Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Lessons Of History

‘Alright, boys and girls.  Settle down…

‘The lesson for today is:’  (writing the word on the blackboard)  ‘Links.

‘What is the old boy up to today…’  (Titters in the ranks; as he writes underneath it the numeral 1 with a period.)

‘What if I were to tell you that bears in the wild do not get cancer, but bears in zoos do.  What do you think would be a, if not the, causal factor.’

(Silence.  Then, one child:) ‘Emotions.’

‘Good.  But let’s drill down a little deeper into that link.  Where would we end up…Anybody.’

(Silence.  The Teacher then writes on the blackboard the words: Body chemistry.)

‘What if I were to tell you that this link was recognized hundreds and hundreds, even thousands of years ago, by the very man recognized to this day as, quote, the Father of Medicine, a Greek named Hippocrates - anybody recognize that name?’  (Some assenting murmurs from the class)  ‘What is the name of the oath that doctors take to this day, to enter the ranks of their profession?’ 

(A couple of the children; with assenting murmurs from others:) ‘The Hippocratic Oath.’

‘Indeed.  The very man.  Who is quoted to have said: ‘Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your…’

(Everybody:) ‘Food.’   

‘Food for thought, eh?  Wouldn’t you say?’

(Assenting murmurs.  The Teacher wipes his hands of the chalk; but as well, as a gesture of having dealt with that matter.)

‘Another example of Links.’  (Writes the numeral 2 on the blackboard, with a distinctive, definitive hit on the period, as if really getting down to business, now.)

‘What if I were to tell you that back at the beginning of this nation there were two schools of legal thought, one based on what was called English Common Law and the other based on what was called American Common Law, or Natural Law.  Question: Which school of legal thought do you think the colonists - on the verge of creating their own country, mind you - would base their law on?’  

(Silence.  Then, a couple of the children, taking their lead from The Teacher’s ‘hint’:) ‘American Common Law.’  (The Teacher hesitates to respond.  Another child:) ’Both.’

‘(The Teacher, acknowledging that particular answer:) Very good.  But which do you think would be paramount?’

(A number of the children) ‘American Common Law.’

‘Very good.  And I will tell you basically why, ladies and gentlemen.’  (Some titters; but some recognition as well amongst them that he was making a point: that he was signaling that he was treating them like adults.)  ‘Because English Common Law was, is, based on the concept of ‘subjects’.  Subjects to and of the king.  And American Common Law is based on the concept of ‘freemen’.  Sovereigns in their own right.  And damn - excuse me; darn proud of it, after a half-a-dozen years of a War of Independence over the very subject.  What so many of the colonists yearned for, in their heart of hearts. 

‘Not to say all of them did.  Many colonists still had an almost built-in sense of loyalty to, even fondness for, their former country, Mother England, where most of them had originated from.  But the spirit of the times - anybody know a fancy word for that?’

(Silence.  Then, one child, a bit hesitantly, as if not wanting to appear to be showing off:) ‘Zeitgeist?’

‘Very good.  The zeitgeist of the times in the American colonies was for Freedom.  Freedom to exercise their own individual sovereignty, out from under the oppressive hand of the state. Whether that state be of royalty or religion or oligarchy or outright despot.  Do you understand the word ‘despot’?’

(Some assenting murmurs; some indicating unsureness)

‘Autocratic rule.  A leader declaring, ‘I am the law’.  And you ‘little people,’ you ‘useless eaters,’ will peep out from between my legs like the underlings that you are.’  (Getting a bit emotional; then dialing it back)

‘Well; not to get too carried away.  Let me continue my line of thought.

‘There we were, at the beginning of establishing a new nation, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal’”.  Anybody know who I’m quoting, there?

(Silence.  A lone child - the one who had known the word ‘zeitgeist’:) ‘Abraham Lincoln?’

‘Very good.  You would go to the head of the class, if you weren’t already there.’

(Titters.  Overwhelmingly friendly in tone, and obvious intent; with blushing from the child in question.)

‘And that closing phrase was taken from its original source…’  (Silence)  ‘Not to prolong the agony in the classroom: the Declaration of independence.  Some of you may have heard of it.

‘But I digress. But not entirely.

