A Passover plea: Don’t tread on E Pluribus Unum

By Simon Greer and Shuli Passow Jewish Funds for Justice In 1775, Marine troops preparing to intercept British warships carried … Continued

By Simon Greer and Shuli Passow
Jewish Funds for Justice

In 1775, Marine troops preparing to intercept British warships carried yellow drums painted with what would become an iconic image of the American Revolutionary period: a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike; underneath, the motto “Don’t tread on me.” Capturing the anti-government political sentiment of the moment, this image was soon immortalized on what became known as the Gadsden flag.

A year later, as America declared independence from Britain, a second image took its place in our national history. The Great Seal, bearing the motto “E pluribus unum” (out of many, one) — bore witness to a second political vision for this nascent country, that of collective identity and mutual obligation.

America, the great political experiment, has attempted since her birth to balance these two founding ideals of individualism and collectivism. Today, the rhetoric of the tea party movement tugs us dangerously out of balance, reimagining this country’s creation as rooted solely in the values of individual rights and freedoms.

One small indication of the movement’s allegiance to this strand of our founding narrative, to the exclusion of the other: Sales of the Gadsden flag increased 400% over a two-month period this past fall. We should all care about this perversion of the founding narrative of this country; it misrepresents what America stands. For Jewish Americans, it marks a rampant individualism that runs contrary to the mutual obligation that Judaism holds out as a political and social ideal.

(Read more about Judaism’s vision for society and community at Patheos.com.)

With Passover on the horizon, Americans can look to the Jewish founding narrative — the Exodus story — for perspectives on freedom and nation building. Interestingly, the Exodus from Egypt is framed not in terms of the individual’s right to freedom from oppression (though that is certainly implicit) but rather in terms of the freedom to work together to build a society of equity, of justice, and of collective social responsibility.

The story itself opens with an image of collective identification. Moses, born to Israelite parents but raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, forgoes the privileges and luxuries of the royal palace to identify with his Israelite brethren. His first action as an adult reveals his sense of fealty and responsibility to the larger Israelite collective: he risks his life to come to the aid of an Israelite slave being beaten by an Egyptian, whom Moses ultimately kills in the struggle.

The climax of the story similarly emphasizes identification with the communal entity. In the moments before redemption, as the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, they are instructed to mark their doorposts with blood in order to be spared the final plague and to be freed. Only by identifying as members of the larger community can any individual household take the steps out of Egypt. National freedom, the story tells us, is a collective, not an individual, enterprise.

Passover focuses on the Exodus from Egypt, the beginning — not the end — of the Jewish national formation. Exodus is followed by Sinai. The Sinaitic covenant is the blueprint for building a society in the promised land. The Jewish model of redemption and freedom is not simply the freedom from oppression to do as one wants, but is also a freedom to actively participate in a covenantal community. This is a highly communal articulation of what freedom is and what it is meant to be.

The founders of this country knew the Exodus story well. Many wrote of America as the new Israel, Britain as the new Egypt. The freedom they sought was modeled after the Exodus; yet, departing from the Hebrew Bible — which strikingly does not use the language of individual rights — our founders created explicit space for the individual in this country’s laws and cultural narrative. In this way, America was indeed a great political experiment, striving to negotiate the tension between individualism and a greater collective good. The Declaration of Independence itself articulates this tension, with its opening call for the “inalienable rights” of the individual juxtaposed against its authors’ closing commitment to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

The rising popularity of the tea party movement signals a dangerous and unfortunate departure from the balance sought by the founding ideals of this country. More concerning than any one policy position is the movement’s rhetorical power, drawing us further away from the society envisioned by our founders, and creating a culture of individualism. Using the lens of Exodus to analyze the tea party phenomenon steers us toward reframing the debate and re-infusing the discourse with the narrative of mutual responsibility and the common good. This Passover, I hope Americans of all religious stripes will draw from these values and ideals to envision a new future for this country, one of justice, equality, and collective destiny.

Simon Greer is the president and CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ). Shuli Passow is the director of community initiatives at JFSJ.

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  • spidermean2

    Here’s a prophecy :The liberal, atheistic, gay marrying northeartern states will be doomed but the conservative Christian heartland will remain.Whatever the people of the Christian American heartland believes, that will be the future of America and as the prophecy says that is also what the world will follow.

  • spidermean2

    The calf-worshippers (who perished) in the time of Moses and the liberal atheistic democrat northeastern states seem to share the same doomed fate.

  • spidermean2

    I forgot to add Darwinian evolutionists.

  • MALBENNET

    THE LAND OF ATHE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE? WE ARE BECOMING MORE AND MORE CAPTURED BY THE GOVERNMENT (DEMS) THIS WRITER IS OFF THE MARK WHEN HE TRIES TO TIE THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT TO ANY OF HIS HISTORY LESSON. EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT FOR 70 YEARS THE JEWS WERE IN CAPTIVITY. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT WE WILL BE IN CAPTIVITY FOR ONLY 8 YEARS (4 IF WE ARE LUCKY) THE TEA PARTY IS SIMILAR TO ALL OF THE JEWISH HEROS WHO FOUGHT AGAINST THE ROMAN EMPIRE AND ALL THE OTHER TRIBES. PERHAPS IS WE ALL GOT TRUMPETS AND MARCHED AROUND THE WHOTE HOUSE THE WALLS WOULD FALL AND THE OPRESSORS WOULD BE DEFEATED.

  • spidermean2

    Therefore, the true fulfilment of the promise land will happen after Doomsday.

