Ben Franklin was not our president, and other lessons in civics and civility

Hereís what readers had to say in Sundayís letters to the editor.
$100 dollar bills with Benjamin Franklin's face Svetlana Kuznetsova  |  Tampa Tribune
$100 dollar bills with Benjamin Franklin's face Svetlana Kuznetsova | Tampa Tribune
Published November 9

We need civics and to be civil

Civic education and partisanship

I was in the grocery store the other day, and a man in front of me handed the cashier a hundred dollar bill (a “Benjamin”), while proclaiming that it bore the likeness of “my favorite president.” This in itself is an example of our nation’s lack of civic education. Some may look at this as a funny mistake, but these mistakes are becoming more common. The average American can’t distinguish the Declaration of Independence from the Bill of Rights, tell who the vice president or the speaker of the House is, or even identify their own local elected officials, yet most know the entire cast of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or the complete line-up of the New England Patriots.

We are today a house divided perhaps more than we were 154 years ago. (That would be 1865, the end of the Civil War, and the “house divided” is a reference to a speech Abraham Lincoln gave in 1858 in which he proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”) We allow special interests and hot button topics to sway our emotions so much that we are incapable of rational decisions. Rather than stepping back and observing before jumping to conclusions like enlightened individuals, we allow our short-sighted opinions to play judge and jury in nearly every situation.

America has a cancer in the form of partisan politics. It is a disease that we Americans were warned about by great men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (who, unlike Benjamin Franklin, actually were our presidents, the first and third, respectively). And now all that they advised us could and would happen, has happened and this cancer eats at the very skeleton of what is America. Because of this, we are in the midst of a cold civil war of sorts, between two parties who far from represent the struggles of every man, yet every man blindly takes up their causes. Rather than confidently and in unison make it known that despite our differences we are one America, we are content to be shown our bogeymen while being handed torches and pitchforks.

We were a nation of laws, morals and actions, and not just feelings. It is time that we remember that we the people are the government, before it is too late, unless it already is.

Christopher Jones, St. Petersburg

Imagine all of us as one

Coming together for a world without walls | Column, Nov. 3

FILE - In this Nov. 10, 1989 photo, East Berliners get helping hands from West Berliners as they climb the Berlin Wall which has divided the city since the end of World War II, near the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate).  Jockel Finck  |  AP
FILE - In this Nov. 10, 1989 photo, East Berliners get helping hands from West Berliners as they climb the Berlin Wall which has divided the city since the end of World War II, near the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate). Jockel Finck | AP

Thanks very much to Duke professor Dirk Philipsen for his great column. I’m 80 years old now, but ever since I was a teenager I’ve thought wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were all just one? A global citizen! Equal rights! No more threat of war! All for one, one for all! I know, lot’s of luck with that dream. But one thing I’ve learned in all these years is that humans can solve any problem they set their hearts and minds to.

David Anderson, St. Petersburg

A world needs walls

Coming together for a world without walls | Column, Nov. 3

I now understand, after reading the piece by Duke professor Dirk Philipsen, why our college graduates are becoming socialists. Philipsen wants a world without walls, where we share everything with everyone else, whether they have earned it our not. He doesn’t define who “we” are, but I’m assuming he means all of those people who have worked hard to earn their “wealth.” He lives in his bubble on the campus of Duke. He says, “Imagine, for a moment, a world without borders. Giving everyday people the same kinds of freedoms that money and capital and goods already possess, and the wealthy have long enjoyed. Legal and social protections for everyone.” I wonder which set of “elites” will provide those protections. The real world consists of many people who would welcome the opportunity to come to a country that has been successful and take what they want. I guess he is advocating no walls around private residences, no locks on cars or doors, no control over who comes into any country, which would end the need for passports. Many countries in this world are impoverished and have been for many centuries. No amount of aid seems to change that since the cultures do not change. I hope we don’t try to test his theories. America — as we know it to be a beacon for the rest of the world — will cease to exist.

Thomas Sheehan, Spring Hill

Think for yourself

Remember, we’re the United States | Letter, Oct. 31

The American flag arrives via skydiver at Memorial Stadium during the National Anthem before an NCAA college football game between Indiana and Northwestern. Doug McSchooler  |  AP
The American flag arrives via skydiver at Memorial Stadium during the National Anthem before an NCAA college football game between Indiana and Northwestern. Doug McSchooler | AP

As a parent of three grown children I fully agree with the writer of this letter. It addresses the matter of the different viewpoints we have as Americans and the many tendencies we have to exclude others. Much of our society is broken in that respect. As the letter points out, “The internet should not be allowed to be the primary source of one’s thought and character development process.” Tweeting to everyone else our immediate thoughts, on whatever passes through our minds, is just too much information. Folks need to revisit the art of pondering ideas and notions in their own minds and make more effective judgments of their thoughts and ideas. That goes directly to the top, to the current leader who should set a better example.

Everyone has a voice that wants to be heard, so cultivate your own thoughts and think more about what you have to say. We need to instill this in our children. As parents, it’s our job.

Bill Haisch, St. Petersburg

What would it take?

The impeachment inquiry

President Donald Trump  Patrick Semansky  |  AP
President Donald Trump Patrick Semansky | AP

The question for all Republicans, especially leaders, is this: If it were proven to your own satisfaction beyond a doubt that the president did:

1. Ask a foreign power for assistance in an election campaign and

2. Did offer any enticements, threats or other encouragements to that end.

Would you consider that a violation of his office and worthy of censure, up to and including impeachment and a trial on those charges?

What would you say, Sen. Marco Rubio? Sen. Rick Scott?

Leonard Silva, Gulfport

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