‘We were talking about the law of the land.  How this nation was based primarily on American Common Law, also known as Natural Law.  And that was based on… ‘  (Some curious looks to one another in the class)

‘I won’t prolong the agony on that matter, either.  It was based on the definitive tome of the day on such matters, a treatise - anybody know the meaning of the word ‘treatise’?’ (Silence)  ‘No big matter.  I was just trying to give someone the opportunity to show off.’  (Laughter)  ‘ - a long-winded dissertation on a subject; and the subject here was, quote, ‘The Law of Nations, Or Principles of Natural Law’.  They were codified in a work under that title by a Swiss man named Emmerich de Vattel; three copies of whose book on the subject and under that title were sent by a friend to one of this nation’s most eminent Founding Fathers, a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin.’  (Starts writing the name on the blackboard; while doing so, continues: )  ‘Anybody know what he was most famous for?’  (Silence)  ‘He’s the guy who had something to do with a key on the string of a kite that he sailed into the clouds of a stormy evening, and called down fire, in the form of… ‘

(Another child; eagerly:) ‘Lightning!’

‘More specifically…’

(Stumped silence)  ‘Elect…elect……’

(Many:) ‘Electricity!’

‘Elect those kids to the head of the class.’  (Titters.  The Teacher turns fully back to the class)  ‘Franklin was sent those copies, in their original form of having been written in French - and one copy of which he donated to the first Continental Congress, for their edification, in that same year, of 1775, which was a year before the writing of the Declaration of Independence, and eleven years before the statesmen of the day put together what we know as the Constitution, after a period of time under what is known as The Articles of Confederation.  And among those statesmen of the day in the writing of the Constitution was…this very same Benjamin Franklin; whom you lot better know as the face on the hundred dollar bill.  (Titters)  ‘You don’t believe me?  Get out your wallet and take a look.’  (Outright laughter)  

‘And so this major figure among our Founding Founders was present during those proceedings; after all those intervening years, which included a bloody War of Independence, you will recall, if you were paying any attention at all to the doddering old fool in front of you,’  (Laughter)  ‘And as their elder mentor, was looked up to by those present.  And if there had been any question in the minds of any of those present, what certain terms meant that they were considering, in their construction of the proposed Constitution for the proposed new nation, of the federal constitutional republic of the United States of America, they could have checked it out right there with him.   (Points to the word ‘Link’ on the blackboard. and then underlines it) 

‘But they didn’t have to check one term out, in some question in our day.  Because it had been taught in the universities of the day, besides being ‘signed off on’ by none other than the illustrious B. Franklin himself  And that was the term, a ‘natural born’ citizen.’

(Writing the term on the blackboard)  ‘A ‘natural born’ citizen, according to their understanding of the term, then, meant - and I quote: “Those born in the country, of parents who are citizens.”  Unquote.  It is based on two concepts: being born of the soil - what is called, in legal parlance, jus soli; that is, the law of the soil; and jus sanguinis, that is, the law of the blood.'  (Writing the terms on the blackboard)  ‘That’s what makes it ‘natural’.  The whole point of the exercise on the part of the constitutional Framers, in putting that eligibility requirement in their contract for the office of the presidency, being to make sure - at least as sure as they could, in their time - that the occupant of that office - who would as well, then, become the Commander in Chief of the nation’s military forces; a major factor in their considerations - had no dual or otherwise conflicting loyalties or allegiances or influences.’  (Underlines the two legal terms)  ‘Had sole allegiance to the United States.’  

(Looks for a moment, almost sadly, at the items he has written on the blackboard.  Then thoughtfully, almost to himself:) 'And that eligibility requirement for that office still stands, to this day; absent a constitutional amendment to the contrary...'  (Puts down his piece of chalk; turns to his class; says, simply:)      

‘You see where I am going with this little oral dissertation of mine…

“Which would you rather live under.  Tyrants.  Or Truth.

‘Your call.’

(The bell rings)

‘That’s all.  You’re excused.  But not from learning

the lessons of history.’

N.B. This Teacher was hauled away a couple of days later - after a child in his class snitched on him - on charges of sedition.
     A very strong link, that one, to certain factors, of our day.  And historically.

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