The voting has been completed. A candidate is announced as the winner. The results are either accepted or a process to contest is begun. Let’s assume that on January 20, 2017 a new President is sworn in as the Chief Executive of the United States. Seventeen days before, the 115th Congress will begin its business, the House of Representatives with 435 newly elected members and the Senate with one-third of its 100 members having be elected or re-elected. The Third Branch of Government – the Supreme Court – is short-handed and seemingly equally divided on many issues.
The media is having a field day with the divisions clearly sparking in all directions; the negative speculation in the financial markets; with the many difficult international situations creative havoc throughout the planet; with the concerns expressed by America’s “allies” as to their future relationships to America; and the politicians of all persuasions already going into their trenches or foxholes.
Of course, we hope that lightening does strike and that “We the People”- as individuals, as families, as neighborhoods, as greater communities, as those who are open to the gift that that the astute men we honor as our “Founders: fashioned to invent a new form of government. That invention acknowledged that we are basically self-serving people and that it would not work to rely on citizens to rise above their own interests to join in achieving some larger good that they would recognize by reasoning together. The founders recognized that we are not imbued with “pubic virtue”– and that the “blank slate” that Thomas Paine had described America as having in 1776 ran into great troubles soon thereafter. The people had nearly let their army starve; they had competed one state against another for the upper hand in trade. They had defaulted on their debts, while profiteering, and refusing to work together. [See The Genius of America, How the Constitution Saved our Country–and Why It Can Again. Lane, E. and Oreskes, M. , Bloomsbury, NY, NY 2007).
Those men who got together, after being chosen by their states, went way beyond their instructions to fashion a new set of ideas about government and democracy. This has been described as acceptance of “conflict within consensus.” [A Machine That Would Go of Itself:The Constitution in American Culture. Kammen, M. New York, Knoff. 1986, 5.] The Constitution that was created, and unanimously accepted after over four months of debate and compromise was finalized by a group of five men who constituted the Committee on Style and Arrangement. These men were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Gouvernour Morris, Rufus King and William Samuel Johnson. Perhaps their greatest contribution was the recasting of the Preamble. “The Preamble and all it came to represent was the unique achievement of a remarkable group of men at a momentous turning point in American History.” [For Ourselves and Our Posterity: The Preamble to the Federal Constitution in American History. Hoffer, P. Oxford U. Press, New York, 2013, 2]
Are We Winners or Losers?
“Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” – UCLA Bruins Football Coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders (not Vince Lombardi who did use this).
- “It’s not that you won or lost, but how you played the game” – Grandland Rice.
- “The most important thing . . . is not winning but taking part” – Pierre de Cubetin, Modern Olympic Creed.
Somewhere in the evolution of humans the concept of winning and losing – of being a winner or a loser – came into play. Think of the consequences of that concept: wars; slavery; sexism; discrimination of all kinds; the great disparity in income and assets; power being lodged in the hands of a few; ageism, and on and on.
There have been societies where the concept of equality reigns. There are societies where humans regard themselves as just being a part of the overall ecosystem with all living things support each other. The societies in today’s world have been largely minimized by “progress” and the taming and exploitation of the environment for those at the top of the food chain – we the modern day humans.
The underpinnings of religion aren’t involved with winners and losers: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Don’t beat them into the ground and exploit them for your own benefit. The examples set by those who have been the founders and acknowledged leaders of religions and spiritual movements – the way they lived their lives – demonstrated that they honored and helped all peoples, not singling out winners and losers. The sermons delivered weekly to congregations by their religious leaders ring high and mighty about being kind, generous, live simply– and how to live our lives according to these words is too often left in the sanctuary as the congregants file out.
Powell Davis, a prolific author of theological books and sermon collections, who came to national prominence in the U.S. through his liberal activism advocating civil rights for African-Americans and women and ethical stands against post-warnuclear proliferationand the methods employed by the American government during the era of McCarthyism,.noted in this vein: “So far as I can see, all the great leaders—and the great exemplars of religion—possessed faith in life’s essence, in its hidden meaning, in its moral claim, and in the rightness of its inner spiritual guidance. And by this the great ones lived their lives. So must we. There are no problems greater than our power to solve them. There are no burdens greater than our strength. We shape—by every moment of our lives—the great decisions. Then let us venture still!”
Our society is replete today with a focus on winning. Rather than focusing on informing the public about positions, possibilities and programs, the candidates for public office (and the office holders once elected or appointed) seek attention and headlines by playing the game of personal invective and catering to their ‘fans.’ They make promises to attract contributions and votes, promises that they hope will get them to the “winner’s circle.” The media and the ‘reporters’ and pundits are obsessed with looking to see who “won” a debate, or who is winning their election ‘game’ as is predicted by the daily polls that get changed more often than the diaper of a six month old. We get a break-down of the supporters for the players in such games – which ends up creating substantial animosity between the groups.
