Saturday, December 31

The Future of Us: We the People

China got a little miffed that Trump reached out to Taiwan. Russia is waiting for Trump. Israel's Netanyahu thinks the US has betrayed him. Pundits and political prognosticators are having a field day anticipating the good, the bad, and the unpredictable of a Trump administration. I've read those who anticipate his will be one of the shortest reigns, er, administrations because he'll be impeached or his will be marked by the shortest amount of time before the US is at war. There's lots of other potentials in between, but those are two of the more frightening.

So here's the thing. I'm a moderate Republican (fiscal conservative) and voted for Hillary Clinton. Before you excoriate me, it's the first time I've ever voted for a Democrat in the presidential election. While I didn't think she was the best candidate for president, Trump as commander in chief terrifies me. On the other hand, he kinda fascinates me. I know I'm not alone.

I've said it to friends and I'll say it here. Though I think Donald Trump is a horrific choice for president, I get why he was elected. While I would love to have seen a woman president and hope to see one in my lifetime, I completely understand why Hillary Clinton would not be the people's choice even if she won the popular vote. (I'm not getting into a civics lesson about the Electoral College, but your vote does matter.)

But my bigger point is this: in some profoundly weird way, Trump as president will be good for the country. Before any Trumpeters start gloating, hear me out. I don't think he can "drain the swamp" in D.C. because he's too familiar with a swamp as a wheeler dealer. But it was a good campaign sound bite. I also don't think he's going to do too much to upset the business opportunities for his own empire or his billionaire buddies so I think the middle class and the poor will still find themselves in a world of hurt. Trump concerned about the welfare of others? Get a grip. Take advantage of business opportunities even if he has to wait four years (even if his kids don't)? No doubt. He wouldn't be the first and won't be the last.

However, because he is who is and what he is, because he is disruptive, thin-skinned, reactive, and unpredictable, he will force the Democrats and the Republicans to rethink essentially everything. Not a bad thing.

Lifetime politicians and party loyalists may finally be on notice that there is a world outside of the 68.34 square miles of Washington, D.C. and, if I may quote Network, a lot of people are "mad as hell" and they're just not willing to take elitist privilege and condescension any more.

I'm not surprised that hate crimes spiked after the election. I'm not surprised that white supremacist groups thought Trump's election was an invitation for them to get busy with their agendas. I'm not surprised that people started reacting in big and emotional ways.

Finally. People responded. People reacted. People paid attention and felt something.


Trump is and will be disruptive.

The status quo is on notice.

I'm not okay with Donald Trump and with what I think I know of Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-religious, anti-gay policies. I find some of his alleged economic policies thought-provoking. I'm not a fan of baiting enemies and toying with friends.

As we look over our collective shoulders at 2016 and bemoan its toxicity and the loss of the luminary celebrity lights, we are compelled to turn towards the potential of 2017.

And so, just as the president-elect and many of his cabinet and White House nominees could use to review the Constitution, so could the American public, especially the Bill of Rights and particularly Amendments 1 and 10.

Amendment 1 reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Read it carefully and thoughtfully. Think about the implications that every single one of us has the right to freedom of speech. We don't have to like what others have to say, but we have to respect their right to say it. Chiding and bullying others for their beliefs is not cool, no matter who does it. Those in positions of power and leadership should know better.

Amendment 10 reads:  "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Read that one even more carefully and even more thoughtfully. It is my opinion (based on hopefulness rather than actual fact, by the way) that when James Madison crafted the draft of the Amendments, he was sagacious enough to think beyond his own wants and needs. He was thoughtful enough to recognize that even those inaugural states had differences in their populations and their economies. I like to think he was wise enough to anticipate that future states would also have their individual differences that required options.

Finally, let's look at the Preamble of the Constitution:
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 for the United States of America."
We the people: not the Republicans nor the Democrats; not the liberals nor the conservatives.

We the people want a common defense for all of "we the people," not just the people who look and sound and believe like us. We the people want justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare (meaning general health and happiness), and the blessings of liberty for all of "we the people," not just the people who look and sound and believe like us.

It is my hope that 2017 will be a wake-up call for all Americans. For too long we have seemed to slide into some cockamamie belief that the government will provide for us while we sit on our duffs and complain when someone doesn't do what we want and do it exactly the way we want it. We have become a nation of whiny, self-centered toddlers.

It's time to grow up.

And here's a fun fact: "We the people" are the government.

It's time to think about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as it applies to all of "we the people," not just the people who look and sound and believe like us. The diversity of the United States has long been one of its strengths and I think we are foolish to disown that heritage.

On the other hand, I think we have spent too much time and energy trying to be all things to all people. Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time." Truth.

As a nation we have to try to remember what we really stand for. Not along party lines and party platforms. Not along special interest groups. Not based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, or religion.

When I think of what it means to be an American, I think of the Constitution--that brave document that begins with those words "We the People." I think of all of the people I know who are represented by those words and do not think of them in terms of race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, or party politics. I think of them as people who have informed my life in myriad ways and who have influenced, for good and ill, what I think and believe and how I think and believe.

Yes, protect your own values but recognize that yours are not the only values, and figure out how to respect the values of others.

Yes, protect your beliefs but recognize that yours are not the only beliefs, and figure out how to respect the beliefs of others.

Don't look for legislation. Don't look for government intervention or legislation or sanction.

Just be one of "We the People" and stand up for America and all of "We the People."

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