The birth of our democracy was raucous and messy. I’m not referring to the war with King George and the British Empire. I’m referring to the aftermath, the forging and implementation of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence into a system of governance.
There was no uniformity of vision and no real consensus on the path forward. Nor were they particularly refined or gentile towards one another as they expressed their differences. They were, however, practical. As equals in a fledgling democracy, they understood that working together was a necessity. They did their best to put the general good above their personal point of view and worked through issue after issue. Not everyone was pleased. No one got exactly what they wanted.
But, as the result of that cooperation, we, as a new nation, didn’t ourselves tear apart with feuds and deadlocks (as many in the world expected us to) but we worked together for the greater and common good.
I use the word ‘we’ and not ‘they’ because we are their direct inheritors, the ‘we the people’ descendants, of their efforts. Their attempts are our legacy and rightfully become our attempts. This ‘we’ is a continuum, a heritage that embodies our shared commitment to implementing and adapting our ideals to our changing times “in order to form a more perfect Union”.
The reality, the truth, about America is that we didn’t start out pristine and perfect. ‘Liberty and equality for all’ were not the reality in the historical times of our nation’s formation, but the goal, the hope and the common purpose. We, as a peoples, have slowly, falteringly and yet steadily been moving towards those goals.
Consider just a few of the larger areas of progress: Slavery, segregation, women’s right to vote, to work, to choice, our treatment of the mentally or physically challenged, the social security system and on and on. All of these were driven by our fundamental and Constitutional commitment to liberty, justice and equality for ALL.
Yet each of these steps towards making our aspirations a reality were met with fierce resistance…resistance to implementing the very principles we were founded upon…resistance to extending liberty and justice equally, regardless of race, gender, or creed.
They call themselves conservatives. They claim to want to protect and defend the purity of an earlier place in our history. Yet the reality of that earlier place in our history was far from pure. We all know this. We all know that we, as a nation, were striving towards the goals articulated in our Declaration and our Constitution but that those articulations were NOT the reflection of the reality of the times. Conservatives want to protect something that never existed. They consistently block the implementation of those ideals while claiming to be defending those ideals. They envision a ‘Camelot’ of simpler times and furiously decry anyone who dares to point them towards reality.
We are all created equal.
We have been trying for nearly 300 years to put that truth into our social systems, to continue to strive towards making it a reality and not just some pretty words.
“In order to form a more perfect Union”…Democracy is always a work in progress. Our foundational documents point us in the direction of our common good.
There may be disagreements and discussions aplenty as to how to continue to implement our shared goals into our social systems but implement them we must, or we are not the people or nation that we so proudly claim to be.