Thomas Jefferson’s Struggle with Islamic Brutality

(This was originally published in American Atheist magazine – Third Quarter 2015) written by Yours truly, Eric Wojciechowski

On September 11, 2001, the United States was given a taste of what Europe and the Middle East has been suffering, in one form or another, for the past thousand years: the unbending wrath of religious extremists. Religious conflict is what drove settlers to New World in the first place, and up until 9/11, America managed to leave the overseas religious disputes and violence behind. The U.S. does have its own soiled background of anti-Catholicism during the influx of Irish immigrants in the 1800s, as well as a history of less-than-welcoming attitudes toward Jewish newcomers. More recently, the assassinations and clinic-bombings committed by anti-abortion activists have been carried out in the name of religious extremism. But otherwise, America’s pre-9/11 mindset has been that religious violence generally happened “over there.” So when planes piloted by hijackers with a seventh-century ideology came crashing into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, the world got a little smaller and America entered into the conflict that today shows no signs of stopping.

This contemporary conflict is actually the second time that the United States has been troubled by terrorism justified by the tenets of Islam. For decades before its founding, as well as for some years after, the United States was plagued with the same enemy it faces today, and the first leader to take the necessary steps to try and end it once and for all was Thomas Jefferson.

Before the British Colonies became the United States, colonial merchant vessels were protected from pirates by British and French ships. But after winning its independence, the U.S. was on its own. America’s first loss to Islamic terrorism came in 1784, when Muslim pirates from North Africa seized the Betsey in Mediterranean waters. It was a practice that had been going on against European vessels since the sixteenth century. As coincidence would have it, 1784 was also the year that Thomas Jefferson took up his position as Minister of France, settled into his new European home, and began to negotiate a deal to stop these seizures.

The European solution to North African piracy was to pay a tribute to the sovereign of the Barbary (present-day Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia). In return, they’d leave Europe’s shipping trade alone. But it was up to each country to settle its own treaties and payments, and if a country fell behind on a payment, it risked losing its ships to seizure. With no financial power to pay the tributes demanded by the Barbary, the Unites States found itself helpless. The only alternative was to wage war, but the young country didn’t have a navy yet.

In 1785, Jefferson met up with John Adams (the first U.S. ambassador to Britain) in England and was introduced to Abd al-Rahman, the ambassador of Tripoli. It was first of only two times that Jefferson was knowingly in the company of a Muslim. Jefferson and Adams took the occasion to ask on what grounds Tripoli was seizing American merchant ships. In a letter to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay, Jefferson and Adams explained, “the Ambassador answered us, that it was founded on the law of their great Profet: that it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their Authority were sinners: that it was their right & duty to make war upon them whenever they could be found, & to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners; & that every Mussalman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Jefferson attempted to create a coalition of tribute-paying European countries who would each contribute one or more war ships and jointly patrol the Mediterranean for Barbary pirates. Sometime before July 4, 1786, Jefferson drafted the Proposed Convention against the Barbary States to arrange the matter. It would be the first formal attempt at what is today advocated by Atheist activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In a 2010 Wall Street Journal commentary, Hirsi Ali called for the media “to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.” Jefferson’s proposal to spread the risk was met with a lack of interest from both the American Congress and European nations. As a result, America continued to lose ships to Barbary piracy for several more years.

It wasn’t until Jefferson became president that the U.S. ceased paying tribute and quietly launched the newly formed American navy to combat, particularly, the aggression from Tripoli. Thus began the first Barbary War in 1801, which ended in 1805 with a treaty that put a stop to the tributes and cleared the Mediterranean for the safe passage of American merchant ships. (In 1807, Algiers started taking American ships again, and it took until 1815 for America to address it militarily. This second Barbary War lasted two days and finally put an end to piracy from North Africa.)

Yet despite being told by the Ambassador of Tripoli in 1785 that all of it was justified by the tenets of Islam, Jefferson didn’t take him at his word. Jefferson felt the real reason was just good old-fashioned economics and geopolitics. In Jefferson’s autobiography, he simply referred to them as “lawless pirates,” not Muslims obeying their holy book. Whether Jefferson was right or wrong, the ambassador said their piracy was justified by divine will, and there’s no reason not to take the ambassador at his word.

