Lear Buys Declaration – Why?

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When
I heard that Norman Lear and the “liberal” People for the American
Way (PFAW) bought an original print of the Declaration of Independence,
I got scared. I thought they were going to burn it. They do support
the right to burn such things. But then I realized they would never
burn the Declaration because of their fear that the combustion might
contribute to global warming. That was a relief, but then I started
worrying that maybe they would try to somehow repeal the Declaration
and rejoin us with the federal government in London.

According
to the latest liberal line on the Second Amendment, the American
Revolution was based on a misconception. Gary Wills, for example,
argues that colonial Americans actually owned few muskets and even
fewer that worked. New York Post, July 13, 1999. If that
is the case, then a gigantic historical misunderstanding has occurred.
The Revolutionary War started when the British Army went out on
a gun control mission at Lexington and Concord. Thus, I was afraid
that Norman Lear might argue that we should apologize to Britain,
reinstate the Monarchy and march the Queen up Fifth Avenue. But
I did a little research on the battles of Lexington and Concord
and discovered that Pulitzer-prize-winning historian Wills was wrong.
Since the Americans inflicted 273 casualties on the British
Army – the world's best-trained army at the time – it appears that the
colonists did have some guns that worked. The War was not the result
of a misunderstanding after all.

Having
concluded that we were safe from being reunited with the Monarchy,
I still wondered why PFAW bought the Declaration. I knew instinctively
that Lear and his group were hostile to its central themes and premises,
and I could only conceive of evil intent in their expensive purchase.
When, however, I learned they planned to use it a propaganda tool
to advance their political agenda, I was outraged. There is already
enough ignorance and confusion about the meaning of the Declaration
without PFAW distorting it beyond recognition.

Though
the Declaration is written in abstract terms, it is not subject
to infinitely malleable interpretation. It is a terse statement
of the central tenets of radical republicanism, the predominant
political philosophy of the founders: that individuals have natural
and unalienable rights, the rights to life, liberty, and property,
that the limited role of government is to protect those rights;
that the people, not the government are sovereign, and they may
alter or abolish a government which abuses its power. Since the
people are sovereign, they have the right to bear arms, the right
of revolution, and of course, the right of secession from a larger
polity that is exploiting them.

PFAW
has declared its independence from these republican principles.
Its website attacks Clarence Thomas, the current justice whose views
most closely resemble Thomas Jefferson's. The web site also promotes
“gun control” which puts it at odds with Jefferson's stance: “No
free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” PFAW supports
the right to bare breasts but not the right to bear arms. Without
such a right, however, the rights of revolution and secession and
popular sovereignty have no means of enforcement. Without such a
right, there would have been no American Revolution, no United States,
and no Declaration of Independence for Norman Lear to purchase.
Where does PFAW stand on the right to secede? Let's just say that
PFAW opposes the private ownership of the means of production of
liberty.

Norman
Lear said he cried when he read the Declaration he had just purchased.
I'd like to think he cried because, having read the text for the
first time since high school, he realized how little he has in common
with the radical republican philosophy of the Declaration. But perhaps
I am being too harsh. Too judgmental. Perhaps I overlooked Lear's
advanced age. Perhaps he got confused about what he was buying.
Was he really looking for a historical document written by another
man named Jefferson? In his inaugural address, William Jefferson
Clinton stated: “My fellow citizens: Today we celebrate
the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth
of winter. But, by the words we speak and the faces we show the
world, we force the spring.” Clinton started out forcing
the spring and ended up forcing big government down our throats.
Now that's a philosophy a liberal like Norman Lear can embrace.

July
11, 2000

James
Ostrowski is an attorney practicing at 984 Ellicott Square, Buffalo,
New York 14203; (716) 854-1440; FAX 853-1303. See his website at
http://jamesostrowski.com.

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