Knowing about nation’s history offers understanding of tyranny 

A Marist College poll indicates that more than a quarter of Americans don’t know our country gained its independence from Great Britain. Do you suppose, then, that these people are as worrisomely disconnected from our noble, still-crucial national heritage as that other group that abuses it regularly, namely many top officials?

It’s important to know how our ancestors defined tyranny, for instance, because that can have meaning for our discernment of it today. It matters whether or not someone bumps into the Founders’ premise that a government’s just powers can derive only from the consent of the governed because the concept has meaning in the here and now.

Of course, you can bathe in knowledge and still emerge dirtied by attitudes averse to the Founders’ best beliefs. No doubt members of the Supreme Court are well versed in our history, but four of nine of them recently voiced something close to total disregard for the Second Amendment.

Next, let’s visit Congress, where members seldom grant any of the Constitution’s limits on federal power. Meanwhile, too many ignore their real responsibilities, such as controlling programs so as not to bring economic ruin on us all.

And the executive branch? Though unconstitutional acts stretch back to the second president, the infamies really took off this past century. This century has seen no surcease.

The current president behaved like another King George when he trampled on the rights of Chrysler creditors during the dubious takeover of the auto company last year, and the health care remake he championed is an abomination on several fronts, not the least of them being its intent to instruct citizens to purchase private insurance.

There is a need, it would seem, to get everyone educated not only about our heritage, but also about the virtues of so much of it and its importance to our lives today. If that’s not possible, maybe we can get some voting-booth fixes out of the majority of citizens who do hold certain truths to be as self-evident now as they were when we gained independence from Japan. Excuse me, that’s what some in error thought. I mean Great Britain.

Columnist Jay Ambrose has been Washington editorial policy director for Scripps Howard newspapers and editor of dailies in El Paso and Denver. He can be  reached at

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