During recent debate surrounding the Alaska Class Ferry design controversy, a statement was made outside of this publication that Alaskans shouldn’t “coax ourselves” into believing that truth and justice will prevail over political power, because “it rarely does.” While resignation to this political state of affairs may be a prevalent sentiment, a brief exploration of historical American ideology reveals that when confronted by forces that run contrary to truth and justice, duty demands resistance, not resignation, to preserve liberty.
Eighteenth century American colonists, as revealed by historian Bernard Bailyn, identified two opposing spheres within political societies. The one, power, was recognized as brutal, active, and always seeking to expand beyond its boundaries. The other, liberty and justice, was seen as passive, delicate, and constantly required defending. When confronted by unjust English power, American colonists rightfully resisted to secure their liberty. They then constructed a revolutionary political system designed to balance and check the forces of power within government that, if corrupted, become threats to the preservation of liberty and justice.
Resignation to a political state of affairs that recognizes and rewards power over truth and justice, even if present in society for some time, runs contrary to historical American ideology. Eighteenth century author Thomas Paine wrote, “a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” What is required from this generation, therefore, is not resignation to political power, but the duty to resist it if liberty and justice are threatened.