Corruption in the American Soul Could Destroy America according to Adams and Jefferson

I made the following comments on AJC opinion columnist Jay Bookman’s blog on April 12, 2018: (Link: https://politics.myajc.com/blog/jay-bookman/opinion-all-drink-the-poisoned-chalice/hpc9rM6z16QS9gOZ2WynNP/ )

“I agree with the analysis of Jay Bookman’s opinions, above; however, being almost a generation older than Bookman, I disagree with his timeline assessment. This corruption of the American soul started well before Newt Gingrich, imo. Gingrich was a product of the popularity in our nation of personal greed at the expense of the common good. Please notice the dates in the cut and paste I am sharing here:

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‘Norquist is best known for founding Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) in 1985, which he says was done at the request of then-President Ronald Reagan.[18] Referring to Norquist’s activities as head of ATR, Steve Kroft, in a 60 Minutes episode that aired on November 20, 2011, claimed that ‘Norquist has been responsible, more than anyone else, for rewriting the dogma of the Republican Party.’
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Norquist was actually a volunteer for Richard Nixon’s campaign for the presidency in 1968 when he was only 12 years old. Norquist is a Harvard graduate with a MBA. This collective consciousness of looking out for Number One before anyone else, as reflected in how we spend our financial resources as a nation (and states within it) has culminated in the election of Donald Trump, a businessman with a Narcissistic instability in looking out for himself above all others, rather than for the common good of the citizens of America, as a whole. That has been almost 50 years in the making (and was not simply the creation of Norquist or Gingrich, obviously), and I have lived through this perverted change in the American soul. Next, I will post some reflections of John Adams on this subject, when he and others were forming our nation, related to this issue of the corruption of the American soul and our nation’s possible demise, as a result. (My source is the latest book I am reading on Adam and Jefferson, entitled “Friends Divided” by historian Gordon S. Wood.
This book goes into the details of how much influence Adams had in ways like giving the model to most of the colonies in 1776 for creating a Bicameral Legislature in their various states. He was such a pragmatist and historian. Adams also greatly admired Jefferson’s brilliant intellectual mind.

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From the book by historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, Gordon S. Wood, “John Adams and Thomas Jefferson: Friends Divided,” published by Penguin Press, New York, 2017, pages 114 – 115:

“Adams’s republicanism was liberal and enlightened, not narrowly classical. Certainly neither Adams nor Jefferson was so enamored of antiquity that either believed that an individual belonged solely to the political community and that human flourishing could be achieved only within that political community. Their republicanism was not incompatible with the need to protect individual rights from an overweening government. Yet both Adams and Jefferson were classically educated enough to know that republics required sufficient virtue in the character of their citizens to prevent corruption and eventual decay. For this reason, they both knew that republics were very fragile politics, and always had been throughout history. A republic, said Adams, ‘is productive of every Thing, which is great and excellent among Men. Buts its Principles are as easily destroyed as human Nature is corrupted.’ Jefferson agreed.

Americans, he (Adams) said had to anticipate ‘a time, and that not a distant one, when corruption in this, as in the country from which derive our origins (Great Britain), will have seized the heads of government, and be spread by them through the body of the people.’

Although Jefferson tended to see the corruption coming from the government while Adams believed it more likely inherent in human nature, both patriots knew that republics demanded far more MORALLY from their citizens than monarchies did of their subjects. In monarchies, where authority flowed from the top down, each man’s desire to do what was right in his own eyes could be restrained by patronage or honor, by fear or force. In republics, however, where authority came from below, from the people themselves, each citizen must somehow be persuaded to sacrifice his personal desires for the sake of the public good. In their purest form republics had no adhesives, no bonds holding their societies together, except their citizens’ voluntary patriotism and willingness to obey public authority. Without virtue and self-sacrifice, republics would fall apart.

