We stand at the precipice of a new epoch of American history. As important as The Revolution, critical as The Civil War or as essential as The Civil Rights movement.
We Have a Choice Now
The paths may be new to us, but the ways are clear and
well trodden by the heroes and tyrants of history.
We can choose to regress…
We can choose to move backwards into a time of ignorance and darkness, of disposable peasants and militaristic local kings. A desolate time when the keys of knowledge and correct information were controlled by a haughty few, and resources controlled by even fewer; when there was no upward mobility or hope, and fear was ever present. Over every sea, a threat. Over every hill, an enemy.
Or we can decide to progress into a future where we work together to right the ship of this Grand Experiment, setting a new course into an uncharted sunrise of a More Perfect Union.
In this future, our greatest export ever, the American Dream, is again desired by all, and all that is required for a triumphal completion of life is bravery, diligence, hard work, and courage. All who possess those attributes will gather together to advance the incredible dream-made-reality of our imperfect Founding Fathers with their perfect intent and vision. We can choose to take this reality further than they may have ever imagined, and by so doing, avoid a future in which America is known only as a footnote of history as a “failed attempt at self-governance.”
America is not just geographical boundaries on a map, or any race or ethnicity. The United States is an inspired concept, a HOPE for a new and different future; it is PART of us, it goes where we go, and inhabits those who seek to live by its ideals.
You see, America is an IDEA.
America is an EXPERIMENT. An experiment that is still on-going.
The United States of America..
..is a wild trial in power vested in The People. The Founding Fathers scoured history and borrowed bits of all the best ideas that had been written down and had survived the ages to come up with a ruling document, a constitution, to govern the newly free Colonies. Then the Founding Fathers fought, argued, and compromised to arrive at our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Even then, whether it was exactly what they wanted or not, they had to go back to their home states and sell and push and persuade with all their being to get the people to vote to accept (ratify) this innovative document as their new governing contract. Flawless or not, the citizens had to decide whether to embark on this journey into the unknown, together.
It was no easy task and the outcome was not certain. And it is still not certain. America -the bold attempt at a democratic republic – requires informed participation by its citizenry. It requires attention, effort, and care. Or like all living things, it will perish.
What is government supposed to do, what is its purpose, why is it important? James Madison wrote, “The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government.”
We each have different abilities and talents. Government is a system by which we mutually decide to give up some personal liberties to become part of a common community with the objective of common protection of our persons and property. It is a set of rules we agree to abide by so that we may have the freedom to live up to our individual potential, whatever that may be. Government, our government, is supposed to be for our benefit. It needs our involvement.
But it is hard to want to participate when so many of the people representing us in government vote for corporations, not people. They behave in ways that are self-serving, money-hungry, corrupt, and tribal. They invent differences between us and concoct reasons for us to fight each other and, while we are distracted arguing with our neighbors, they rip apart our Republic for personal gain.
…let these manufactured and imagined differences between us get in our way. All of us matter. All of us are RELEVANT. For a successful country, we NEED both knowledge AND wisdom. We require both natives AND immigrants. When a gene pool becomes smaller unhealthy mutations happen; similarly, when we do not expose our lives to a diversity of cultures, ideas and backgrounds there is negative impact. When we do not recognize the need for variation, we lose out. When we do not value the individual journeys that brought our fellow Americans to the beliefs they hold dear and when we do not in turn share our own stories, we forfeit greatness. We do a disservice to each other and ourselves when we start to believe in the fallacy that inclusion and variability somehow depletes or weakens us. That is a shameful way to live, to legislate.
We can do better than that.
The gift of this administration, at this moment in time, is that it has shown us some problems in our reliance on some governmental traditions and norms, and revealed possible exploitable ambiguities within our Constitution. Do not be shocked! It is ok. The Founding Fathers were aware it was not a perfect document. But it was as perfect as they could make it at the time, given the unique circumstances and personalities that were involved, with the huge need for ratification looming to even get this new Ship of State out to sea. When constitutional issues have arisen before, we, as a nation, have adapted. By correcting course, it does not mean we are diminishing that August Document; we have merely clarified the route that has, at times, become indistinct through the looking glass of centuries. By working to illuminate our path, we act as Patriots.
Have you ever sailed a ship? I learned at a late age. It is both scary and fun, with a lot of moving parts, a lot going on. Even on a small boat, it takes everyone pitching in to stay afloat, to stay on course. It is rarely meant to be done alone. And on a ship as big as ours, of around 320 million, it really cannot be done alone. It cannot even be done successfully with half of us. It takes ALL OF US. We NEED each other to keep moving forward.
I believe we can survive the crossing of this stormy, churning chasm we currently find ourselves in. I believe there are enough of us, with hearts and hands prepared by sacrifice, hardship, and experience in our own lives, to do the mighty work of righting this ship. Our ship. One we are all in together. I believe in our combined ability to bring out the best in each other, not to provoke the basest instincts that have become too familiar in our world. I believe in us.
We get one life. Let us all use our one chance on earth to change the course of history in OUR time, now, with consequences that will ripple out forever as echoes of courage. Courage is being afraid, recognizing the risk, but DECIDING to move ahead, despite the fear.
When we shed this mortal coil, it will not matter if we were a Republican or Democrat.
It will not matter what circumstances we were born into. It will not matter how much money we made or how many homes we owned. All that will matter is if we made the most out of what we were given, no matter how seemingly great or small, and whether we used that for the good of others. All that will matter is if we have done what is right.
Let us leave a better world behind for those we love – not a diminished world of division, mistrust, and scarcity. Let us feel better now about doing what is right. It may not be the easiest path, but it is the only course with lasting promise. It is the only route that leads to lasting joy.
Look at the people around you, wherever you may be. Really see them. We are all on this earth together, at this time in history, together, in this specific place, together. Like it or not, these folks are our shipmates. The only way we navigate these tempestuous waters and arrive at our common destination is to labor together to bring about all that is good on this epic journey, not to chuck each other over board.
May generations to come look back on our time with awe at the heroes to your left, to your right, to YOU. As we revere the leaders of times past and marvel at their courage, let us leave the same in our wake. We will do so without mystery and happily give the secret away for those American adventurers who will follow. “Do not wonder,” we will whisper from long ago. “All our challenge required was empathy, reason and a CHOICE, a choice not to give into fear and division. That’s all that any challenge requires…so get to it, like we did.”
February 4, 2018