Political Differences?

Ben Franklin

“He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Early in the Ken Burns documentary on Benjamin Franklin the narrator claims that Franklin “let political differences destroy his relationship with his son.” 

Knowing a little bit about the history of Ben and his son William, I immediately perked up my ears. The clear implication was that “political differences” shouldn’t be enough to break up family relationships, but in any case, I didn’t think I would describe their falling out as due to mere “political differences”.

As the documentary eventually gets around to explaining, after trying for years to resolve the disputes between England and her colonies and being met with humiliation by the Brits for his efforts, Ben became a very reluctant but quite ardent revolutionary. By contrast his son William remained the Royal Governor of New Jersey and tried to undermine the Patriots’ cause in every way he could; even after he was released from prison due to the respect the colonists had for his father, William joined what can only be characterized as a terrorist organization and continued working against the cause of independence from Britain.

So while that might meet the narrow definition of “political differences”, in that those differences involved government, I’d say there was considerably more involved.

Which got me to thinking about the present.

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Global climate change caused by human activities (primarily the burning of fossil fuels) is one of the most dire threats to life as we currently know it on this planet (all life, not just human). 

Now you and I might very well differ on what measures to put in place in order to combat this threat (carbon tax, wind and solar energy, whatever). Those are political differences, or at least they might be.

But if you want to holler that there ain’t no such thing as climate change, well, that’s more than a political difference. That’s an abject denial of reality.

“I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Or how about the Covid pandemic? 

That’s as real and as dire (this time mainly to human life) as a heart attack. Once again, you and I may very well differ on the best way to deal with this threat. The science is evolving even as I write this. So there is room for differences of opinion.

But I’d say there is no room to refuse to get vaccinated. That’s not only a means of protecting oneself, but it’s necessary to protect others. To refuse to get vaccinated is in essence an extremely selfish act. And that’s not a political difference. 

“He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Or how about guns? They have now become the leading cause of the death of children.

What should be done? I certainly don’t have the answers, but what this country has been doing for the last many years,  making guns easier to obtain, has not been a solution. If you agree that something more needs to be done but differ on exactly what, that again could be a political difference.

But if you’re like a former classmate of mine who was bemoaning the fact that a vet that he knew, who was suffering from PTSD, was unable to legally obtain a gun, well, I really don’t know what to say.

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

— Benjamin Franklin


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