Wally Wonders Why

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Is Dissent the highest form of Patriotism?

dissent1.jpgDo people put these on their cars to encourage general dissent, dissent against the current administration or as some sort of an ego road trip? I’ve seen a lot of these around recently and ran into this one yesterday. I’ve read more about Jefferson lately and this quote was bugging me because it seemed out of character. Like sometimes people will say that the God commands us to kill because they saw it in the bible.

I looked for the quote with some expectation that it was taken out of context and the whole message would not support dissension as the highest form of patriotism. I wasn’t prepared for such a well known and widely distributed quote being just flat wrong. According to the Jefferson Library, he never said it at all and in fact they find it out of character also, citing the following substantiated quote:

“Political dissension is doubtless a less evil than the lethargy of despotism: but still it is a great evil, and it would be as worthy the efforts of the patriot as of the philosopher, to exclude it’s influence if possible, from social life. The good are rare enough at best. There is no reason to subdivide them by artificial lines. But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society as that political opinions shall, in it’s intercourse, be as inoffensive as those of philosophy, mechanics, or any other, may well be doubted.”

TJ to Thomas Pinckney, 29 May 1797

This hardly seems a cattle call for dissenters. And in fact, if I read this correctly, I believe he is saying that patriots should avoid dissenion. Wow! The anti-US, anti-Bush crowd will be rocked at their foundation. Or… they won’t do anything at all because this quote/lie is actually well known, just not by me until now. I think I need to come up with a new bumpersticker:

Lying is the Sleeziest form of Patriotism

9 Comments

  1. Deja vu, too bad this obviously educated man didn’t have enough media support. Check the date. How many times have you seen or heard this in the last 2 years?

    Please Don’t Try To Put Words In Thomas Jefferson’s Mouth

    Knowing something about the works of Thomas Jefferson, and having studied the Federalist Papers, there was something about the bumper sticker I keep encountering here in Friday Harbor that didn’t seem right. “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”, reads the bumper sticker -attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Was Jefferson at the time of the founding of this Country concerned about, and championing, “dissent”. While waiting in my car for coffee at Roy’s I twice found myself in line behind a car bearing that message. I was compelled to look into it.

    An internet search took me to the Jefferson Library at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. A response from this institution to my query revealed that neither the head research librarian, nor the Editor of the Thomas Jefferson Retirement Papers at Monticello, could attribute that statement to Jefferson. In addition it is not in the Jeffersonian Cyclopedia. Jefferson said many prescient and enlightened things, he apparently however, did not say this thing. Whatever the motivation is for claiming that he did, all I can say is:
    Please don’t try to put words in Thomas Jefferson’s mouth.

    Member of the SJ Jeffersonian Society
    Submitted on 02/24/05 @ 03:26 AM PST

  2. It sounds like a Jefferson Clinton interpretation:”I did not do anything illegal with that…”woman”.Wally,my brother…this is the way they say they have the right to be bad to the bone.It’s not uncommon for the underground descenters to come out of the woodwork to plague the mind because if there was no war they would be busy living in a cabin carving boxes for postage(no name mentioned).These people are imploding.They may be dangerous.Fake bombings….people crying wolf.For the population that screams the echoes of Jihad Jane & Friends this is the new media history book.Some just gotta be there.Like Woodstock.Especialy for those that missed Woodstock and lied about being there.It’s still lies.And to think Jane Fonda(TurnerCNN)had once apoligized for posing with N.V.A. artillery,rubbing herself all over it.This must be some kind of Stockholm syndrom:They have identified with their mental abductors.Like mollested children.

  3. Dissent means simply to express your disagreement or opposition to an idea. In a democratic society, I think that’s an important right that needs to be exercised. (Use it or lose it.) So one could argue that dissent in the U.S. is a rather “patriotic” endeavor. Your blog, which seems to have dissent at its core, is a “patriotic” endeavor, one could say. How “high” a form of patriotism it is, we could waste a lot of time arguing.

    Instead of getting all caught up in the I’m-more-patriotic-than-you game, let’s just remember Samuel Johnson’s caution from 1775: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

    1. I don’t express any disagreement with the word dissent as it is defined and as you used it. In another post civil disobedience I offered a very similar but extended comment that explains the problem that I have with dissent as it is practiced here locally.
      Dissent by definition is nothing more than a difference of opinion or a disagreement. Dissent by itself is pretty benign. Lately I’ve noticed that the line between dissent and civil disobedience has been blurred.
      I’m all for dissenting against the actions of our government, but I am not for dissenting against our system of government, especially when dissent becomes civil disobedience.
      Thanks, I hope you see that I don’t disagree with you, I just think dissent these days runs a little deeper.

  4. well now, i think all it is saying is that you should question the authority that the gov’t gives themselves over the country, and question if the people running the gov’t are actually looking out for the country because it is a great place and our home or is it because they are getting rich off of this land and they do not want to lose their income?
    it really does just seem to be saying just because the gov’t “rules” your land does not mean they have the best interest out for you (someone who does not rake them in cash and someone they do not know) it could just be encouraging you to look at what the people tell you for youself instead of just thinking well thats what they say is best so it is best. maybe it could just be asking for people to be patriots of their country, their land, their families and loved ones, INSTEAD of patriots of the gov’t and the people who say they know best and look out for the best.

  5. one more thing to the first man who started talking in this thing and saif “But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society” we are human beings! and we are not perfect not could we ever create anything perfect. the only system that was ever perfect was the one that God put us on this earth with, the one humans decide to choose doesnt exist and our system is higher and more important. so obviously we will never create a perfect system or society we are not perfect nor could we imagine what perfection is so therefore we could try and fail to create it. on the other hand you could be at ease and know the system that was here before you tried to create one was flawless and was perfect to last forever as long as not interupted by humans dirty hands.

  6. *sorry to what thomas pitney said “But whether we shall ever be able so far to perfect the principles of society”

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