We, the people of The United States of 2015, must defend the principles which have permitted us and our children to live in a functioning free nation, None of these principles is greater than that of tolerance.
The founding fathers who wrote our Constitution had waged a war in rebellion from the tyranny and arbitrary decisions of a king, They did this in order “to form a more perfect union, establish domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity” (1) Furthermore, they designed a government “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” “All men are created equal… ” is a statement inclusive of all of the people. (2)
The authors were highly influenced by John Locke, (3) Locke was a strong defender of religious liberty. He lived in Amsterdam for five years and became influenced by the philosopher Baruch Spinosa, who had been excommunicated from his Jewish community because of his questioning of their teachings, (4)
The private opinions of the founding fathers of The United States, on the matter of tolerance were expressed in John Locke’s writing. Locke’s seeds of his thoughts on tolerance had been forged by the long and careful logic of the uncommon man, Spinosa. “His determination to think out the tragedy of his community, led him to a unique system of thought. Within this system he sought to demonstrate that the truths of ethics have their source in the human condition and nowhere else. He sought to prove that our common human nature reveals why we must treat one another with utmost dignity, and too, that our common human nature itself is transformed in our knowing of it, so that we become only more like one another as we think our way toward radical objectivity. The world has been transformed (but not enough) by a long and complicated chain of causes and effects that reaches back to Spinosa’s lonely choice to think out the world for himself,” (5)
Whatever we cherish, its preservation requires the tolerance, understanding and forgiving of all of the people of our community.
I am also reminded of John Donne:
“No man is an island, Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were,
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”(6)
An idea: There is no them; there’s only us!
“An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man’s knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters.” (7)
(1) The Preamble to the Constitution of The United States
(2) The Declaration of Independence
(3) John Locke, 1632-1704, English philosopher and physician,
(4) Baruch Spinosa, 1632-1677, Philosopher
(5) Rebecca Goldstein, Betraying Spinoza, Nextbook, 2006
(6) John Donne, 1572-1631, No Man is an Island
(7) Jerome Lawrence, Inherit the Wind, 1955
Charles Clanton Rogers June 2015