Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thomas Jefferson, The Original American Gangster

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My fascination with Thomas Jefferson crystallized recently.
I have been checking for him since last fall. I was researching
the subprime crisis
and I came across the following quote,

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.
Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin (1802)
3rd president of US (1743 - 1826)
Then I learned that he founded the University of Virginia.
U of V, the flagship state institution which, as of 2007, retained
and graduated a higher percentage of Black students than
all other high ranked state schools in the country.

In the conclusion of the book, Trapped, Daniel talks about
how conflicted Jefferson was over the enslaved Africans that
he owned. Some of which were the children that he had with
Ms. Sally Hemmings. The personal was always political for
Jefferson, no?

I am fascinated by the idea of being a more human human,
and reconciling that notion with the dark side the comes
with being a simply being alive.

One day while struggling with these ideas, I thought of
how having love for a dude that hustles is really no
different then having love for slave owning president.

We need to see the humanity in both individuals.
(Believe it or not, I ran this idea to by a few friends,
from the most radical to the politically neutral, and they were ALL kind
put off and intrigued by the connection that I was trying
to make).

I realize that the same way white folks have a
hard time seeing how folks in the hood could have love for d-boys,
i.e., Denzel in American Gangster. It is similar to how many
Americans employ patriotic deference towards Jefferson, but
many of us just see him as another slave owner who was a President.

In reading Daniel's book, I came across some of Jefferson's
thought's on his critque of slavery, and his unwllingness
to free the enslaved people he possessed when he felt so
conflicted over it. Daniel writes,
Jefferson was no Saint. When the rules of society are unjust, saints follow their own sets of rules. They answer to a higher authority. A Saint Thomas surley would have freed his slaves, martyring himself in the cause of equality, impoverishing himself and his family in order to do what was right. But Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to unilaterally free his slaves because it would put him and his family at an economic disadvantage relative to his contemporaries who would not free theirs. Instead he endorsed changing he rules to that no one could own slaves, setting a baseline of ethical behavior beneath which no one could sip, no matter how alluring the profits.
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Humanity for all?

D'boys, Slave owners, and everyone in between?

Have I been drinking some of that hope Kool-aid?
Lil' bit...

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I have been terribly under the weather this week blog fam.
It feels great to connect with you. I am locked out of AIM as well.
I dunno what happened. Whutareyougonnado?

6 comments:

manaen said...

As TPW wrote in response to a rant* in the Spitzer thread,
.
at the end of the day, people are flawed. and many GOOD & GREAT people are flawed (MLK, JFK, Lincoln), does that negate the good that they do? should it?
.
Having only one perfect example to follow if you're Christian as I am, or none if you're not, we have to learn selectively from our models. As TPW said, there is good -- and not just in good & great people -- from which we can learn in others.
.
On a personal note, I joined Chrysler as a new management trainee at the same time as did William Jones, Jr. He graduated from U of Va, worked for a few years, earned his MBA at Columbia U in NY, joined Chrysler, went to Nissan in LA, hired me there to work for him, and then returned to Chrysler as a VP. He is one of the smartest business people I know, but his success is founded in his comments in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7708YT0zIcY.
.
He once told me that he had a rule that he never would leave work if there was anyone left in his area. It wasn't just "show time" with him -- he worked while in the office. I learned much by watching him succeed.
.
* OK, the rant was mine

Model Minority said...

manean,

How did I KNOW I would see you in the humanity post.

LOL.

Good morning.

neo said...

His comment on banks is not to be slept on. It seems prophetic right now even, banks actually do control a huge chunk of the world. *sigh*

your connection is intriguing and I think is a connection that works...since both extremes used excuses to justify their means of livelihood and the livelihoods poisoned generations born and yet to be born..

M.Dot. said...

your connection is intriguing .....since both extremes used excuses to justify their means of livelihood and the livelihoods poisoned generations born and yet to be born
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Why thank you neo bear.

Changeseeker said...

I've been seriously negatively disposed toward Jefferson ever since I learned about Sally Hemings (which was quite some time ago). But your points are well taken. I'm definitely gonna have to think about this.

M.Dot. said...

How can you be negatively disposed to him because of Ms. Hemings?

I mean. We all have gray area, no?

Plus, he goes so hard for the notion of a just America as an egalitarian America.

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