"A Decent Respect For The Opinions Of Mankind"

By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in | Comments (2) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

In the event that you don't know it, this is the favorite phrase from the Declaration of Independence for Democrats during the course of the Bush Administration. They quote the phrase approvingly in the context of arguing that the Bush Administration has failed to show a decent respect for the opinions of other nations thanks to its unilateral unilateralism in foreign affairs, which as we all know, is so unilaterally unilateral that we are all unilateraled out as a country and as a planet.

Two points:

  1. The phrase "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind" was used to justify the writing of a political polemic (an eloquent, moving and inspiring political polemic but a political polemic all the same) that discusses why the 13 colonies chose to declare their independence from the mightiest empire in the world. "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." Listening to modern day commentaries, one would think that Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and others would not have embarked on this history-defining enterprise unless they had an international coalition behind them and it was the presence of this international coalition--which represented the "decent respect for the opinions of mankind"--that paved the way for the Founding Fathers to put into motion the events that created the United States of America as an independent nation-state. Why, if we let matters progress further without perhaps taking into account actual history, we might be fooled into thinking that the Founders sent Richard Holbrooke and Jimmy Carter on a diplomatic tour around the world to garner multilateral support for independence and that it was only the presence of this multilateral support that allowed for Destiny to give the green light to American independence.
  2. This seems to make quite clear that there is no "decent respect for the opinions of mankind" on the other side of the partisan divide, speechifying to the contrary notwithstanding. And don't think that the Obama campaign wouldn't move planets to upset the free-trading Colombians in order to curry favor with the unions. Indeed, the Obama campaign is likely planning to do just that--if only to keep up with the Clintons. If they fail, I should think that their failure would say something quite derogatory about their campaign operations, which may hearten both the Clinton and McCain camps as a consequence.

"A Decent Respect For The Opinions Of Mankind" 2 Comments (0 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

You cite the phrase "A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind" without fully comprehending what it really means.

This Obama fellow is clearly too liberal for America. Fine, we've established that. McCain? Conservative enough? Hmmm. The Jury Is Still Out, sir.

HIllary? We need not discuss.

But you're barking up the wrong tree and I'll gently explain why. An oppressed group of wealthy individuals who were seeing their markets and their goods squeezed by trade and tariff practices imposed on them without adequate represenation or redress--that is, someone in London who could raise holy hell with the Prime Minister and his government for mistreating or misunderstanding the needs of the business community--wrote that to a mad king who was surrounded by incompetents.

Had there been a more favorable disposition in Whitehall, you and I would be speaking the King's English and enjoying another hundred years of independence by association to a greater Commonwealth of English Speaking Peoples.

You can't analogize what was said in that context with current partisan politics. Within the lifetime of virtually everyone who authored and endorsed that statement, Alexander Hamilton was driven from public life by a sex scandal perpetrated by his rivals.

How do you then reconcile "A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind" when the men who wrote it tore each other to pieces when they had gained freedom from the tyrant to whom it was addressed?

Norman Rogers
Katie Bar the Door, sir.

You're missing it. This article is merely pointing out how they've been taking the phrase out of context to bludgeon the Admistration. Instead,, fully in context, it becomes "this is what we're going to do, and here's why." not "Here's what we WANT to do, okay."

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