  • qqbDEyZW

    Watching the Vatican’s conduct and Israel murdering Palestine woman/children we see how Religious Leaders aren’t teaching God’s word but following Satan. God’s name is used for corruption, greed, racism and evil.

  • Emmetrope

    The Boston Patriots acted against the British Tea Act of 1773 because it was taxation without representation-the colonist didn’t have a vote. The modern Tea Party just didn’t have enough votes. The Whine party would be a more appropriate name.

  • HeavyD1

    Truly depressing reading these WAPO forums. Many would benefit from a good deal of self censorship. I agree with the authors on the dangers of the Tea Party. It’s radical and nihilistic, not a conservative movement at all. I appreciate that the movement’s adherents claim the conservative mantel, but the ability to call someone a socialist and a fascist in the same breath seems to be the full extent of what these people know about conservatism.

  • spidermean2

    If the tea party is becoming a thorn to the liberal, atheistic, gay marrying, evolutionist, pot-legalizing Democrats, it means they are doing a great job.The Dems are building a house on sand and anything that stops them from building that house is good for everyone.Who wants to support a party who thinks that they their great great grandpa was related to King Kong and thinks that sodomy should have marital rights. Add to that the belief that government should be funding addiction to pot.

  • cossack2

    Did the Exodus ever occur? Read the summary and first comment on this book by Israel Finklestein.

  • spidermean2

    “Did the Exodus ever occur?”Sure it occured but fiction or not, it’s surely describes what America went thru and foretells the destruction of those who worshipeed the calf – the liberal, atheistic, gay marrying, evolutionist northeastern Dems.

  • spidermean2

    “The sun will be darkened”.Does the statement means the sun will stop shining or does it mean a nuke just hit the earth and the dust and debris blocked the sun’s rays and therefore the portion of the earth where it hit suddenly can’t see the sun.The Bible is not for idiots.

  • chatard

    Once again Quinn and Meacham promote anti-Americanism. It’s a daily occurrence. It’s all about “Faith” dontchaknow? We expect the business section, sports and classifieds to be given the next assignment to trash tea partiers. Post newsboys are going to be instructed to holler “Tea Partiers suck!” when delivering the rag. It’s all about good journalism, dontchaknow?

  • douglaslbarber

    This is an excellent column.The increasingly strident assertion that individual self-determination is the ultimate good has become the distinguishing trait of our nation’s people, and is a cancer leaving rot in its wake.

  • spidermean2

    “and is a cancer leaving rot in its wake.”We would know who got the “cancer” as we see which states will self-destruct like dried weeds cast into the fire.

  • YEAL9

    Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ)Background information on this non-profit (guidestar.org)Simon Greer is the president and CEO and is paid $186,038/yr (IRS Form 990- 2007-2008). JFSJ’s net assets for the same period were $10,482,321. Nine other directors/VPs make ~$100,000/yr. The group’s stock and bond portfolio was valued at over $5 million for the same period.Some questions?Why the high salaries and why so much money invested in the stock and bond market?Does this group lobby the US Congress?

  • djedi25

    It’s the misuse of our founders meaning of “tea party” that annoys me here. The only people who should be considered allowed to have “tea parties” are the residents of the District of Columbia, who after 234 years are still being taxed without representation. You want to talk about American values, THATS un-American!

  • houstonian

    Individualism and the collective good. You can’t have it both ways or is that what you want. Capitalism and socialism mixed together because that is what your talking about. The direction President Obama is going will take individualism away and put all the rights and choices in the hands of the government. As for the collective good and spreading the wealth around is not what our founding Fathers had in mind. Our founding fathers didn’t think like Uncle Joe Stalin did. You’ve gone off the American path and are seeking comfort in a socialist garden President Obama has made to look beautiful. There’s no such thing as utopia. Stop dreaming.

  • JohnSkookum

    Collectivism be damned. It is the ideology of the ant hill and the gulag. It is the greatest evil that has ever existed on earth, and nothing should be off limits in the cause of crushing it forever.

  • philautos

    Free people often do need to band together to achieve things that benefit each of them. But to be bonded to other people’s goals against your own judgment and interest is slavery. And to disguise the second as the first is as evil a fraud as anyone has devised.

  • Patriotdoc

    Mr. Greer, if it makes you feel any better, the Tea Party Rally I attended Saturday had a very nice e pluribus unum feel about it. You ought to come out and attend one of the many rallies occurring all over America, and I think you will be pleased that all sorts of Americans are united in opposing tyranny of big government. Yes, we are all united in telling big government apologists to leave us alone and perform the normal functions of government in a responsible way. This does not include spending money we don’t have in a reckless manner that threatens our AAA rating. It does not include setting up 150,000 bureaucrats and 16,500 IRS agents to oversee what health care we will be allowed to have, at a price set by a bureaucrat. It does not include corrupt and sleazy backroom deals, threats and bribes.You mention the narrative of mutual responsibilty and the common good. Do you really believe Obama, Reid and Pelosi are thinking of mutual responsibility and common good, or good old raw power being used to annex huge chunks of formerly private industry for self benefit and crony capitalism, socialism and vote buying? You have a vision of “justice, equality and collective destiny” which sounds nice, but where is that in the Declaration of Independence or Constitution? How about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which much more describes what us unified, mutually cooperative, e pluribus unum Tea Partiers want to have for our country, you included?!

  • PhilThijou

    The Constitution was written as a blueprint for a limited federal government. Over the years, by invoking the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause in inappropriate ways, the federal government has grown into a monster. The monster needs to be slain, because attempts to tame it have repeatedly failed.