Jefferson was the only founding father to take an active interest in Islam. He purchased his own copy of the Koran long before America’s encounters with the Barbary. His copy of George Sale’s English translation of the Koran was shipped from London in 1765 and can be viewed today at the Library of Congress. There is some speculation that this is a second copy because Jefferson possibly lost his first copy in the May 26, 1771, fire at his mother’s home. The Koran in the Library of Congress contains no written notes or comments by Jefferson (possibly because it’s a second copy), and his initials are his only inscription, although they appear curiously close to some verses regarding warfare.

Jefferson wrote no essays or letters on Islam, and he did not do to the Koran what he did to the New Testament, which was to literally cut out all the miracles and hocus-pocus parts. His re-write of the New Testament, commonly called the Jefferson Bible, was completed around 1819 and is currently held at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Considering his in-depth interest in religion, his near silence on Islam is interesting. This does not mean he had no opinion of Islam. According to Denise A. Spellberg, author of Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founding Fathers, Jefferson “did subscribe to the anti-Islamic views of most of his contemporaries, and in politics he made effective use of the rhetoric they inspired.”

By 1776, most Americans considered Islam to be a made-up religion by Muhammad, a false prophet. One of the passages that Jefferson copied into his Legal Commonplace Book is Voltaire’s insistence that “the Saracens [Muslims] wanted no science except the Alcoran [Koran].” In a 1785 letter to John Page, Jefferson wrote that the Ottomans were “…a set of Barbarians with whom an opposition to all science is an article of religion.” Jefferson also believed Islam to be a stifler of free inquiry. Spellberg seems mystified by this stance, given the fact that Jefferson was well aware of the many contributions Islamic adherents had made to science. My speculation is that Jefferson wasn’t contemplating what Islam used to be, but what Islam was in his time. Scientific inquiry had been on the decline in Islamic nations for over two hundred years when Jefferson began his work separating church from government in the United States. Like creationism today, when facts start interfering with scripture, sometimes the facts have to go. So perhaps that’s why Jefferson and Voltaire were characterizing Islam as anti-science and anti-free inquiry.

Despite Jefferson being told by the ambassador of Tripoli that the Koran justified their piracy, and despite his own opinion of Islam, Jefferson did not consider every Muslim to be a threat. I suspect this was based on his belief that a person’s morality is not based on their religion. In an August 6, 1818, letter to Mrs. M. Harrison Smith, he wrote, “I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives…For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me.”

And in the first volume of his Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, Jefferson wrote about the debates in the Virginia General Assembly when drafting the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which was passed in 1789. He had this to say about an amendment that was proposed for the preamble to mention Jesus Christ as the author of their religion: “[It] was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jews and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

Jefferson understood what many of us know today: Islam is the problem, not Muslims. The two can be separated. In a 1788 letter to James Madison, he wrote, “The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.” Looking at the First Barbary War, it now becomes clear. The piracy of the Barbary States, regardless of reasoning, needed to be met with a repelling force. The opinions of Muhammad as written in the Koran were beside the point.

The First Barbary War, Jefferson’s handling of the situation, and his attitude about Islam in general is an excellent lesson for today. Whereas the events of September 11, 2001, were launched by a small group of nineteen hijackers and their handlers with a budget of only $400,000, this new menace holds large swaths of land, resources, and money. It’s beginning to look like a Barbary redux, but on a scale that has the potential to be massively more destructive than anything those states ever accomplished. Last summer, the civil war in Syria spawned the monster that would become the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS). Formerly allied with al-Qaeda, this faction has grown far beyond small groups hiding in caves. As of this writing, they control huge areas of Syria and Iraq while claiming provinces in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Algeria with more to surely follow if they continue their aggressions. Boko Haram of Nigeria has pledged its allegiance to ISIS. So have other groups from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Indonesia, and the Philippines. But unlike the Barbary, which was content to expand its territory no further than North Africa, ISIS recognizes no borders and proclaims it a duty to Allah to continue these assaults and seizures until the entire world is under its control.

