Sunday, April 22, 2012

and that government of the people, by the people, for the people

Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address concludes with “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The preamble of the Declaration of Independence includes the following: “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.

And then there’s 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 defense, promote the general Welfare…”

I wonder what Lincoln would say if he could observe what has happened to his government of the people, by the people.  The first Republican President would see the 2012 Republican presumptive candidate calling corporations people.  He would be seeing the rotten fruits of the Citizens United ruling by the politically partisan Supreme Court that called money speech.  He would also see the complete takeover of his ‘government of the people’ by special interests, political action committees, and lobbyists.  $Billions of dollars from faceless donors, and billionaires who like you and I have only one vote, but unlike you and I can buy so many many more.  ‘The Party of Lincoln’ has completely sold out to corporate interests and the opposing Democrat Party is only slightly less corporatist.   We have a tax code that is so complex for the sole purpose of allowing corporations and the wealthy to take advantage of loopholes and exemptions.  The government may not have perished, but the government for the people is hard to locate.

All men are created equal, not some men, not most men, not rich men, not white men.  In fact, my only complaint is that the phrase said ‘all men’ not ‘all people’.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men.  The pursuit of happiness would include the right to marry whom you wanted, no restrictions on adoption, no imposed exclusions based on race, creed, color, faith, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.  Yes the brave men who brought us our independence realized that liberty for one meant liberty for all.  They didn’t speak of handouts or church hierarchy mandates, they knew life and liberty are our natural rights and not something that can be denied by man.  So the next time a social conservative defends DOMA and speaks against same-sex rights, remind them that they do not have the right to deny what our founders fought for.

This brings us to the Constitution, the greatest single document created in the face of such opposing political and social viewpoints, and yet the law of the land was established.  But what did the founders mean when they spoke of promoting the general welfare?  Did they speak of a federal government that would enable its citizens to achieve what many like to call American exceptionalism?  Clearly welfare in this context is not welfare as we know it today, but certainly one could argue that the role of the government is to establish equality and justice for all, to right wrongs, protect our citizens, and respect our differences. 

These thoughts are my own, and others may have different opinions and draw different conclusions.  That is their prerogative.  That is what makes America unique, though sadly when opinions become rulings and policies that threaten our government for the people, by the people we all must speak out.

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