The Founding Fathers understood that to protect themselves from each other
they had to agree to protect each other from themselves.
The foundation of the US Constitution comes down to the Golden Rule, treat others as you want to be treated. In virtually every Article and Amendment there is language expressing a compromise or protection which prevents (or at least slows) one citizen’s interests from hurting another ’s interests.
Our Constitution, a non-complimentary response to opportunism
Our forebears designed our constitution after being colonial citizens of a monarchy that had 2 denominations of Christianity (Catholic and Church of England) at each other’s throats, literally killing each other. They were acutely aware that humans are tribal; socially, theologically, politically. The Framers of the Constitution certainly had members who saw the opportunity to become top of the new social tribe and they offered it to one of their own, Gen. George Washington.
Thanks to men such as George Washington our Constitution became an example of “non-complimentary response” applied to political power. Given human nature, a person typically responds by grabbing as much power as possible. As an individual with new power, George Washington did not do this. His response to the offer of total power was non-complimentary. He passed up the offer of being a king, instead becoming a President. This gave our nation a unique opportunity to evolve with the times and not at the whim of one self-important individual.
Our current Administration and the misuse of non-complimentary response
We have a government structure that can and usually does take a stand on international and national affairs when there is a moral reason to do so.
Every day in America our public conversation is getting farther from why we value our rights. Under attack are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of a Free Press, Freedom of Religion, and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly. Each of these rights are written into the Constitution.
For this essay, take Free Press as an example. Journalists around the world are under threat of violence for reporting what they see happening. American journalists risk their lives going to areas in conflict so that we here can know what is going on in the world.
This week the news comes that a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, entered the Saudi Embassy in Turkey and never was seen to exit. It is reported that he had been lured there and was acquiring a document so that he could marry. It is presumed/alleged that he was killed. The presumed/alleged order for the killing is attributed to the Saudi government’s dislike of his reporting.
The normal reaction is to demand answers. Our US officials are virtually silent in their initial response. The days go by and still an indifference. Their non-complimentary response is negative rather than positive. It is not in keeping with the Golden Rule or the principles of our Constitution.
In the United States we revere our freedom of the press but we have an administration that loudly proclaims that various citizens are “enemies of the people.” The press is the enemy, protesters are the enemy. There are daily verbal attacks on journalists. In June 2018, 5 journalists and staff were killed at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis. These are our fellow Americans.
Our Constitution gives each of us the right and the responsibility to speak truth to power
It is not hard for people with more power to coerce people with less, simply by wearing them down. The current administration is relentless in targeting citizens, calling them evil, enemies of the people (of the USA), simply for having a different opinion on current events. Reporting on events such as separating children from their parents at our border become the cause for calling journalists “enemies.” It is the moral equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in a crowded theater.
The free press is part of the Constitution because we all need the ability to make information public and to express opinion, without being threatened. Not liking what someone says or how they say it does not make them your enemy.
If we stay silent, how long before our government is silencing one of us?
Our Constitution gives each of us a Voice and a Vote
Human nature was addressed in the Constitution for good reason. The Founding Fathers had all witnessed being shoved aside by people more powerful so they came up with Checks and Balances to create a society that is as fair as possible to the individual citizen, whatever their rank. The added philosophy of separation of church and state, while not a law, is a direct result of experiencing church controlled governments allowing, even encouraging citizens to believe some of their countrymen were enemies.
The Framers were not perfect. They did not abolish slavery, or address all of society’s sins. But they did create a government that recognizes each citizen equally even when we as citizens fail to treat each other equally. They also gave us, their heirs, a means to have a voice in our government. The rights to Free Speech, a Free Press, Freedom of Religion, and Peaceful Assembly are written into our Constitution. The right to vote is (even when belatedly) guaranteed to each adult citizen. The Founding Fathers were willing to protect each other from themselves “in order to form a more perfect union.”
Our Constitution gives each of us a Voice and a Vote, providing each of us with the tools to take a stand and be heard.
It’s up to each of us to use them.