  • thebump

    The culture of individualism is what attracted people to America from every corner of the globe, and has made ours the greatest nation in the history of humankind.The beauty and genius of America is that our mutual responsibility and greatest common good lies precisely in allowing every individual the maximum freedom to achieve her or his full potential as she or he alone sees fit.So party on, tea partiers. Pay no never-mind to the left wing scolds and cranks.

  • AGTelAviv

    From here in Israel, the American experiment in socially-constructive individualism looks like one of history’s greatest successes! I value and believe in the Jewish traditions of justice for all peoples, collective responsibility, the linking of morality with spirituality around a single spiritual force, and the belief in a shared fate for the Jewish people. But, Israel serves as an excellent example of how American-style individualism is necessary for a society to thrive. Modern Israel started out as a very socialist society. Since the 1980′s we’ve moved to a much more American model. We’ve allowed for much more individualism and become more capitalist. As a result, and despite multiple wars, our economy has boomed, our health care system is much improved, our cultural life is more diverse, and the voices of minorities (of all faiths and beliefs) and those with unpopular ideas are much more easily heard. Even in traditional Jewish law, there is room for private initiative, so long as it is done in a socially responsible and religiously pious way. I take exception to the portrayal of Passover or Jewish tradition as an endorsement of socialism or of one American political faction over another. The Torah transmits divine commandments to care for the poor and the socially disadvantaged, not for collective ownership of the means of production.

  • ptrchss

    Just how fast people forget!!! No wonder, my son said (when he was 10 years old!) that Americans have the retention span and attention of a mosquito on crack!!! Many of the people commenting on this column, forget the 8 years of Republican government (the greatest expansion in government in history!) that almost bankrupted our country. They also forget, that through the series of laws passed by the Republicans during their 8 catastrophic years of government, we have been put on a shorter leash than ever before in American history! (i.e. Patriot Act). They also forget, that those Tea Party members couldn’t survive one single year, without the FINANCIAL support of the rest of the liberal American citizens, which they all so despise, because let’s face it, everyone with a little knowledge knows that it is the “liberal” states, which bring the largest chunk of revenue to the federal treasure chests. The problem with US liberal, educated people, is that we don’t yell loud enough the truths that the “undeserving” lowlifes and noise makers a.k.a. Tea Party members should be hearing, namely, “IF WE DECIDE TO PULL THE MONEY PLUG OFF, AND CESEDE FROM THEIR PERFECT, UTOPIAN UNION WITHOUT GOVERNMENTAL INTERFERENCE, YOU WOULD BECOME A THIRD WORLD SOCIETY!

  • dudefromthebronx

    As a Jewish American, I would’ve loved to join the Tea Party movement. Unfortunately, the movement made the unforgivable mistake of letting hate groups get involved. There are many minorities who are also disenchanted with the two-party monopoly on power that the Democrats and Republicans have held for more than 155 years. They also should’ve avoided an alliance with the Republicans. They were supposed to be Constitutionalists, not kiss up to a party that, during the Bush Administration, wanted to shred the Bill of Rights. Americans have plenty of reasons not to trust anyone in Washington and every administration since Lyndon Johnson shares the blame equally. Few Americans trust Obama more than they trusted Bush. Obama supporters are kidding themselves if they think Obama will fix anything. That leaves most of the country in a bind, having to choose between following leaders who have failed to deliver on promises of fixing an ailing economy and a powerful and growing opposition that excludes certain groups and thus resembles the old Nazi Germany.

  • samscram

    Rhetorical excess aside, the notion that the Framers and Founding Citizens were following the doctrines of the Jewish Faith is as bananas as the Fundamentalist Christians claiming that this is a “Christian” country.Our Constitutional Republic was formed for two reasons; the need for national control over our national security and foreign relations and the need to regulate interstate and foreign commerce, which become so balkanized that states were economically fighting each other to the detriment of our commerce as a nation and even our national security.The Bill of Rights was enacted to protect the people from the Federal Government, not as a doctrine.

  • arotnemer

    From where I stand, the tyrannies the Tea Party directs their anger towards are misplaced. Perhaps they have not seen the tyranny of health insurance companies. While I am somewhat skeptical of government, and wish more “individual” responsibility in our own health care, it is clear that we need a system that protects from abuse. If the government ends up being that abuser, we’ll need to take another look, but as it stands right now these changes are sorely needed.

  • SSTK34

    It is always about the Jews. The modern United States of america is founded on Jew worship. For something to be “good” it must be endorsed by Jews. If Jews do not like the tea, republican or democratic parties they can go to Israhell.

  • Matthew_DC

    If the Tea Party people would take aim at all federal spending, including the massive military budget, and put forward a plan for radical decentralization in the USA, they might get more support from people who are worried about a federal colossus. As it is, they just seem to be malcontents who don’t believe in any government. In other words, frontier anarchists. Like it or not, we’ve got to be governed. It seems we are not governed well by overcentralization because the country is too big. How nice it would be to have a party put forward a plan for us to transition to something more manageable, and not just platitudes about how “government is the problem.”

  • thecomedian

    What a drooling idiocy of an article.People standing against the extreme version of statism to which they’re being subjected against their will are the ones throwing things out of balance?And I guess the jews had it coming in berlin 1940 as well.

  • eriksmeyer

    The phrase “E pluribus unum” had nothing whatsoever to do with collectivism, though neocons and other leftists have been disingenuously misrepresenting it that way for decades. It meant, out of many separate colonies, one country. Some things just aren’t done.distort American history

  • gagalbert

    These two authors are shameful Jew haters. They pretend to be represent Jews and then they decry free speech and liberty and independence. These authors represent and fifth column in the Jewish world: people that are anti-Israel and anti-Jewish that pretend otherwise. The way to think of these two authors is like the KKK saying they represent Christians.

