“We the people” are in dangerous territory


The state of our union is precarious.

It’s precarious, not because of an outside threat external threats that we can still manage. It is precarious because we have forgotten our way, because we find ourselves increasingly seduced by a perverted, stunted and selfish notion of freedom.

It is precarious because some of us have lost faith in democracy and have started to flirt with other means of achieving political ends, other means of gaining and keeping power, more force-based means bullying and intimidation than over persuasion and compromise.

We are in dangerous territory.

And it’s not just us, of course. All over the world we are seeing a revival of the idea of ​​letting the strong feed on the weak, as if it was their natural right and the government should not attempt to intervene. What makes the situation worse is that in many cases this notion is advanced in the name of what they call “freedom”.

We saw that on January 6, 2021, when the insurgents claimed to be defending the Constitution, they were actually shredding. We see it today, in the admiration and support for authoritarians like Vladimir Putin in Russia or Viktor Orban in Hungary.

In the run-up to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen influential voices from the American right Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, Steve Bannon and former President Donald Trump suggest that by virtue of the power that Putin wielded in the region, he had the right to invade lesser countries, that we had no reason to intervene on behalf of democratic Ukraine because it is in the natural order of things that the small be consumed by the large.

We see it in the rise of politically motivated militias and street gangs. We see it in threats directed at election officials, school board members, governors, senators, even lowly bureaucrats, in assaults on flight attendants. In the cesspools of social media, we are told, platforms have no right to impose basic standards of decency, rationality, factuality, accountability, an attitude that has also crossed what we call the real life.

We also see it less obviously. If the wealthy want to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in efforts to sway the government in their favor, we are told that the laws and the government are powerless to prevent it. Let the strong feed on the weak.

If a pandemic breaks out and kills nearly a million of our fellow citizens, many of whom are immunocompromised, we are told that the government cannot mandate masks or vaccinations, not even for soldiers and health care workers, more more even for children. A conservative Supreme Court is also set to restrict the government’s right to protect the environment, monitor working conditions, food and drug quality, and financial institutions, all to make the powerful even more powerful.

In the developed Western world, the United States is a particularly violent country with a particularly romanticized relationship to guns. So, at a time when murder rates are rising, road rage shootings, mass shootings and school shootings are rampant, we are told the government is powerless to intervene.

Instead, here in Georgia and other states, “leaders” are responding by passing legislation that would drop even the small protection of requiring permits to carry concealed weapons in public. In doing so, they remove regulations that attempt to keep guns out of the reach of those with a history of violent crime.

This is madness.

And in Florida this week, Governor Ron DeSantis made a big show of rejecting President Biden’s request for National Guard troops to protect the Capitol during the State of the Union address.

“Last week the Biden administration requested the assistance of state National Guardsmen to deploy to Washington DC,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “I rejected this request. There will be no @FLGuard sent to DC for Biden’s State of the Union.

It wasn’t Biden’s “State of the Union,” just as it isn’t Biden’s Capitol. It was our state of the union, our tradition, our Capitol and this tweet says more about where we stand as a country than any thousand words.

Too many of us have forgotten that it is an appropriate, legitimate and necessary role for government to oppose all this nonsense, to confront it. The idea that government exists to protect the weak from the strong, that it is the vehicle by which a people protects itself, is fading from our collective memory. And if you’re one of those who doubts that government should play this role, don’t take my word for it.

In 1789, the Founders rejected the weak form of federal government created by the Articles of Confederation and replaced it with something much stronger, and in the preamble to the new Constitution they explained why.

This preamble reads as follows:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to secure internal tranquility, to provide for the common defense, to promote the general welfare, and to secure the blessings of freedom for ourselves and our posterity…”.

Let’s look again at these words; they reward careful reading because they have been carefully chosen by intelligent people.

“We the people,” he begins. We Americans act together, striving to perfect the union between us. The Founders call us to action as a nation, as a community, to help ourselves and each other, and this government is the tool they provide to do so.

“…establishing justice,” they tell us, because the pursuit of justice, for all of us, is a legitimate function of government, something we need government to provide.

We join “the common defense”, together, defending each other because trying to do it individually cannot succeed. We, as a union, as a people, “promote the general welfare”, the welfare of all of us. We join to “ensure the blessings of freedom”, for only by acting together, not individually, can such freedom be secured.

But if we believe that what happens to you is none of my business, and what happens to me is none of my business, then we have thrown the doors of chaos and we are lost. It is a grotesque perversion of the American concept of freedom and freedom.

Some of the same people who wrote that 1789 Constitution were also among those who had signed the Declaration of Independence some 13 years earlier, a document that laid out the American cause and ended by saying that “we mutually undertake to our Lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

That’s what it took to create this great country. That’s what it will take to save him


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