Opinion: The Spirit That Overcomes the King

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The Fourth of July did not come suddenly. Only after suffering “a long train of abuses and usurpations” did the thirteen States unite and pursue separation from the King of Great Britain.

The people of those original states were much like those whom they left in Britain, but thankfully many were endowed with a spirit that was not so high and proud as it was long and patient (Ecclesiastes 7:8).

In their quest for freedom, they often fell short, but they did not give up. Their lives were often as short-lived as some of their highfalutin theories. Pilgrims at Plymouth tried prescribing equal outcomes, but abandoned that law out of necessity. Pride and prescription gave way to hunger and humble reassessment, and individual responsibility was revived. When threats of persecution in Massachusetts could not control Roger William’s conscience, voluntary associations developed in Rhode Island.

Before publishing the King’s “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” to “a candid world” the leaders of the states debated their ideas and tested them. Thankfully some wrong-headed notions and traditions were dismissed. They sought to apply to themselves what they wished the King would do.

Like that of an individual, the character of a nation is tested when it is tempted to hold other nations more accountable than itself; when it seeks to go abroad in search of dragons to destroy, rather than checking tyrannies at home.

We have been tested for some time now, and the results do not look so good, not just in Washington or Austin, but close to home. The Northeast Texas Municipal Water District routinely publishes this blanket notice on its agenda to circumvent public scrutiny: “The Board may, during any meeting, recess into a closed executive session…to discuss any item on the meeting agenda….” Another ploy is to claim attorney-client privilege. However, the law states that a specific exception provided in statute must be cited at the time a closed session is invoked. Sadly, this local government is not alone in failing to comply with the requirement. Others are imbued with this same country club spirit.

Thwarting access to public records is no trivial matter. It was one of the abuses and usurpations of the King cited in the Declaration of Independence: “He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.”

In the spirit of 1776, the Texas Public Information Act states “that government is the servant and not the master of the people” and further that “it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

Why is this stated so? It is because few officials are willing to refrain from deliberating and exercising power in the shadows when it is difficult to accomplish their objectives in the light. Which is better? A long, often awkward, but honest deliberation of issues in public, or a high-minded spirit that believes it can best obtain its objective in the dark?

The patient spirit that suffers long, that humbly pursues in oneself what it desires of others, serves the people and overcomes the king.

Former state Representative David Simpson now lives in Avinger, Texas.

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