detraction, calumny & a partial administration of justice

For years the Intramuralist has presented a “State of the Government” post consistent with the timing of the President’s State of the Union (SOTU) address. As Pres. Biden delivers a joint address to Congress this evening and not an SOTU (there is a difference, although typically not in style), we continue with our annual assessment. In a very abbreviated nutshell, it typically goes something like this…

The state of the government is too partisan, too influenced by money, too big, too financially imbalanced, and too far removed from the Constitution.

We continue to adhere to each of the above assertions. In fact, we believe this has and continues to be true under the executive and congressional leadership of both parties.

But as we continue examining such — and point noted, from no doubt a limited point of view — increasingly more I am finding the state of being “too partisan” most destructive, even now seemingly accepted, welcomed, and encouraged by many of the intelligent or self-identified moderate left and right. Partisanship is dividing us. And as we become more divided (see Pew Research Center’s most recent polling), we fall prey to beliefs and behaviors that fail in otherwise perceived areas of judiciousness…

Partisanship is prompting us to ignore other perspective.

Partisanship is prompting us to think lesser of others — especially in regard to how they vote, who and what they support.

Partisanship is prompting us to believe dissent should be silenced.

Partisanship is prompting us to embrace mandates and dismiss compromise.

Partisanship is skewing our vision.

As I seek wisdom in an area where it’s not obvious in the nation’s loudest voices, I find myself wrestling with the words of a few who’ve gone before us…

From Joseph Addison, the politician and playwright, writing in London’s The Spectator… who in the late 17th/early 18th century, shared content Pres. George Washington would be noted to embrace. Said Addison in an essay entitled “The Malice of Parties”:

“A furious party spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny, and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancor, and extinguishes all the seeds of good nature, compassion, and humanity.”

I repeat…

A furious party spirit… exerting itself…

… naturally breaking out in falsehood.  (Falsehood is “the state of being untrue.”)

… detraction. (Detraction is “the act of denying or taking away (a quality or achievement) so as to make its subject seem less impressive.”)

… calumny. (Calumny is “the making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation.”)

… and a partial administration of justice. Think of the many who fight for justice only for some. In order to pursue justice, they advocate discrimination against another.

… a nation filled with rancor. Ah, rancor… bitterness or resentfulness. We see it so much now. And yet these words were written centuries ago.

Still more are recently implored words — a few, no less, included in the final SOTU from Pres. Obama. He shared that the state of our union and government is unworkable if “we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.” Continuing with some of his own regret, he also asked:

“How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?”

Partisanship is prejudice; it’s in the definition — “prejudice in favor of a particular cause.” Let’s be a wiser, humbler people. Let’s root out all prejudice. Let’s start by individually recognizing the glaring danger of partisanship… and thus pursue a more healthy state of the union.



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