  • rush_b_right

    Reading down the comments, most somewhat thoughtful and at least civil, until we get to the post by ptrchss at 4:49, where we get another hate-filled ranting from an elitist liberal. Why are these liberals so angry. They run all things in DC, the MSM, and our education system. Yet, because the majority of the country still doesn’t agree with them, they remain an angry, hateful minority screeching from the bell tower like Quasimodo.The article itself is based on a false recollection of our country’s founding and the principles and vision of our founders. This is tripe and yet another attempt to rewrite our history to fit the political and social views of the author(s). Using the word collectivism (a good communist word if there ever was one) in association with this country’s beginnings is a bad joke.

  • ignoranceisbliss

    This is more like it.”Today, the rhetoric of the liberal progressive extremist movement tugs us dangerously out of balance, reimagining this country’s creation as rooted solely in the agenda of collective rights and social justice at the expense of personal freedom and liberty. “The movement against the current liberal progressive unwanted onslaught is just a reaction to the extremism and forced agenda that is being laid at all Americans feet.Liberal whiners are pathetic. Your time is short. November is coming fast.Obama is a DISGRACE.

  • marmac5

    This is an excellent column, clearly delineating one of the major problems in contemporary society. The tension between individualism and the common good has, indeed, been an important part of our nation’s story.Unfortunately, the aging Boomers who constitute much of the Tea Party movement have been pushing and prodding the nation toward narcissistic individualism since they first came of age. The me generation is still at it — whining, crying and protesting when they don’t get what they want. They are still the most irresponsible generation that this country has ever produced, and if our experiment in democracy fails, the fault with rest totally on the Boomers.

  • flonzy3

    I see plenty of hyperbole without much fact here.

  • Vocatus

    @rush_b_right – You are amusing. You speak of liberal hate and anger but fail to look at the hate that generally comes from the right. The Tea Party is a perfect example of that. So why would liberals be angry? That is simple to anyone who actually thinks and bothers to look at the facts rather than regurgitate the pabulum, gingerly spoon fed to them by Faux News. Liberals are upset by the amount of lying and misinformation spread around by the right. Death panels that did not exist and the legislation that was claimed to be death panels was written by a prolife Repub. However, if I went up to your typical Tea Partier I doubt very much they would even know that fact.The numbers on health care are slowly moving the Dems direction and I can’t wait until the public sees what the bill actually is and how they will benefit. They will see that everything they heard from your side was a LIE. The numbers will shift and the right will have egg all over their face as they are forced to explain themselves. In fact, Grassely, I think that is how you spell his name, is running ads on the positive aspects of the bill he helped pass even though he voted against it and there is video of him talking about death panels and killing grandma to a group of slobbering right-wingers. Enjoy your rhetoric while it lasts. I can’t wait to see what you all say once it hits 51% support.

  • Alvinjh

    Quite a stretch there guys–”collectivism” was not part of the founding fathers vision. Individual rights certainly were. I think you are confusing the founding of Isreal with its collective ideals with the founding of the United States.A common problem in the D.C. corridor.

  • SagebrushFederalist

    “More concerning than any one policy position is the movement’s rhetorical power, drawing us further away from the society envisioned by our founders, and creating a culture of individualism.”This is laughable analysis. And what of the role of multiculturalism that sprang forth in the 60s and 70s? African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American, blah blah blah ad nauseum. Women’s rights, gay rights, prisoners rights, yada yada yada. No, my friends, the seeds of identity politics and rampant individualism were sown long ago by, who else, liberal Democrats.The authors confuse the brand of rampant individualism that is so dear to the Democratic party with the rugged individualism on which the nation was founded and for which the Tea Party stands. As in, “I am a man, I can make my own choices, and I can live with the consequences of what I choose to do. Now leave me the hell alone.”

  • rtreff

    I have never seen so many comments by weirdos in all my life.Get a job!Just quit writng all this garbage!

  • Skeptick

    It may have been mentioned ( I got tired of reading the comments), but the dichotomy in US political culture/philosophy is not individual freedom and collectivism, but individual freedom and equality (a judeo/christian concept), including equality of opportunity. The two concepts will always be in tension (some free people will find/create better opportunities than others) and both can use the Government to oppress others; thus the justified distrust of government.

  • globalone

    “Enjoy your rhetoric while it lasts. I can’t wait to see what you all say once it hits 51% support”Here’s a news flash: Opinion polls don’t make an issue right or wrong (although President Clinton would like to believe otherwise).ObamaCare is completely unconstitutional, no matter how many lemmings claim to like the bill.

  • JimMF

    Hail big government!!More government control over the citizens!Less freedom and opportunity!!!!Go Obama!!!! Go Democrats!!!!

  • justmo

    I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, just a citizen of a democracy. Democracies indicate that the people’s choice is what governs the nation/state and the policies these governments enact. There was an election, the people made a choice, the Democrats won, the policies are being put in place. In our country the right to freedom of speech allows the discontented to express their opinion and they have. Such gems as “keep you government hands of my Medicare” make me smile. Freedom of Speech allows my to see where the majority of the ignorant stand–Hello Tea Party.

  • buckminsterj

    GlobalOne: “ObamaCare is completely unconstitutional, no matter how many lemmings claim to like the bill.”Please expalin how it violates the Constitution. And yes, popularity alone does not justify a policy, but the previous reference to opinion polls is simply (and properly) a counter-argument to the ludicrous claim that “Americans” don’t want health care reform, a claim predicated on a warped definition of American-ness (i.e. white, shrill, bible-thumpin’, etc.)

