Our government is - in the words of Abraham Lincoln - a government of the people, by the people and for the people . It derives its powers from the consent of the governed (that means us, the citizens). At times, it can be great when people behave greatly - putting Country ahead of themselves and serving the greater good for a higher purpose than a tax-break or doing a favor for a donor. Our system of government can also be quite fragile and fallible - simply because people aren't always willing to serve others first. The concept of democracy is a set of principles about freedom - but our Republic, the USA, is more the institutionalization of freedom - the iterative process to ensure the freedom of the people.
When bigotry, greed, self-absorption and fear become more important that the good of your neighbor, healthcare for the poor, food and shelter for veterans and our homeless population - then we become something that is less than the ideals we all say we stand for. When we seek to limit the freedoms and rights of others, simply because we want them to be different or we want them to follow our own religious dogma rather than have the freedom to follow their own - we degrade the principles of our great Nation.
Let's not forget these key principles:
The principles in our Declaration of Independence: ... We hold these truths to be self-evident - that all men are created. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness....
The principles in the Preamble to our Constitution: ...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 for ourselves and our posterity...
Nor those in our Constitution: Our Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion (that means you can practice yours, but you cannot impose your beliefs on me), freedom to keep and bear arms, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition (yes that too!).
Our country is a melting pot of many nationalities, view, religions, and preferences. Over the years, we have failed to treat all as equal. History shows our failure to respect the Native American, enslaving those of color, anti-semitism, the internment camps of Japanese Americans following the launch of WWII (62% were U.S. Citizens denied their rights that were guaranteed by the Constitution). Women were imprisoned seeking the right to vote. African-Americans were beaten and hanged in the South seeking the right to vote (as citizens!).
Let's learn from our Country's past mistakes. "We the people" make up this great Country. It's only valuable if we protect these core principles: We are all to be treated equally. We are all endowed by our creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We all have the freedom of speech, the freedom to petition, the freedom to gather, to choose and practice our own religion. To be free to not practice the religion of others!
For our Country to continue to survive and thrive, we must never forget nor abandon the Pillars of on which we are built:
- Sovereignty of the people.
- Government based upon consent of the governed.
- Majority rule.
- Minority rights.
- Guarantee of basic human rights.
- Free and fair elections.
- Equality before the law.
- Due process of law.
- Constitutional limits on government.
- Social, economic, and political pluralism.
- Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.
May our Country continue to be such a place. Where human rights, freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are always part of our vocabulary.