The Evil Men Do

Slavery in America is an important, but shameful time in our nation’s history. In his Independence Day Oration, Frederick Douglass, presents his thoughts on slavery and how it contradicts the foundation of America. Long after the abolishment of slavery, there is still discrimination against African Americans as explained in The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Within Douglass’s oration, it is said that the evil men do goes beyond their generation. The two readings can be connected by this idea, where Douglass explains the current situation of slavery and Coates describes the aftermath, several generations past its abolishment.

Douglass was honored to be speaking at such an event on an important day for Americans, however he was upset by how ironic the situation was. The founding fathers risked death to overthrow the British “home” government because they felt oppressed and unfairly treated. So this day of joyous occasion, the liberation of America, was not enjoyed by everyone. “I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them,” (Douglass). This is where the irony lies. Frederick Douglass accuses America for not being truthful to the foundation upon which it was built. “We fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers,” (Douglass). It is ignorant to celebrate a day considered so great for overcoming oppression while we subject an enormous amount of people to enslavement. Nothing pro slavery is found in the constitution, it is not a constitutionality argument because we know it to be immoral and wrong. There are many things in the constitution however, that are unsympathetic to slavery. Frederick Douglass within his speech states that because America is so young, there is hope that everything could be turned around. Until then, this country is based on a lie and should be ashamed for not sticking to the same values as its founding fathers.

A famous quote used in Douglass’s oration was one that connects well with The Case for Reparations. “The evil men do, lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones,” – William Shakespeare. In this article we see how African Americans were not much better off after the abolishment of slavery. Discrimination and acts of terror were a common sight. Many former slaves became farmers and lived in constant debt to their landowners. Refusing to work meant arrest on sharecrop farms, blacks were punished more harshly for their crimes, and where freed slaves lived were “ecologically distinct” from white neighborhoods. Frederick states in his oration that blacks were left out of the celebration of Independence Day because they were not considered Americans. The same case is seen here. The economic power that modern day America has become is largely due to cheap or free labor from slaves. Even after slavery, blacks were still exploited and discriminated against solely to show disrespect. The article finishes up saying that reparations would equate to “. . . the full acceptance of our collective biography and its consequences,” (Coates). Even today we have not reached this point.

The recent and current effects slavery still has on our nation supports that the malevolent things we do goes beyond our life time. Hundreds of years after slavery has ended in America, African Americans continue to deal with racism, inequality, and oppression. Coates recognizes that black lives in America are improving, but we still have a long way to go to undo the damage caused by past generations.

Bronson Alcott and Thoreau group 5

          Alcott was one of the transcendentalists, which was a group of radical thinkers and writers of New England in the 1830’s. As an early admirer of Thoreau’s reasoned philosophy, they shared many similar ideas. They both believed that a more simple life with fewer obligations was a better path to happiness. He flatly rejected the accumulation of material goods, which Thoreau shows through his cabin and solitary life.

          Alcott was a farmer, lecturer, intellectual, and writer. The success of his efforts were limited. He set up a school of radical ideas and it eventually failed. The introduction of new subjects with an innovative form of teaching caused his students to withdraw from his classes and led to its failure. Later on he became a superintendent of schools in Concord and fulfilled a lifetime dream of opening “The Concord School of Philosophy.” His educational reform was introducing hands on work and new subjects such as physical education. He also worked to end hitting children in school and educating them on morals. Something interesting about this is his ideas were failures of  his time, but now something we follow and value.

          One source says that Alcott should be considered the most pure of the transcendentalists. His ideas revolved around equality, education, relations, and living a simple life. At one point in his life, Alcott built a short-lived utopia called “Fruitlands” that emphasized fair share of work, living simply, and being close to nature. We related Alcott to what Thoreau wrote in “sounds” where he finds entertainment and enjoyment in the simplest of things. 

Diderot’s Background for “Rameau’s Nephew” – group 5

Our group thought that it may be useful to understand Diderot as an author to get a better idea of his perspective on certain topics. After reading a quick biography we found Diderot was considered a brilliant student and was pushed to fulfill a career working for the church. Diderot abandoned this and focused on studying law and philosophy. His family strongly disagreed with his decision, and were  disappointed with him. This could be portrayed in some of his works showing the importance of individual choice and pride in one’s decisions. 

Diderot was a French philosopher and compiled information with a goal to further knowledge for all. He focused much of his time translating works, tutoring, and reading to expand his knowledge. He had this idea that he needed to give the world a general idea of everything. He created an encyclopedia so people knew a general idea of the capabilities we have as people and what we know. Diderot was known for his comedic writings and sarcastic tales. His sarcasm comes into “Romeau’s Nephew” and even though has a sarcastic tone, it still underlines some important lesson. Based on this reading he differs from other philosophers who write much more serious and focused on establishing laws rather than using a story or dialogue to convey something.

Overall we think the importance is that Diderot had an interesting life where he was able to learn and explore things on his own. His works are trying take some aspects of unique stories to describe new ways of thinking.

John Locke and Gun Control

Group 5 Humn 221-09

John Locke’s ideas for a stable and fair society influenced the principles the United States was built upon. In reading “The Second Treatise of Civil Government” Locke emphasizes the natural right people have to protect themselves and their private property. Anyone who challenges this has declared “war” and the victim is able to use force to protect themselves. A big issue today is gun control in America with people debating how the constitutional right to own guns should be regulated if at all. An article called “Locke ‘N Load: John Locke and Your Second Amendment Rights” explains how John Locke’s philosophy can be applied to the right to own weapons in a civil society such as the United States. The article uses John Locke’s idea of preserving private property and health by any means when someone else tries to invade on that right. The post is saying we have a right to use weapons when our life or natural rights are being threatened.

Another article “Freedom and Gun Control” also uses Locke’s ideas to explain our right to bear arms. This article took into account the entire  issue of gun control and not just the idea of using lethal force when necessary. An important quote from this , “You can not privately own a nuclear weapon just because you happen to think that it’s good for your own self preservation. Thus, gun-control is justified to the extent that it’s for the good of the public.” Locke did emphasize the importance of self preservation, but his idea differed slightly when people came into a united society. The idea of a society is we have to abide by certain laws and regulations all for the good of the public. The importance of this is that overbearing weapons is not for the good of a society and same with weapons that are too dangerous. It is meant for the preservation of yourself  as well as society and when too many people accumulate weapons, violence increases.

Our group saw an important tie in of the ideas in the Second Treatise and some problems we face in a more modern world. It’s difficult to say how Locke would approach this situation because it is a right to protect oneself, but also necessary to keep the public safe. His principles underline an idea that it may be better to regulate this kind of power so community members feel protected rather than threatened.