  • theduck6

    Thanks for the mini-history lesson with no relevence whatsoever to your premise.Comity, bipartisanship and compromise seems to always involve moving to the left to liberals. WHen is the last time a bipartisan compromise moved the conversation and policy to the right. In the unlikely even you can actually come up with one ralize there are twenty or so to the contrary.You can usually count on those opposed to your efforts to howl the loudest when you are being the most effective. Question with boldness.

  • HancockJM

    The Tea Party is all about RESTORING the balance that the left wing destroyed.

  • justmo

    Comity, bipartisanship and compromise seems to always involve moving to the left to liberals. WHen is the last time a bipartisan compromise moved the conversation and policy to the right.1. The continuing resolutions passed by Congress allowing the last administration to fight a needed war in Afghanistan and a war of choice in Iraq. Without paying for either.I do agree that much compromise moves us the the left. Civil Right in the 60′s, Title 9 and many other examples. Could it be that the move to the left in these areas is the building of a more equitable society? Or a elitist plot to take our indiviual right?

  • jmcdavisum

    On the contrary Mr. Greer, I think the Tea Party movement is in direct response to “a dangerous and unfortunate departure from the balance sought by the founding ideals of this country.” We were already at a point where the people that generate wealth are being taxed very heavily. The bottom 50% of filers only contribute 3% of overall individual income tax revenue. Many get a check that is larger than their deductions. There is already a tremendous amount of redistribution being done. With this healthcare bill and its laughable savings coming from cuts in Medicare and DSH payments that are never going to happen, we are going to need to pay another $100 billion a year at a minimum in taxes. We are sapping the rewards for economic and social dynamism. We don’t want to end up like Europe where social mobility is a quaint notion. We do not want to create a situation where more than one in two Americans are to no small degree wards of the state. These things are antithetical to what we want to maintain as the American ethos. They are also antithetical to a dynamic and competitive economy which is necessary if we are to maintain people’s standards of living and ironically the ability to even talk about things like universal healthcare. When it comes to “rights” that consume society’s resources, there are no rights, only luxuries that society either can or cannot afford.Throughout federal and state governments we have seen irresponsible spending land US, the people, in peril. We have seen what overgenerous benefits can do to a government’s ability to pay its bills. In Illinois our out of sight personnel costs and underfunded/overgenerous pension obligations are crippling our state’s ability to function. The federal government sure seems intent on following suit. You cannot blame our problems on the recession either. It only brought the situation to a boiling point a little earlier than would have otherwise happened. These are profound problems created by a political class that seems to believe in its ability to govern more than economics. They are going to lose in the long run. The only question is do we let them take the rest of us down as well.We see no reason to passively sit by and let that happen. We have a representative form of government and we intend to make it work for us. Although, I guess it is kind of comforting to know that if I lose my job or if the stress just gets to be too much, I can hang out and play xbox all day and drink malt liquor all night on the “government’s dime.” Well at least until the house of cards falls down. But why worry about that? I am sure “they” will find a way to keep that from happening.

  • Dan78

    The Tea Party, much like their ideological forebearers (The Know-Nothings), is doomed to failure as cultural, demographic, and technological shifts wash over them like the ocean over a sandcastle. They can cry and whine all they like; at best, their insane rhetoric and pining for an America that never really existed will, at most, delay the inevitable that they fear: financial regulation and reform, acceptance of immigrants, stronger unions, gay rights, women’s equality, a more prevalent public sector, environmental regulation, universal health care, secular education, and global multilateralism.What we’re seeing is the last bolt being fired from a generational subgroup that feels their sense of entitlement and privilege slipping away. It will be an interesting footnote in American history books some day, even if those books are still dictated by the Texas School Boards.

  • globalone

    Buck,The government cannot force someone to pay for a good or service simply because they are breathing.

  • jmcdavisum

    Actually Dan this is not a generational subset. They are wealth generating professionals of all ages that see the fruits of their labor being expropriated not just for people that truly need a helping hand but for moochers that don’t contribute their fair share. They are people that are seeing the trouble that many European countries are having affording a welfare state. And we know that they managed to get themselves into that pickle while abdicating their responsibility to safeguard their fair share of the global commons to us. They are people that are not so pathetically naive as to think that the world is going to significantly move off of carbon fuels before there are alternatives that are cheaper in reality and not just by rich government fiat.They are people that see the financial ruin that a “robust public sector” has brought to their state.I don’t think the movement really has much if anything to say about gay rights, immigration, or secular schooling. I am sure you can find people with all manner of opinions on most any subject. The thread that binds is primarily a concern with being robbed blind for unsustainable programs that have the potential to bankrupt our nation. So get off your snarky, naive high horse. Being an undergrad is often the last bastion of sheltered childhood. You’ll grow up when you have responsibilities beyond yourself.

  • globalone

    Thomas Jefferson: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not”Barack Obama: “Go ahead and order anything on the menu you like. The guy behind you has to pay for it.”

  • WhenRightiesFailAmericaWins

    The comments here are REALLY HILARIOUS. All these rightwing nutjobs complaining about socialism. You know, the big bad evil government like the police force, and the road crew, and the fire fighters. You know those evil socialists like your child’s school teachers, and the lunch lady, and the school crossing guards and bus drivers. Horrible people those.How about all you old f*rts collecting SSI without a single word of regret, and all of you who have lost your jobs in the past 2 years collecting unemployment insurance?Nothing but hypocrites…THE LOT OF YOU!Don’t tread on me is a good saying. You rightwing nutballs should figure out what it means first though, before you actually say it.All you fatties should be happy that the government is now going to foot the bill for all those heart attacks and strokes you’re going to suffer because you can’t seem to tear yourselves away from fast food for more than a few hours.

