Many of my readers will remember that I try to come up up with inspirational posts on appropriate government holidays to include the Fourth of July. I have been posting these on Active Rain since 2007. July 4 is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, in effect the observance of the birth of our nation - although it took another 13 years to come up with our Constitution, (1789) which was the real birthday we should celebrate. I have a degree in Political Science and a JD degree in Law. I have studied our attempts at self-government for the better part of the more than seven decades that I have been around to observe our system -- and I have studied our trials and tribulations in the greater context of world history.
The founding fathers, as we think of the members of the Continental Congress for the 13 colonies in 1776 or the Constitutional Convention in 1789 after the failure of the Articles of Confederation, (our first attempt at forming a nation) were a well-read highly intelligent group of people. The published works of philosophy and political theory in Europe sold as many copies in the colonies as in Europe. Both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution would turn out to be the marvels of their age and led to the creation of a truly remarkable nation. President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address provides the most oft-quoted description of our definition of Liberty and the mechanisms of our government to deliver Liberty to our people that I have ever read. (more on that later)
The Declaration, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, contains the following words:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."
Those words are the beginnings of the American experience.
The Preamble of the Constitution reads as follows: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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."
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, was the elected President that had to fight the very bloody conflict to preserve the Union in what we would hope would be its darkest days. When Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, the outcome of the Civil War was by no means settled. Although the Battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, would turn the tide of the war for the Union, President Lincoln did not know that at the time of the address. I covered the history of the speech in more detail recently on May 25, 2020, in my blog post on Active Rain for the Memorial Day holiday. memorial day blog
I should mention that the founding documents are not perfect and our government is not perfect (oh, let me count the ways but that would require a book- not a blog post). But the Constitution has been amended 27 times. And we try as the Preamble to the Constitution says, "in order to form a more perfect Union" to constantly improve. Our military and some of our civilians have shed their blood in an effort to defend our country and our way of life. Jefferson knew that his words "all men are created equal" would not have the meaning he intended while the question of slavery was unsettled. 13 years later, the Constitution contained some of the same flaws because we lacked the political will to correct the slavery issue when slaves were to be counted (Art 1 Sec 2) as a fractional part of a man and again in Art 4 Sec 2 calling for the return of runaway slaves. But the Civil War resolved some of the issues. The rogue states were brought back into the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in late 1862. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were approved by the necessary number of states between 1865 and 1870. (Abolished slavery, guaranteed due process and equal protection of the laws, and provided the vote to previous slaves - although women were not granted the right to vote until the 19th Amendment adopted in 1920. As I said we are not perfect.). Some of these were complex issues and took time to correct. But we did elect a Black President in 2008 and again in 2012 - so we are still trying to improve our racial problems.
Now let's talk about the recent violence in the cities of our country. While I recognize and support the right to peacefully protest guaranteed by the First amendment - I do not agree that any person or organization has the right to incite violence or violate personal, business or government property rights I believe that the violence of the rioters and looters in recent weeks is a violation of state and federal law and deprives victims of their civil rights. And I believe that the city and state officials who directed that police stand down violated their oath of office and should be criminally charged with malfeasance in office. Their permissive attitude permitted mob rule in our cities with thousands of dollars in damage and violence to citizens as well as police officers.
Our way of life and the sovereignty of our governmental institutions are under attack on multiple levels. Criminal attacks on the street, corruption of our political system and organized attacks on our society are way out of control.
I do not wish to turn this post into a political rant (too late) - but the issues we face are clear and some of them can be addressed at the ballot box in the fall.
Enjoy your holiday weekend. If you understand what I have said in this post, I believe that I have made the case for pride in being an American. We have delivered on the promise of prosperity for most of our citizens and the opportunity for all to build up their lives within our system. We can achieve so much together. Build on our record of achievement - don't tear down everything we have built. But whichever argument you find persuasive - you need to vote in November. It's important.