And, isn’t all of this mostly a narcissistic ploy with one object – to be a winner, and leave all the others behind! So, look in the mirror, look to your left and your right, look around at all those who people your life, understand who is supporting the standard raised that our goal in life, our goal from the time we are old enough to go out and kick a ball, is to be a winner. That part of us – our ego – whose prime purpose is to provide protection so we don’t step off the curb and get hit by a bus wants to ‘win’ the game of who is in control of ‘us.’ It thrives and grows with all the accouterments of being a winner and does its best to take over to drive toward that goal and result.
Substantial awards – monetary for those who are “professionals” – are awarded to winners. Those players who are playing the infinite game, who complement their opponents, who are courteous and caring, who are observed doing the best that they can do in their current human condition, fall mostly in the category of “losers.”
What would happen if games were played in the context that they are all – in the end – part of the “Game of Life.” We are in it to play, to perpetuate the game, to do the best we can at the level of being part of the “ONE” of all life?
We are told that those who kill more of their enemies than the other side become ‘winners.’ This last century, there were well over 100 wars and many more than that number of conflicts that involved loss of life let alone damage to property and the environment. That then results in lots of “losers” – particularly in contests where there are one or several winners and many more non-winners or losers. Our views and rhetoric in politics, in sports, in relationships – in pretty much everything we ‘do’ are structured (too often) by this concept of winners and losers.
I would like to lift up the concepts advanced by James P. Carse, in a little book published in 1986 entitled: Finite and Infinite Games. His Chapter 1: “There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the game. Carse, who was a Professor of Religion at New York University and winner of the University’s Great Teacher Award, concludes the book in Chapter 100: “Infinite players are not serious actors in any story, but the joyful poets of a story that continues to originate what they cannot finish.” Then there is Chapter 101: “THERE IS BUT ONE INFINITE GAME.”
If, indeed, “We the People” are interconnected and understand that we are all part of the same gift of life and all are here to share and preserve the gifts we have been given and that one of our obligations and/or opportunities is to help advance the quality of life – life for all, – then it would seem that playing each and all games as if each and all were in and playing the Game of Life, with the understanding that the ‘bottom line’ of the game – whatever it may be – is to play and do the best you can do at that time and at that place.
If, because of our history, our education,
If, because of our DNA and evolutionary impulse,
If, because it does feel good to be declared special,
If, because to be heard and have our ideas for the greater good advanced,
If, because it is valuable to have our egos satisfied,
If we are willing to sacrifice much of what exists on this planet and perhaps elsewhere –
Then keep playing the finite game.
But how about taking a step back, opening your mind, heart and soul . . . and reprogramming to play the infinite game? Go on, it really is fun.
So, let’s put all the ‘news’ we the people get to see: the innumerable repeats of shootings, shooters, protesters; those working against the protesters; those analyzing (and incentivizing) the perpetrators – the list can go on and on. We are presented with all kinds of speculation about who the “bad guys are.” (How come it seems that 50%+ of the population, the women, are seemingly absent from the blame game?)
Bottom line: The Media is responsible (in part, in full, somehow) for the increasing number of the ‘events’ that take place and then they then get to cover 24/7. What’s the case?
Perhaps the bottom line for the media is that they are motivated by getting the greatest number of viewers so that they can persuade advertisers to advertise and that is where the media get their income and that is the bottom line of the deciders. Those presenting the news get big exposure and so solidify their presence and their salaries. Pretty simple marketing in a system where deciding that all this exposure only motivates/facilitates/energizes those susceptible of being drawn to deviant behavior.
Is there a solution? Yes. Turn off those stations/channels/media outlets that perpetuate this sordid focus. Restrict yourself. Fewer viewers for this type of focus might just motivate a broader coverage, less incentivization for the deranged, and a return to what really matters in life for us to live together, peacefully, and achieve mutual well-being.
Arthur W. Rashap
This is an important way to get the candidates to focus on issues that can bring us together as a nation. Please sign here.
“THE BEST DAYS of this nation are yet to come, I believe that. But that future renaissance for which I hope will only be realized when we as free people have the courage to once again stand up for the ideals on which this country was founded. We don’t need to make America great again. We need to make our ideals great again: democracy, justice for all, human and civil rights. America was not supposed to be about a company’s profit or the power of an army. America was created to stand for something. America was founded to be that enduring symbol that would speak to human freedom— the on-going preservation and strengthening of human liberty. Everything else: the government, capitalism and profits, political parties and power, the rule of law, and even the Constitution itself are simply tools we have developed as people to help us achieve our ideals. Our ultimate challenge is and has always been to avoid sacrificing the end to the means. When we put personal ego, profit or political power above our ideals, we all lose. Liberty loses. We make America great again not by doubling-down on a play to the worst angels of our nature— but by once again discovering the ideals for which we stand.”