  • Dan78

    Actually, JMC, I’ve witnessed several “Tea Party” rallies in person, and they are composed mainly of older people (primarily Baby Boomers), most likely retirees receiving Social Security, Medicare, V.A. benefits, and all of those “socialist” welfare programs that they decry in public, but are more than happy to accept. Ayn Rand’s “moochers” to a “tea”! Their rhetoric went way beyond calls for limited government; signs questioning Obama’s birth certificate were ubiquitous.The move off of carbon-based fuels will happen because said fuels are rapidly running out, or will become too expensive to extract and process. Peak oil is coming, “Drill, Baby, Drill” or no. Suffice to say vehicles won’t be running on petroleum in another century.Your comment about me being an undergrad is funny, though. I’m no longer in school; I actually received my undergrad degree (Magna Cum Laude) and graduate degree (Summa Cum Laude) years ago, and am gainfully employed, probably making more than most tea-party attendees. Maybe we all need to get off our high horses. Have a pleasant day, my friend!

  • MikeMaloney

    Re: PATRIOTDOC | MARCH 30, 2010 1:55 AM who wrote:Jefferson’s next sentence: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Jefferson states quite clearly that government is the solution, not the problem (sorry Ronnie). The government he envisioned should be “most likely to effect their safety and happiness” (their being ALL the citizens). If you respond, I expect you to point to the last clause of the sentence. Guess what? The democrats won the popular vote; they are exercising the will of the majority of the voters (who elected them). Did the democrats pout and refuse to govern after the 2000 election? No. The republicans have done nothing to govern over the last year. (BTW, I’m a lifelong R.)I note that the Pledge of Allegiance is popular at tea parties. Tell me, what part of “with liberty and justice for ALL” is not understood?

  • washpost29

    The Tea Party is not a “movement.” It’s a media-stoked temper tantrum that’s all too good for ratings and advertising revenues.Thank you for a nice piece, drawing on our many American traditions, to remind of us of the need for mature, adult perspectives in our political as well as personal dealings.

  • jutepper1

    I suppose I could use more colorful language, but that has never been my style. This time, however, I am tempted to do so. I resist that temptation.The authors simply do not understand the dynamic of what they are talking about, and their premises are, plainly stated, wrong.The “collectivism” to which they refer in connection with e pluribus unum is an outgrowth of the don’t tread on me statement, which, as it was used, was just as collectivistic.The issue is whether the work-together attitude is better imposed on individuals by governmental power or better the natural product of the freedom of individuals to achieve the destinies for which they yearn (and, concomitantly, whether individuals will, in fact, yearn for anything other than freedom in a world of government-imposed collectivism.) Governmental collectivistic imposition is a contrivance that has not succeeded beyond the short term. Individual freedom is, like nature (it being natural) fraught with danger which, when it occurs, can ultimately been dealt with (as, ultimately, it has been). Like nature, it is imperfect. Like nature, it does not strive for perfection.Look at it somewhat differently. Under which system have the people historically suffered the most?The proof? Simply answer the question of why people want to come to America. The answer ultimately redounds to freedom, the nature of which the authors seem not to understand.By the way, the Pesach (Passover) story is chock full of individualism, some admirable and some not.Finally, the Pesach Seder ends with an exclamation Next Year in Jerusalem! That brings to my mind the Jerusalem of Blake’s poem, the poem used as the lyric of the hymn you loved in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and (title taken from the poem) Chariots of Fire (which told of the individual efforts of a Jew and the Christians among whom he found himself that created a kind of collective effort that only freedom can sustain over the long haul). It is the Jerusalem of personal freedom and individual integrity that conspire to create the city on the hill vision, a vision that cannot exist without freedom.Jerusalem (by William Blake)And did those feet in ancient timeAnd did the countenance divineBring me my bow of burning goldI will not cease from mental fightAnd here it is for you to hear, music by Sir Charles Hastings Parry: Julian Tepper in Placitas, NM

  • jmcdavisum

    Sorry about my own harsh tone Dan.”Maybe we all need to get off our high horses”I would also agree that we have a century or less of fossil fuels. We do however have plenty for several decades. The question is whether technology beats scarcity to the punch. Either way it makes little sense to tax the very air we breathe now when there are no economically viable alternatives. Ms. Jackson’s push to have the EPA regulate CO2 as a dangerous pollutant under the Clean Air Act seems like a particularly egregious instance of bureaucratic abuse of power in order to redistribute society’s resources in a manner that a few individuals see fit.As far as the makeup of the movement goes, I have to confess I have never been to a rally. Personally I think the manufactured issues like Obama’s birth certificate are completely ridiculous. I think a much more open immigration policy is vital to the health of the economy, and that a path to some sort of recognized status is a realistic necessity for the 12,000,000 or so illegal aliens currently in the country. All for gay rights too.The people that I know that are getting awfully antsy about our current and anticipated debt levels are late 20 – 40 somethings that are in business and its fairly universal; the legal profession being the only one where there seems to be a significant number of people (about 50%) that seem to be happy with where they see things going.I said that the undergraduate life is “often” the last bastion. Many however go into fields that are fairly insulated from the realities of private sector life. My friends in academia and government employ seem to run the gamut from vaguely uneasy to oblivious.

