In between meetings this week, I had a chance to re-visit our founding documents-- the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. It's so easy to take D.C. for granted and forget that we're sitting on top of the nation's roots.
Even though I have been attending George Mason University for four years, I just learned something about George Mason at the National Archives that I had not known. George Mason was one of three delegates who refused to sign the Constitution. The two others refused simply because they had difficult personalities. George refused to sign because the document, as drafted, did not protect individual liberty.
He went on to write the Virginia Bill of Rights which was used to draft the U.S. Bill of Rights. So thanks to George, who refused to sign on to the Constitution, our government protects 1) freedom of speech 2) freedom of religion 3) freedom of the press and 4) freedom of assembly.
Yes, I know we fall short in many ways of living up to these ideals-- I also think we take them for granted. We have come to expect freedom.
The reason I bring up "George the Troublemaker" is because conflict resolution - my field- seems to suggest that peace at all times is the point. When I say I am in conflict resolution people sometimes say, "Oh, you mean you work towards consensus."
The conflict resolution field refers to those who break the peace "spoilers." Sometimes these spoilers are simply cantankerous characters and sometimes they are about to give birth to ideas as important as the Bill of Rights.
Good ideas are often born out of conflict. What I especially like about George is that he didn't just stop the party, he created what he believed was missing. Naysayers who refuse to participate in projects simply because they have ornery souls do not impress me.
On the other hand troublemakes with creativity and follow-through can be far more important than those constantly saying "Aye!" to keep the peace.