This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

How the United States government protects itself from tyrants


You don't hear much about tyrants anymore. When I was a kid, I heard it a lot. In fact, it was in one of the patriotic songs that they made us kids sing in school, the Stars and Stripes Forever. And of course, we had no idea of its meaning. This is how they taught it to us

Let tyrants remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

I just Googled it, and it looks like John Phillips Sousa originally used the word "despot", not "tyrant", but they mean the same thing - it means a person who has concentrated power over a people and is ruling in a way that they people don't want. There's a difference between a tyrant and ruler, that is, a benign King. If the people like the way he's doing things, then he's not a tyrant. But he still has control of the power of the country in his hands. And the new United States of America didn't want that, and built it into the laws of the country.

It started with George Washington, who had been offered to be the King of the new country after the war for independence had been won. He declined, and instead choose the title of president. He didn't want to be like King George (whom he considered a tyrant), nor did he want presidents that came after him to have the type of concentration of power that a King had, which could so easily turn into tyranny. So a complex system was put in place, with two groups (House and Senate) that would govern the country, along with government in the hands of the states, and right down to the municipal level.

So, contrary to popular belief, the president of the United States really doesn't have much power, except during wartime. He can make suggestions, veto things, make speeches, but he's not really in control. That's not how the system works. When various presidents have gotten too much power (and there are several examples in U.S. history), laws were quickly put into place to reel them back.

George Washington, and his revolutionary friends, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, etc., wanted to break away from the arbitrary rule of a single person over an entire country. They rejected the "divine right of Kings", which had so easily led to tyranny. And so the next time you wonder who is governing the United States, don't look at the president, start with your local councilperson, your local Justice of the Peace, your State Senators. As you work your way through this complex series of what are known as "checks and balances", it may get very confusing. But that's the way the founding fathers of the U.S. wanted, it and that's the way it works.

Down with tyrants!
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