromise, like all politics is. Indeed, the South offered to count slaves as “1” for “1”, like everyone else, and that scared the North as the South would dominate the House by added representatives due to them.
It was not until 1863 at a cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that Abraham Lincoln spoke, with humility to honor the dead, and the Tall Man was short – 16 lines and less than 300 words – that now defines the covenant between the government and the governed, and indeed, a recipe for governments everywhere to satisfy or turn to dust, to wit:
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—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.
American service members have valiantly fought many wars, including: the Great War, WWII and created the UN Charter that just celebrated its 75th anniversary; the Cold War with the USSR until the Berlin Wall fell and then-KGB station chief in East Germany became President of Russia; the justified Korean War to block Communist China’s aggressive expansionism; the Bob McNamara’s ill-considered Vietnam War as mistakenly blocking-Communism; our support of the Mujahideen to block USSR in Afghanistan, who later became our Taliban – and now are stressed with reports that Russia paid a bounty on killing our soldiers, which mercifully for the moment, Russia has denied doing; the Desert Storm to free Kuwait, and after the evil 9/11, the Iraq War and hot pursuit of Osama bin Laden into Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pearl Harbor of 1941 woke us up, and we appeased no more. Now, after more than 200-Pearl Harbor’s loss from the deliberately-exported lab-created Wuhan Virus, our leaders audition to be a present day a “Neville Chamberlain,” albeit, they lack his style or charm. Winston Churchill, where art thou?
I close with a message to all of enemies, foreign and domestic – a phrase that is more pregnant on either end now – as it was at our birth with “Benedict Arnolds”: treason and criminality ought not devalue that which we hold to be self-evident: we are humanity’s last best hope at being free under law. “We the people,” got together to be “one,” and as such, defined an Individual’s rights and freedoms under God.
Happy Birthday America! We are the proud descendants of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.
Eminent attorney and Chair, National Advisory Council for South Asian Affairs