We face the same danger today as then by assuming the worst of all Muslims. Even before the Barbary Wars, Americans (and Europeans) did not have a favorable opinion of them or Islam. After the First Barbary War, the first American edition of the Koran was published. Perhaps because of the war, an audience was made to want to know more. The introduction to that edition begins, “This book is a long conference of God, the angels, and Mohomet, which that false prophet very grossly invented” and ends with, “Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the best part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that law contemptible.” Clearly, the opinion of Islam remained quite negative in a Protestant-dominated population.

With history as our best teacher, how should we steer into the future? Do we start appeasing the Islamic State with payments of ransom when they take hostages? The Obama Administration validated this option in June. No matter what, we must be tolerant of Muslims at home who participate in American secular society. We should open up, encourage conversations, and join with those who are a part of our free and democratic society. The first step begins with any neighbors you already have. What would Jefferson do? We already know.

Among the Wretched Refuse

We’ve often heard that on July 4, 1776, King George III of England wrote in his diary that “Nothing important happened today.” However, it turns out, old George never kept a diary. Seems to be a misattributed or legendary reference. However, the truth is, a great importance did happen on July 4, 1776.

On that date, the Continental Congress voted for the Declaration of Independence, but it didn’t acquire all those John Hancocks until later. In fact, the last signature, that of Matthew Thornton, didn’t jot along until November of that year. So the vote for the Declaration was a defining moment on the 4th of July but the great paintings showing all the participants lined up to put the Big Bad Wolf on notice is a fabrication, a legend. An equal legend on par with the diary entry. Still, kind of a big deal.

But ya know what’s even kind of creepy? Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th, 1826 – within hours of each other. That was exactly fifty-years after the vote for the Declaration.

Ya know what else happened on July 4th? My favorite book was published. On that day, in 1865, Lewis Carrolls, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published. And Mr. Carroll (or, rightly, Charles Dodgson – real name) has been under paedophilia suspicion ever since. The book has been banned from some classrooms since it’s publication, on charges of masturbation references, “bad language”, and belittling important societal norms like political and religious ceremonies. Some said it encouraged drug use. Yet, time has passed and Alice is readily available, at least here in the USA, for anyone to read.

I am more of a reader than a writer. I guess all writers are. So I am thankful I live in a country where I can read anything I want. Even the al-Qaeda funded magazine, Inspire. (Although I’ve been warned that just seeking it out in any search engine puts you in an NSA database. So I thought, screw em, and downloaded it when I found it, read it and still have it. Just add that to your file on me, Uncle Sam).

I put the First Amendment of the Constitution ahead of the rest. And I think the founding fathers did the same; thus, calling it the First Amendment. The freedom of speech is the greatest right. It surpasses the right to defend yourself with firearms or whatever weapon you choose. (I’d say the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. Just ask Mr. Jefferson or Thomas Paine how important words are in getting things to change).

Living in a country where I can write these words, or any other words, is gratifying. I have the right to exercise my opinions, short of making actionable threats of injury. I don’t have to worry about a douche-monkey like Kim Jong-un sending henchmen to breakdown my door when I call him a douche-monkey. I do, however, have to tread lightly when mocking a certain religion (Islam) because if the fascist portion of that circus chooses to be offended, I could find myself a target for Fatwa. But whatever it takes, this is the one group that I will continue to play hardest against and I don’t plan on stopping any of my attacks against them as long as groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continues to run wild. This is the garbage I live to take out.

I recommend everyone take some time to jot down their opinions, try the art of the essay if you wish. As a start, work with a journal. In the evenings, instead of wasting time on reality television and talking heads, jot down your own thoughts on what happened that day. Or what you wish to do tomorrow. Write it exactly as you think it should be said. And read everything you can get your hands on. Not just your preference. Try a different genre just for fun. You never know what you’ll dig until you dig.

