on a literal odyssey
The painting depicts all of the American Presidents, both past and present, standing in front of the White House. On a bench in the corner sits a dejected and impoverished man that represents the men and women that the Presidents have “forgotten” in their quest for power.
Now, I’m sure that some of you would object to something so outlandish and over-the-top. Frankly, I understand your objections. In fact, I’ve often second-guessed the excessively dramatic background music of the video and I’m the one that put it there!
But then again…is the symbolic message of the painting that far off?
Men and women trample and disregard the American Constitution every day as they pursue power and security instead of community and freedom.
Of this, there is ample (bipartisan) evidence: overwhelming government expansion, welfare programs, income taxes, the Patriot Act, ObamaCare, and many other programs an initiatives designed to strengthen the power of government.
But these expansions not made in a void. When governments gain more power, they do so by displacing the power of the people. The more powerful governments become, the less free people become. We witness this in the totalitarian nations of the Middle East, communist countries, and the monarchies of old.
In 1776, after witnessing the abuses of a large and out of control government, our Founding Fathers decided to create a government of limited powers—a government that gave political power to the people.
Granted, our founders were just as afraid of giving power to all of the people as they were of giving all the power to one person. So although our documents preached the equality of all men, America did not extend full voting and civil rights to all of her citizens until twentieth century. Our nation was frail and our Founding Fathers were nervous. The world had not seen a successful Republic since the time of the Romans. Our founding documents are filled with lofty concepts and heavenly ideals that the world has embraced, but has struggled to live up to. But when America has truly lived up to its foundational documents the results have been staggering.
Our Constitution, for example, is an amazing document that outlines a government of limited powers; it was an experiment in giving more freedom to the people—one big leap of faith and trust in “we the people.”
And look at the fruits of that leap of faith!
“One need not be an American citizen to feel a sense of genuine pride in the fantastic list of achievements which bubbled up from the massive melting pot of humanity that swarmed to the shores of this new land and contributed to its mighty leap in technical, political and economic achievement.
“The spirit of freedom which moved out across the world in the 1800s was primarily inspired by the fruits of freedom in the United States. The climate of free-market economics allowed science to thrive in an explosion of inventions and technical discoveries which, in merely 200 years, gave the world the gigantic new power resources of harness electricity, the internal combustion engine, jet propulsion, exotic space vehicles, and all the wonders of nuclear energy.
“Communications were revolutionized, first by the telegraph, then the telephone, followed by radio and television…Then men left the earth in rockets ships and actually walked on the moon…The average length of life was doubled; the quality of life was tremendously enhanced. Homes, food, textiles, communications, transportation, central heating, central cooling, world travel, millions of books, a high literacy rate, schools for everybody, surgical miracles, medical cures for age-old diseases, entertainment at the touch of a switch, and instant news, twenty-four hours a day.” 1
These accomplishments do not belong solely to America, but they are the direct result of men and women having freedom: freedom to speak, to explore, to innovate, to create, to worship, to express themselves and think for themselves.
And a major champion of these freedoms is the American Constitution: a document defining a government of limited powers: a government that derives its power from the people: and a people that have greater freedom as a result. Furthermore, the Constitution promotes and protects the rights of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
I am not a Republican or a Democrat. I am not a Tea-Partier or an Occupier, nor am I anti-government. I simply believe in a government of limited powers because it gives greater freedom to the people. But as people pursue power and security instead of community and freedom, they trample the American Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than these people are to be free. Establish the law for educating the common people. This it is the business of the state to effect and on a general plan.”
And I think that Jon McNaughton’s symbolic painting of “The Forgotten Man” is a powerful warning for those who pursue more governmental power at the expense of “We the People.”
Skousen, W. Cleon. The five thousand year leap: 28 great ideas that changed the world. 30 year anniversary ed. Franklin, TN: American Documents Publishing, L.L.C., 20091981. Print.