Samuel Johnson

Just before the American Revolution the English poet and literary critic Samuel Johnson asked,

“How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?”

In a singular way, his insightful question puts a perspective to our founding hypocrisy. What was the contortion of mind and soul that allowed our Founders, men of great intellect and profound moral clarity, to live with such duplicity? One might reasonably think that, surely, that inconsistency must have vanished long ago, at least as far back as the abolishing of slavery, but I don’t think so.

Jim Crow didn’t end when southern governors were forced by National Guard or 101st Airborne troops to step aside and allow Blacks (or, really, any non-Whites) to attend public school with Whites. It didn’t end at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, nor did it end with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And it didn’t end when Trayvon Martin fell to the ground dead with a bag of Skittles in his pocket.  On one side of each of these incidents and so many more were Whites yelping loudly about their liberty and demanding it to the detriment of others.

It’s no different with our flagrant White supremacists today. Some adorn their pickup trucks with Trump flags and intimidate innocent people. Others intimidate with a vote or with their signature, often on letterhead from the House or Senate, state legislatures or governors’ mansions. These are people of power and stature, the heirs to the mantle handed down from the Founders.

They don’t own slaves or chase people from lunch counters or schoolhouse doors any more, but they work every day to keep non-Whites from voting, to keep them down and powerless. And as these people in power steal from non-Whites – and they’ve expanded their domination to suppress the poor and our young people, too – they are all the while yelping loudly about their liberty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have we learned nothing in these hundreds of years since Samuel Johnson asked his painful question?

Now add this from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Quite obviously millions covet their duplicitous, foolish consistency. It is much adored by our little statesmen and those who cheer them and harbor that self-same hypocrisy. Our duplicity hasn’t gone away. It’s just mutated and metastasized into today’s cruel, selfish liberty for some, but not for others.

Edward M. Kennedy, 1980

So, it falls to us to honor the pledge of Sen. Edward Kennedy, speaking at the 1980 Democratic National Convention:

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Our challenge, as ever, is to make that dream of liberty live.


Many thanks to JN for the chuckle


Serving The Dream

We need to reach voters in cities where they’ve been repeatedly slammed by so-called “100 year storms.” They at last believe the climate crisis is real and that it truly is a crisis, but believing in this reality isn’t enough; we have to do something about it – like VOTE FOR THOSE WHO WILL ACT TO COOL THE CLIMATE AND PROTECT US! 

You can help to motivate people to vote for candidates who are serious about combating the climate crisis by sending postcards that remind voters to take action. This has been made easy to do by the Postcards for Climate folks. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to do this because they’ll give you the script.

LINK HERE to get your postcards. And be sure to get your kids involved, because they’ll want to be able to breathe and eat when they’re adults. Plus, democracy is a participation sport, so sending postcards is good citizenship training for them.

We have to do democracy in order to have democracy.

– Kelly Ward Burton, President, National Democratic Redistricting Committee

The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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One Response to Liberty
  1. David L. Lindgren Reply

    We better step up and support our present President. I won’t say his name because then someone might say something reactively damaging, like “Fu*k Biden”. This has been shouted at a car race and even at the Ryder Cup. This is getting all out of hand.

    You know, Jack, we stood on singular corner together demonstrating for Biden before the election with 3 other corners blasting away for Trump. Total idiots, appearing normal. That is the breakdown, 75% of the blasters in this country are idiot Trump supporters. You are trying hard to amp up our support for pro-healthy Political life. We need more.

    The country is either going to get behind Biden and support him or we are in for a forebodingly evil time of it.