So happy birthday, Alice. And don’t forget to take out your copy of the Declaration and give Mr. Jefferson’s words a re-read. Consider the complaints within and spend some time discussing it over your BBQ ribs, or hot dogs or burgers. How does it apply to what’s happening in America today? And do we need to make this Declaration again?

And one other thing: On July 4, 1886, the good people of France, in acknowledgement of the close relation they had with the United States, offered the Statue of Liberty to America. Engraved on the base of Lady Liberty are the following words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” – Emma Lazarus, 1903.

This is exactly why I am here. And why I’ll stay. I am in good company with the wretched refuse of teeming shores.

Some Required House Cleaning

The other day, a dear colleague of mine noted that I was a conservative. I was dumbfounded. I don’t consider myself one. Why? Because the term doesn’t mean to me what it means to the public at large. The term carries the stigma of Christian principled, stuffy rich white guy. That isn’t me. I guess I’m white. But none of the rest. If you wish to label me, go with Classical Liberal, or Libertarian. And I insist on a Capital L. But it got me thinking.

Those of us fixed with a political philosophy grounded on a Constitutional Republic have the same public image: Christian principled, stuffy rich white guys. We even get charged with racism or uncaring for the needy and poor. Granted, we all have stereotypes for political philosophies but I don’t care for the one labeled on mine. And what I care less for are the politicians who feel the need to mold into it. I am certain there are more atheists or non-Christians in government but are afraid to say so. I don’t believe for a minute every conservative is against homosexual marriage. I don’t buy that every Republican pines for the days of Ronald Reagan or feels the only sex education young adults should get is abstinence. But it’s so expected to come out of their mouths that when I hear it, I cringe. I think, Damn, someone will think that of me. Damn, someone does think that of me!

The Republican Party is showing signs of crumbling under the weight of its own unintelligible platform. For years they’ve compromised and catered to the above noted stereotype and now we are at great risk of losing any hope of returning to a Constitutional Republic. I remain a member of the Libertarian Party because it’s the only party that never compromises on the issue of small government. And the stuffy white guy stereotype isn’t with that party. The reason there’s a Libertarian Party at all (or any other third party of smaller government) is because Republicans have alienated so many. And worst of all, moved so far away from what they claim to want. But with the likes of the Paul family sticking with them and the fact that there is a Republican Liberty Caucus, it is clear there is a Libertarian entrenchment within. With that noted, all that needs to take place is strengthening that wing, letting it spread about the entire bird. Returning to small government has a better chance with the only party big enough to stand up to New Liberals.

I don’t argue with Democrats or New Liberals any more. Why? Glad you asked. I don’t argue with them any more than a gynecologist argues with a Stork-Theorist about where babies come from. (Thank you Dr. Dawkins for such a reference). They have made their choices: Without government, they can’t do anything. At this point, it’s energy wasted to hash it out over a computer screen with them. It is, however, a better alternative to use my energy to keep the Republican Party on track and in line with their stated principles. It’s like this, a mother will scold her own child for two reasons: 1) So the mother doesn’t look bad; 2) So the child doesn’t turn into an asshole.

If I’m going to be associated with conservatives whether I like it or not, then I must assist in changing what it means. I have to insist that you don’t have to be stuffy or Christian or white to be in favor of small government or a member of the Republican Party. And, quite frankly, if you’re a “conservative candidate” catering to the stereotype, you’re doing it wrong. There never was a time in our country’s history like you pine for. So let’s do this. Let’s dispel some myths trumpeted by conservative candidates and politicians. Let’s talk about them Good ole’ days conservatives pay lip service to. Time for some house cleaning because the Republican Party is better than that and needs to be scolded.

Oh the Good ole’ days. We need to get back to a time of simplicity. A time when women were women and men were men. When kids obeyed their parents. When the churches were full come Sundays. A time when people said “please” and “thank you”. There was a day when the police officer never drew his pistol, only a whistle to assist kids across the street. A time when families were strong, unbreakable. When drugs weren’t rampant. A time…

…that never existed.