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 ~
This is an invitation to each and all who make up We the People.
Let’s come together from wherever you are in this election year, and from this seemingly never ending nightmare of the contentiousness and personal attacks from a time and place that has seemed to have been with us forever. . . . And there is still a half year to go! Let us come together around the basic premises that our Founders created to launch a new nation. They also had the insight to provide the framework that has been the underpinning of the unparalleled success that this land of the free and home of the brave has had.
It is time to turn off the media blitz for a bit to contemplate from whence We the People have come and how we got to be the paramount nation on the planet with purported liberty and justice for all. Once again, our nation was founded and built with the assumption that it was and still is We the People who created it and “We” who carry it forward.
It is time to turn a deaf ear to the constant emphasis on holding up the purported differences of all kinds that are manufactured and then stamped as labels upon various individuals and groups. Then we are constantly fed this segregation into separate silos. Who is championing for all of We the People?
It is time to understand that the gift and foresight of the inspired group of founders compressed into one sentence of 52 words that is the Preamble to our Constitution can once again bring a divided nation back together again. It is time to understand that the raised torch promising liberty and justice for all still burns bright and is a beacon that can still light our way. Is the recitation of our pledge of allegiance meaningless? Are we truly indivisible or is it just about who wins and who loses?
Let’s visit three recent books and sip a bit from each to get a quick primer on this Preamble before we focus on each of the tenets put forth:
- [Hoffer, Peter Charles. For Ourselves and Our Posterity: The Preamble to the Federal Constitution in American History. (2013) Oxford U. Press, NY, NY]:
“Over the course of five days in September 1787, five men serving on an ad hoc “Committee of Style and Arrangement” to edit the draft of the federal constitution at the Constitutional Convention profoundly recast the wording of the Preamble. In so doing, the committee changed a federation into a union and laid out an ambitious program for national governance many years ahead of its time. None of this was predetermined by preceding events. The Preamble and all it came to represent was the unique achievement of a remarkable group of men at a momentous turning point in American history.” [The five men were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Rufus King, William Samuel Johnson, and Gouverneur Morris].
- [Carson, Ben, MD with Candy Carson. A more Perfect Union. (2015) Penguin Random House, NY, NY]:
“This preamble is the Constitution’s introductory statement and sets forth the general principles and goals of our governmental structure. It reveals the hearts of the founders and lays out their goals. It’s the “why” behind the “what”and “how” of the rest of the Constitution, and without it we would have difficulty understanding why the delegates wrote the Constitution as they did.”
- [Cheshire, Richard D. Ph.D. The Indomitable Freedom Quest: Honoring America’s Sacred Trust (2016) Hamilton House Publications, Hamilton, NY.]
“The Preamble speaks to the basic truth that sets us free and keeps us free. It’s the soul that leads us to our solidarity as a people and our security as a nation. This happens only, however, if we live it together and with our friends in other nations. The political, economic and cultural benefits are obvious.
- The Preamble is America’s statement of national purpose
- It’s the soul of our freedom, the seal of law and order, the source of the American Dream and our DNA as a nation
- It’s the ticket to nonpartisanship, to policy-centric leadership
- It’s the deflator of the ballooning alienation that threatens to blow up our political system while trying to cure it
Understanding the Preamble and following its mandates is our most direct way out of the unprecedented political difficulties we face as a nation. This is not a partisan conservative or liberal issue. It is an American issue. I believe this is what history teaches us and what leadership requires of us. . . . I believe we can count on the Preamble to play a critical role in leading us to the new birth of freedom of which Lincoln spoke [in the Gettysburg Address] For that to happen, we must make it part of our national agenda as well as our personal agendas as citizens of this nations. And we should make that happen immediately, as those who aspire to be our leaders sit down to shape their proposals for their platforms. . . .
We may disagree about what that truth [it is the truth that make us free] actually is, but we can agree on the values behind our search for truth in the changing times and circumstances we have. The Preamble is the truth, because it contains the values that are the basis of all political platforms—not only those values of the opposing parties, those of the candidates, and those who serve in the seats of power in the Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court.”
Where do you stand in this time and place when the ‘game’ of politics and media that is playing out can once again end up with a weakened and divided nation? Read those 52 words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.