  • JimMF

    Hail big government!!More government control over the citizens!Less freedom and opportunity!Go Obama!!!! Go Democrats!!!!

  • MysticMan

    The “Tea Party” movement throws around terms like “Socialism” without any thought as to what that means as a political philosophy. It is a word presumed to be bad at all times. There is no context to it’s use, no application to different governments to compare and contrast what it means as applied to the US Governement. Really, a just another word used as a flashpoint to stir up the crowd. The Tea Partiers say that that elected representative no longer fulfill the will of the people. They fail to understand the basic logical link in democracy – that these representatives in congress were elected. More people voted for them. Their mandate is that the Democrats won more poplular votes. Forget not that Bush lost the popular vote and then proceeded to leave the country in tatters and the world on the brink of disaster. But they want to “take back the country” (?) Does this mean go back to 8 years of war and intertnaional animosity? Why are they so angry about the idea that all Americans can now get medical treatment? Aren’t there more intrusive government activities that warrant the emotion? Such as all the illegal wiretapping under Bush. Why do they think that democrats are “baby killer” when they are silent as to the 2 major wars the Republicans launched that have been responsble for the deaths of not just babies but fathers and mothers of babies in American in the middle east? Their “rage” is totally misplaced. Who is “treading” on them? Making sure they even they can live past a major expensive illness because of insurance coverage is hardly what the colonials thought of as over intrusive tyrannical governement. Maybe the founding fathers thought that a the true tyranny was when citizens don’t accept the legitiamcy of elected government and threaten to kill the it’s leaders, that my friends makes the Tea Party the true traitors to America.

  • buckminsterj

    GlobalOne: “The government cannot force someone to pay for a good or service simply because they are breathing.”Sure it can, GlobalOne. It does so through taxes that fund, among other things, the military, education, law enforcement, and so forth – all vital services (and essential to a prosperous society), even when imperfectly implemented.No question – government spending is often excessive and wasteful (look no further than the military). What’s fascinating, though, is that tea partiers who decry the spectre of big government seem oblivious to the frightening authority of big corporations – as if private institutions are any more respectful of our rights or wallets (and just wait until the recent SCOTUS ruling takes full effect.)But taxation and personal liberty (like health care reform) are smokescreens. The tea partiers I’ve seen marching through DC are far less likely to be coherent, civil, and knowledgeable libertarians like JMCDAVISUM than sub-literate bigots and conspiracy theorists who, as DAN78 points out, associate (correctly) social progress with their fading “sense of entitlement and privilege.”Their outrage is rooted in culture and ideology, not philosophy or governance.

  • staterighter

    Amazing how one minute the WaPo screams, no demands the separation of church and state and then it has an article that says the Jewish idea of society needs to be a large part of our gouvernment. Then WaPo screams how the Patriot Act demeans and damages individual freedoms and then it turns around and demeans the importance of the individual. My question for the WaPo is which is it? Which do you really stand for? Individual rights or group rights. The right of “societies” or the right of the individual? This just demonstrates the ignorance with which many “ideals” are presented. This Nation was founded on the imperfect concept that the individual is placed here with certain inalienable rights. Groups aren’t, societies aren’t. It is the individual that makes the whole, not the other way around. Group think, special interest groups, all weaken our Nation. I think your “group” is just scared of the individual and free thought.

  • buckminsterj

    staterighter,You clearly misunderstood the article, which preaches (however effectively) balance.To argue for a social saftey net does not logically imply approval of constant government surveillance. Nor does expressing admiration for a Jewish fable constitute a call for codification of religious dogma. And of course, blogs on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WaPo as a newspaper. Calm thyself.

  • YEAL9

    Jewish Funds for Justice (JFFJ)Background information on this “non-profit” (guidestar.org) or why the Exodus story still is good business?Simon Greer is the president and CEO and is paid $186,038/yr (IRS Form 990- 2007-2008). JFFJ’s net assets for the same period were $10,482,321. Nine other directors/VPs make ~$100,000/yr. The group’s stock and bond portfolio was valued at over $5 million for the same period.

  • kchses1

    I don’t think there is much danger in the Gov’t being reminded that the peoples patience for taxes and intrusions are not unlimited. People respond to different fears. Some people responded to the spector of wiretaps and arrests during the Bush administration with anxiety. Not completely unjustified. Until we see how our Gov’t uses power we sould always be wary. Many now see the spector of massive taxation and intrusion into our lives because of the deficits and the health care bill. Until we see how the gov’t will respond to both we should be wary.

  • jonswitzer

    Using the Exodus story is a massive stretch. Exodus was about God’s demand for obedience from those He had rescued. It was a Theocracy that was being set up. The Laws came from God himself. At Sinai idolaters were slaughtered by the Levites devoted to God. The honorable Rabbi writing this column makes no mention of that, leaving a vague feeling that Israel’s covenant was simply between humans. It is precisely humanism, resulting in statism, rejecting a God who teaches each individual their responsibilities for living in community that many Tea Partiers reject. In fact, there was NO multiculturalism, E Pluribus Unum in Israel’s beginning. Conformity was central to the Laws of Torah. Yes, aliens were embraced but only if they completely submitted to the Laws of Yahweh. Tea Partiers want government held accountable to God and not trying control the lives of the nation. They reject the idea that Government can solve man’s problems. Many believe, like Moses, that only God has the power to feed the nation (manna) and heal them (snakes on poles). God set Israel free from the all-controlling tyranny of the Pharaoh who thought man was an end to itself. Yes, they were to leave food for the poor, but that was done individually, field by field and through a tax to the Temple (not a large centralized government which God seemed to reject until the people rebelled in Samuel’s time and demanded a king to be like the other nations. At that point, God said, they are rejecting me, Samuel, not you.) Bit of a stretch Mr. Rabbi.