After finishing The Good News Club by Katherine Stewart (review here), I was left with how it’s not only Christian apologists who get American history wrong. It’s everyone else who saw Leave It To Beaver after it aired and thought, “Wow, how things used to be. Wish we could go back.” There’s a notion among conservatives that once upon a time, Dad earned a decent wage and came home to dinner and a news paper while mom took care of the house, made sure the kids were off to and back from school and that that news paper was on the end table, waiting for Dad. Girls wore dresses, boys wore ties. Not always. Well maybe the dresses part, up until 1960 something or other. But…

…back in the Beaver 50s,

Domestic violence was just as common as today. Just less reported. It was expected that the man would keep his woman in line. Women had a larger problem with alcohol and tranquilizer abuse considering what they were required to do – Be superwomen but not be super. There were more unwed pregnancies than now. And marriages didn’t last as long as we think. Funny how the entertainment industry that conservatives point fingers at for ruining the family helped promulgate the myth in the first place. *

…further back to the 1800s, before television,

In these years, the nuclear bread-winning father, child-rearing mother appeared for the first time but the husband and wife weren’t even close to Ward and June Cleaver. No, separate spheres dominated male/female realms, leaving many women to have the most intimate relationship with…wait for it…other women. (Must I point out that the fathers of western civilization, the Greeks, reserved women for child bearing and male-on-male physical contact for pleasure?) Conservatives lashing out against homosexual relationships have no foundation in history. Unless you use the Bible.

…on to those “Christian roots” that never were.

Sure, many came to America to escape religious persecution. But the Puritans and like minds weren’t the Founding Fathers. No, the Founding Fathers were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, et al. These men wrote the founding documents but failed to include the name of Jesus. Strange for a government supposedly based on Christianity. The name “God” appears but not Yahweh. Not any other form indicating “God” from the Old or New Testament. Looking at the lives of these men they were more so deists, than conforming to any sect.

Evidence exists that this is so: Thomas Jefferson rewrote the New Testament, removing all references to the divinity of Jesus. George Washington refused communion. In fact, when asked about Washington’s religious beliefs after he had died, the Rev. Dr. James Abercrombie remarked, “…Washington was a Deist.” Other famous deists were Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin. While Dr. Franklin preferred to take no quarrel with Christianity, Mr. Paine had no problem ridiculing it, taking up the task in his work, The Age of Reason. Finally, the most obvious thwart to the argument that America was based on Christianity comes from our second president himself, John Adams. In the Treaty of Tripoli, that which ended the Barbary Wars for a time, it is written (with President Adam’s signature), “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

Late 1801, the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut wrote to then president, Thomas Jefferson. Their complaint was that the State government of Connecticut was based on Congregationalism and they wished to see it not interfere with their practice. President Jefferson wrote back, indicating that Wall of Separation between government and religion that is so familiar that some think it’s the text of the First Amendment. In this letter to the Danbury Baptists, Mr. Jefferson noted that federally, such a wall existed. He wished the States would do the same.

There never was a time like that of Leave It To Beaver. There never was a time of simple and happy and pleasant family life. There has never been a model of “family” that worked for all ages. “Family” has changed and adapted with the times. And since there’s no golden age to return to, stop saying we have to get back to it. Drop the holier-than-thou attitude. You can be a Republican or just call yourself a conservative without camping out with the Religious Right. By all means if you wish to pursue a religion, fine. But do it for yourself. Don’t govern from the Bible and claim it’s tradition. It’s not.

The only tradition worth fighting for is individual pursuits of life, liberty and happiness. That is what the Republican Party should be fostering, not entangling alliances with groups promoting false histories. The Republican Party should be spending more of its time acting like Rand Paul (who isn’t entirely an angel here but I already addressed that). They should spend more time listening to the Liberty Caucus within itself. I am not the first person to try to whip the Republican Party into shape. Over a decade ago, David Horowitz wrote, The Art of Political War where he called upon the Republican Party to start acting like the party of smaller government. Perhaps members need to read that book again. Or most, for the first time.