Did America have this ‘positive Passion for the public Good,’ this kind of virtue? That was the question that Adams anxiously asked himself as he outlined his plan of government. . . . .”
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When I read this last night, I thought of how much vision and insight both Adams and Jefferson had regarding how fragile our nation would become without authentic morality and virtue in the majority of our citizens. This corruption of selfishness in the American soul has been 50 years in the making, from my observations, and we will lose our republic if we do not see this, and change toward saving our republic from within, by seeing into the depths of corruption at hand and by “excising it from the body politic” of America.

(NOTE: CAPS, above, are mine.)

Who epitomizes corruption in the soul of a powerful politician more than does Donald Trump? His followers, who worship personal power and wealth, must see the light of how their limited and self-oriented consciousness, alone, could destroy this nation.

As Jefferson wrote and stated, over and over again, for a democracy to survive, its entire populace must be educated. Jefferson did not mean educated by corporate- controlled charter schools for personal wealth. He meant educated enough to have an intellectual understanding of the foibles in all human nature and how the rich and powerful could easily manipulate the poor masses, unless those masses were educated in more than simply job skills.

Republicans have been trying to destroy traditional public education as ‘government schools’ for at least 25 years and the lack of financial resources we now see, even in terribly worn out textbooks, is abominable, as a result of their rabid ideology which wants to destroy ‘government’ resources to make life better for citizens.”

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My response to a poster’s comment:

“I have never seen Monticello. This is a journey I MUST make before I die to Virginia to see. It is a miracle that Jefferson, who died penniless, had his home restored early by a Jewish family, not only for themselves while they lived, but also for posterity. I see this gift on their part as spiritual KARMA, coming from God because Jefferson, more than any other Founding Father, was THE ‘Architect of American Liberty,’ as Professor Boles’ book is named.

What one sees of Monticello, now, as I have read, is the vision Jefferson always had for it in his mind for his completed home. He spent his lifetime building that homestead to what it is today. He wanted it to be the epitome of the best of education that America had to offer its citizens, and by that I mean he designed and made it into what it became through his knowledge of architecture, the arts and sciences of which he learned in Europe (and from where he brought back much furniture, paintings, sculptures, books, various artifacts) as well as in his massive readings so that Americans could see that a home could be a place for entertaining others with interests of the mind, more than simply social occasions. Of course, he wanted to enjoy it for itself while he lived but he only completed it about 15 years before he died and he lived to be 82, as I recall. ‘The glory lies in the struggle or journey, not in the prize or destination.’ (quote from my mountain grandfather)”
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Another poster’s comment to Mary Elizabeth:

“There are some neat inventions in the house, you have probably read about them.”
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Mary Elizabeth’s response to that poster’s comment, above:

“I can hardly wait to see Monticello, walk its corridors, and reflect on the mind and soul, if not the ghost, of Jefferson. 🙂 )

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One Response to Corruption in the American Soul Could Destroy America according to Adams and Jefferson

  1. dbm1fromjaybookmansblog says:

    What we need is not self-sacrifice but respect for one another’s rights.

    Each individual will always be free to be corrupt. The question is how to make it easier to avoid corruption.

    The biggest cause of corruption is the lack of good fundamental ideas, which leaves people floundering. Political ideas are not fundamental; we need to start with a solid foundation in ontology, epistemology, and the foundations of ethics. Ayn Rand has provided us with what we need, but it will take time for enough people to recognize this to fix our society.

    Another cause of corruption is doing too much through government. This leads to pressure-group warfare and to corrupting alliances between those with money (including both persons and organizations) and government officials. All this is very destructive.

    Originally, non-government schools were doing a good job of educating almost everyone. Under any system, there will be a few children not in school for various reasons, and the advocates of government education seized on this to make propaganda for government schools. They were successful. The choices available now are
    – government schools, which are vulnerable to politics and have monolithic tendencies
    – charter schools, which are very entangled with the government school system
    – home schooling, which not everyone can do, and which requires great effort
    – private schools, which are available primarily to those who can afford to pay double (since they still have to pay direct and indirect taxes to support public schools) and which are dominated by the government school system and government regulation

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