  • globalone

    Buck,”It does so through taxes…”And where does the Government derive the power to tax the populace? By and through an Amendment to the Constitution.ObamaCare is neither allowable under the Constitution nor under any Amendment to the Constitution. (Which is why they are ducking behind the “Commerce Clause”)If this is such an historic law that has the support of the majority of U.S. citizens, then why not propose a Constitutional amendment?

  • rd3

    Fascinating story, this Passover thing, but I’d be more than a little interested in meeting these beings who actually brought and cast the plagues upon mankind. I’d also like to know exactly what deal these ancient Israelites made with these other-worldly beings in order to spare their lives over all others. Something about this story stinks from beginning to end and it’s for certain that there’s more going on here than biblical history has cared, or dared, to record.

  • theobserver4

    I appreciate the article here. Religion aside it is a healthy message that we are indeed all in this together. The rampant individualism at all costs runs counter to our founding principles and it’s nothing more than an extension of the “me generation” who would as quickly stomp on their grandmother’s neck as buy a trendy new coat.

  • buckminsterj

    GlobalOne: “If this is such an historic law that has the support of the majority of U.S. citizens, then why not propose a Constitutional amendment?”Political necessity – you have to start somewhere. The income tax, too, was initially imposed under the Commerce Clause. It eventually (several decades later) became an amendment, and perhaps once the teabaggers’ apocalyptic rhetoric proves false, the same will happen with health care.Whatever. For me, the constitutionality of health care reform is beside the point. Even if it were explicitly precluded by our legal system, I would support it. In an earlier comment you chide another poster for relying on an ad populum argument, but in the very next sentence, you appeal to the Constitution, implying that because something is or is not codified, it is right or wrong – a similar logical fallacy.I point this out only because the current debate should be about the importance of health care – not its popularity or its legality – and there are many valid perspectives. But tea partiers by and large are not engaged in that debate – they instead want to scream incoherently about Kenya and fetuses and Mao. And that’s why the government does well to ignore them.

  • JWTX

    AMERICA, REMEMBER THE ROMAN EMPIRE, IT CAME CRASHING DOWN WITH A VENGANCE. OPRESSED PEOPLE WILL RISE AS THEY DID BACK IN THE ANCIENT TIMES.

  • spidermean2

    Cute But DestructiveThis is the model liberal democrat idiots follow. Policies that are cute in the beginning but self-destructive in the long run. As little kids, gays are effeminate which many people find cute. As they grow into adults they become filthy coz they want sex with their kind.Gays in the military seems cute now but filthy in the long run when gays will outnumber straights in the shower rooms and generals having male boyfriends.Socialist policies are cute now but filthy when the budget deficit gets bloated in the long run.The list goes on and this kind of CUTE BUT DESTRUCTIVE policy is inherent in liberal democrat idiots.In fact the two wars we have now and the economic turmoil we’re in are policies which can be traced far back to Bill Clinton’s policies.

  • spidermean2

    You only have to check where do the idiotic atheists side on this subject and you’ll already know which side is wrong. The logic is simple. Nobody ever follows or copies what the idiots write during an exam. Since most atheists side with ObamaCare, then something is very wrong with this bill.

  • globalone

    “For me, the constitutionality of health care reform is beside the point. Even if it were explicitly precluded by our legal system, I would support it.”And therein lies the problem.Here’s an idea. How about drafting healthcare “reform” that doesn’t run counter to or in complete disregard of arguably the most important legislative document in our nation’s history? Just a thought.On another note, ever wonder why Canadians cross the border into the U.S. when they are in need of advanced, specialized medical procedures?Ah. The Democratic Congress had nothing to show for its term in office other than a minimum wage bill that helped about five people. So it went “all-in” with healthcare “reform” in the hopes that it would save their jobs. Sad, really.

  • spidermean2

    “The Great Seal, bearing the motto “E pluribus unum” (out of many, one).”One thing is sure, out of many ideologies, one will stand out as the best and to be followed. It can’t be coming from the liberal, atheistic, evolutionist, gay marrying, pot legalizing Dems. Maybe that’s the reason why the Dems states will be doomed as prophesied. Their ideologies can’t be the one and if they insist on it as the one, it will self-destruct with them.

  • Jihm

    Before Reagan the US was a nation of “We”. After Reagan the US became a nation of “Me” (and the heck with you). We will al swing together, or we will swing separately.

  • EowynR

    The 10 Commandments are all about individual responsibility, are they not?I would like a little more respect for the 10 Commandments from our Congress. How about, “Thou Shalt Not Steal” from taxpayers for starters? Or, “Thou Shalt Not Covet”? Or, “Thou shalt not lie?”God only required a 10% tithe. Why should the government require even more than a perfect and Holy God? My church body shares freely and gives freely. We cover each others’ needs to the best of our abilities. If the government takes more of our money to give to their political friends to amass political power, we will have less to use for the immediate needs of our families.Charity begins at home and in our localities. It is not a function of the federal government and is not in the Constitution. “No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose”. – Horatio Blunt to Congressman David CrockettYes, we have an obligation to our fellow citizens. No, that obligation should never be taken by force by the federal government for the communistic purpose of “redistributing wealth”. That’s evil. A man and his family is entitled to the fruits of his labor.By the way, the Gadsden flag says “Dont Tread on Me”. It doesn’t say “Dont Tread on Us”.