The term, “conservative”, really should mean one who wishes to remain the most confined to the Constitution. The elements shown above to be more legendary than real, should be removed from it. If we can, then by all means, start referring to me as a conservative again. Until then, I’m sticking with the Capital L.

* I can not recommend enough to read The Way We Never Were, by Stephanie Coontz if you wish for a detailed analysis on the history of families. And if you wish to know more about how poor living conditions were long ago, and how much better we have it today, I recommend The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible! by Otto Bettmann.

Equal effort does not mean equal results: a word on redistribution

It’s the Friday prior to daylight savings — an idea first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784 — and it seemed appropriate to grab an excerpt from one of our Founding Fathers to give to our readers to start their weekend.   For those of you who truly cherish freedom and individual liberty, it may serve as a reminder that the concept of redistribution is not new.  Thomas Jefferson made it abundantly clear where he stood in a letter to Joseph Milligan, dated April 6, 1816.

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

In Jefferson’s view (and that of the Framers of the Constitution), it was not the purpose of government to take from those whose work and efforts gave them more fruits of their industry, in order to spare those who have not worked as hard or as diligently.  To Jefferson (and all of us here at Freedom Cocktail) this notion was (is) an affront to the notion of the God-given right of free peoples to work as hard or as little as they choose, garnering as much or as little reward as commensurate with such industry.

Obama asks Jefferson about Constitution flawThe first sound that comes bellowing out of the mouths of the low-information-voter at this point is a cry of, “FOUL!”  See, in their minds, equal effort means equal reward.  This is a childish and naive view of life and reveals a distinct lack of ability to understand even the most rudimentary explanations of both federalism and capitalism.

So, rather than argue in that realm, let me give you a sports analogy…

Two football players show up to Day One of the NFL Combine.  They both line up on the track and wait for the crack of the gun (sorry anti-second amendment folks, it is what it is).  Sweat begins to bead on their taunt bodies.  Sound begins to mute as their focus sharpens to the immediate task at hand — to run the fastest 100 here.

The gun fires!

They shoot down their respective lanes, arms pumping in perfect unison with outstretched legs.  They both expend equal effort, in the sense that neither holds anything back.  When they cross the 100 yard mark, they are spent and incapable of another step.

However, one athlete crosses that finish line .5 seconds ahead of the other.

How is that possible?  They both gave equal effort.  Perhaps, if we looked further into physique and genetics, the slower athlete, in an attempt to compensate, may have actually expended more effort.  Yet, one was faster than the other.

There is no more rudimentary example to illustrate the efforts of one individual (or business) over another and why some are more successful than others.  Sometimes, hidden attributes allow for one individual to perform better than another.  Sometimes those attributes are as plain as day.

Before you begin to look to the state to make sure everyone is “paying their fair share,” decrying how unfair it is for some to have more than others, take a long hard look at yourself and try to be as honest as you can.  Are you really putting forth equal effort?

What time are you supposed to arrive at work?  Do you strive to make that time + or – 5 minutes?  Or do you show up an hour beforehand?

What time does your workday end?  Are you the kind of employee who watches the clock, trying to figure out how to look busy for the last 15 minutes of the day while not actually taking the chance of opening another email or answering another phone call for fear it may keep you one second past your exodus from the office?  Or do you work until the assignments are complete, regardless of the hour?

Be honest, now.  How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest during the course of business hours (we will exclude lunch for the time being)?  When you get a text message from a friend of family member, do you answer it immediately?  What about personal phone calls?

You smokers out there (yes, there are few of you left who are supposedly paying for our children’s healthcare, which seems to have been the golden pipe dream — sorry for the “pipe” pun — and will be left as a topic for another day), tell me if this sounds vaguely familiar?  You and the few remaining of your endangered species have formed a bond, a pack, if you will, and religiously make sure to hit the designated smoking area with each other 4-5 times a day.  You text or email each other: Camel run in 15.  You make sure not to take a call or open an email within five minutes of the preset rendezvous time.

