Knock, knock – “We the People” (at least a team of self-appointed representatives) are here to give you a nudge— get out of the rut of the current goings on as you watch and even participate in the quest for direction and leadership of this nation and of the planet. Consider going ‘back to the future’ for a proper focus regarding our place in this nation and in the rest of the world.
How will the best leaders be attracted and be selected?
How will there be mutual empowerment?
And how will the promises they make be measured and reinforced?
We the people don’t seem to be able to be ‘heard’ today in the midst (and mist) of what is being placed before us (and what seems to ‘sell’) seems to be an exercise in futility. Come on, let’s soar a bit above the childlike pandering.
Let’s take a look from the proverbial 30,000 feet above the current (and seemingly eternal) political campaign and the broadcast and print media’s coverage (and focus and analysis) thereof. Add in the myriad millions of exchanges on social media. Let’s focus particularly on the pollsters, their polls, and the way “we the people” are diced, sliced, divided, lumped, bumped, and piled up by those who share these polls and the discussions thereof that we get showered upon us. Let’s also look at how the votes being cast are also diced, sliced and lump into all those silos created.
How about we put our envisioning machine into rear drive and see this land and those populating it sometime in 1789. The ties to Great Britain have been thrown off by a brave band of colonists who had some special leaders. There was then in place a diverse group of ‘states’ with very diverse interests—running from preserving their slave-based agricultural economies to promoting manufactures for export. The leadership of these states was composed of male property owner-based with some aspects of a religious test. And, because of the need to come together for their common defense and to create a supportive central government that could pay for some agreed upon common expenses, those 55 assembled delegates, selected by their state legislators, created a constitution based on the authority of . . . . . . “We the People.” What a unique concept that somehow ended up being agreed to by 1,648 delegates to the state ratification conventions from all thirteen of the existing states.
Now let’s put our observation platform in forward motion and let’s put on the table and in our minds and hearts some of the key words that our Founders and subsequent leaders have left as legacies and promises as the nation and its challenges unfolded:
• “We the People of the United States:”(The opening and empowering words of Preamble to the U.S. Constitution)
• “One Nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all:” (The final words of the Pledge of Allegiance) 1
• “E Pluribus Unum:” (“Out of many one”The former national motto) 2
• “A house divided against itself cannot stand:” (Abraham Lincoln— via Jesus Christ:) “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”3
• So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4.1933).
• “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country” (John F. Kennedy, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 1962) .4
• “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America….” (Obama speech at Democratic Convention in 2004).5
1) The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931). It was originally published in The Youth’s Companion on September 8, 1892. Bellamy had hoped that the pledge would be used by citizens in any country. In its original form it read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.
2) On the Great Seal of the U.S. plus on US coins. This was the ‘motto’ of the U.S. until 1956 passage of “In God We Trust.” The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerges a single nation. However, in recent years its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation—illustrating the concept of the melting pot.
3) See:http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/house.htm– June 16, 1868 Lincoln-Douglas debate: Our cause, then, must be entrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result. Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong. We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.Did we brave all then to falter now? — now — when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come.”
4) http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=8032. “In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. . . . Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need—not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself. Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort? In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
5) http://obamaspeeches.com/002-Keynote-Address-at-the-2004-Democratic-National-Convention-Obama-Speech.htm – The speech continued:
.“[A]longside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are connected as one people. . . . that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum.” Out of many, one. Oneness isn’t sexy or of interest or does it sell whatever is being advertised. Even as we write and read this, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. . . . We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?. . . In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead. I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity. I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair. I believe that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us. America! . . . and this country will reclaim its promise, and out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.”
Our nation was created to overcome a separate and fractured group of political entities that were former colonies of the strongest nation on Earth at that time: Great Britain. Throughout its history, there were periods and threats that the nation would come asunder. The Civil War was the prime example of this. The continuing debate and struggle over state’s rights continues this struggle. If we are not actually a nation-divided, it certainly seems so as the observer reads, listens, texts, twitters and posts.
Peter C. Hoffer has written a fabulous history and analysis of the Preamble to the Constitution, from whence it came, and how it has been a part of our nation’s history and direction. (For Ourselves and Our Posterity, 2013, Oxford University Press, NY).
He asks: “What gave the framers of the Preamble the authority to write “We the People” if they were not typical of the people, representative of the people, or even chosen by the people? The historical answer is that “We the People” and the following clauses of the Preamble were rooted in the common experience of a polity. . . . The Convention brought such men [not typical of “We the People” but a select number of well educated, well to do, well respected men who were overwhelmingly white, Protestant, property-owning, English-speaking men] together in an aristocracy of talent and status, united by common aims and aspirations to national greatness. They represented not the people’s will, but the nation’s potential.” (page 4). . . .
“The story of the Preamble may have begun at the Philadelphia Convention, but it did not end there. . . . From the ratification conventions, through the debates on states’ rights and slavery in the antebellum years, through a civil war and the Reconstruction of the nation, to the creation of new Progressive and New Deal federal agencies, and finally to the concept of a second constitution empowering rather than limiting government and guaranteeing equality, the Preamble became the centerpiece of a constitution for all the people. What made the Preamble so remarkable was its capacity for growth over time. Revisited by new generations of constitutional thinkers and political leaders, it proved responsie to expanding perceptions of liberty and justice. The whole of the Preamble would come to undermine invidious and exclusive distinctions in the law. Its open-ended language accommodated such expansive readings.” (page 5).
Reading the above in the light of the Presidential Campaign that like Old Man River “jest keeps rolling along,” it seems that those words and the analysis is sometimes more like a prayer than a current truth. Let us unite once more around the spirit and words that have buoyed this nation throughout the challenges it faces. It is up to “We the People.”
~ Arthur W. Rashap ~