You make your way to the bathroom first.  After all, you don’t want this one vice of yours to be interrupted prematurely, do you?  Then you head to the elevator (stairs/door/escalator) and meet in a clandestine manner at the one place around the corner and out of sight from the do-gooders and nay-sayers of the anti-smoking crowd.  (Doesn’t it tick you off when someone else wants to impose their views on you?  No one is forcing them to smoke, why should they force you to stop?)   You light up and begin to talk about how busy your day has been.  Within five or six minutes you all realize you should maximize your nicotine addiction and light up another.  Like you said, you’ve been busy and who knows when you’ll get a chance to leave your desk again?

Another five to six minutes goes by and it’s time to return to your post.  You casually walk together, knowing you need to give your clothes a few minutes in the outdoor breeze to air out a bit so no one will know what you’ve been doing.  By the time you make it back to your desk, you’ve been gone somewhere around 15 to 20 minutes.  Time to get back to work.  You’re slammed, remember?  Besides, you only take a smoke break four or five times a day.

That’s when your email notifier pops up with a note from one of your crew.  The subject:  Again at the top of next hour?

For a moment, add up that time.  Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe it’s only 10 minutes, five times a day.  That’s 50 minutes a day, or 250 minutes a week.  Using 50 working weeks (you do get your two weeks vacation, right?), that would equate to 12,500 minutes of smoke time, which is only 208 hours or 5.2 work weeks.

Do you think you should give back your vacation time?  Think how much more you could have accomplished had you been given just over a month more on the calendar to outshine your fellow employees.  But, hey, gotta feed the habit, right?

The examples could go on and on but the point has been made.  There are those who show up to work early, stay late, give up their lunch hour and take home work over the weekend.  They don’t spend company time browsing sales specials or downloading new songs to their iPhone to listen to in 1 hour 43 minutes and 15 seconds when they bolt for their car and the drive home.

Our Founding Fathers never promised anyone in this country equal outcomes.  They were far too brilliant to be that naive.  What they did promise, however, was a government sufficiently constrained to afford its citizenry equality of basic rights — chief among them the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

This means each individual has the freedom, unencumbered by the state, to pursue (or not) whatever industry they so choose, as long as those pursuits do not infringe on someone else’s life, liberty or property.  It means the state isn’t supposed to guarantee the success of one at the expense of another.

Now, there is a form of government whose principle consideration is founded on the idea of taking from each citizen, based on their abilities and redistributing to others, based on their needs.  However, that is not found anywhere in our Constitution, nor should anyone ever strive to place it there.

Equality of rights is not the same as equal outcome.  If you want or lack for something, earn it.  Work harder.  Change jobs.  Move to a different company.  Move to a different state. Don’t blame the guy in the next lane who managed to pull off a faster 4/40 or 100 yard dash.  You have no more authority to infringe on his rights than he has to infringe upon yours.  Work harder.  Work longer.  Focus.

And if you still believe the government exists to punish the achievers and reward the failures, then keep that other old saying in the back of your mind: be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

It’s past 5pm on a Friday.

Now I’m wondering — will anyone see this before Monday?

Federalist Resurrection

We don’t need another political blog! Yep, I heard ya yell it when you clicked the button and fell upon us. But I disagree. We DO need another political blog. We need one in favor of the American Republic as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and all those other old dead guys. There are numerous Socialist, Democrat and Communitarian (my personal favorite of the rename-game) out there that the more the merrier when it comes to comment to the contrary.

Let’s recall the Federalist Papers. While the Founding Fathers were debating whether or not to ratify the Constitution, those in favor wrote opinion pieces that were meant to persuade the public. Consider Freedom Cocktail to be a continuation of those Papers, an attempt to get the United States back to it’s roots, it’s freedoms and personal responsibilities.

If the message gets repeated, the chances are greater that change can be accomplished. (Damn, my first post and I used the word “change”).

As a note, us Contributors quibble sometimes on certain issues but note that no one anywhere ever will agree on 100% of topics. Each of us Contributors is his own entity and what one says doesn’t necessarily reflect the exact opinion of the other. However, we desperately wish to get back to the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness the Founding Fathers envisioned and we’re working together to assist in it’s return.