What is the promise of America? It sounds simple, and really should be. Equality for all before the Law. Every citizen of voting age shall have their voice heard. One person, one vote. That Lady Justice is truly blind, that She will never peak out from under the blindfold. That our elected officials are beholden to us, the People. Not corporations, not the super wealthy. That Justice and Liberty are for People, not corporations, and that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness aren’t just for outward expressions of our identity but apply just as equally to the totality of ourselves, including autonomy over our own bodies and minds.
We all know that the America of the Past skirted that promise. Working to meet even the letter of the law, let alone the spirit, was a grudging, unwelcome task. In many instances America of the Past outright broke the Promise, with a smile and twinkle in Its eye. As time has marched forward America has slowly crept along, getting ever closer to the Promise, inch by hard won inch. Today, though, we find America has still not met that Promise. Worse still, now legions of our fellow Americans in and out of Congress, Statehouses, county boards and city councils seek to turn back the clock to wipe away so much of what was gained. Not just the gains that were won with blood, sweat and tears over the last 50, 100, even 250 years, but to render the Bill of Rights moot and the Constitution toothless for any State that disagrees with even the smallest portion of our founding framework.
For these people the Government, be it DC or Austin, the county seat or the mayor’s office, is something that should serve the needs of the wealthy and the few before anyone else. For many of them, government should serve them and theirs, not us and ours. The reasons they give are legion, and wrong. They are steeped in racism, bigotry, religious idolatry, classicism and ego. The reasons painted on their banners didn’t start with Reagan, nor did they start with the first European settlers. They come from ancient, primitive divisions, from a time when life seemed to necessitate strict hierarchies of leaders and followers, of monarchs and subjects.
Today, though, these same prejudices and life view have been chiseled and honed to fit into a world view that says that success is always from hard work, pulling oneself up from their bootstraps. That to be successful the government must fall away from everyday life. Except for… the list is long and seems to benefit those who already have too much.
What these people, this scared and ever shrinking minority do not understand is that we do not seek a Nanny State, nor do we revel in the Administrative State. We do not seek artificial divides and chasms rooted in wealth, education, ancestry, religious beliefs, or any other of the cornucopia of reasons we humans have given throughout the ages to (re)create the Us and Them narrative. No, we seek only the fulfillment of America’s Promise. That All are Equal and Justice shall prevail before the Law. We seek fairness in all things, the ability to make a better life without artificial and socially unjust barriers. We ask only that all people who call America home pay their fair share, regardless of how they count their money. We ask for respect of ourselves. Our self reflection, our identity, our bodies and our autonomy. We ask that religion remain a personal choice, and one that we do not inflict upon each other involuntarily.
But, we have been asking for so long, and too often the answer has been a vicious, remorseless “No!”. So, now we must demand. We must gather together and demand that our votes count. That our voices are heard. That we as human beings are treated as equals before the law, whether that’s on the street with police or in the courtroom before the judge. That our homes and bodies are safe from violence, especially when our bodies are in our homes. That no one should ever have to get a text from their child that they are scared and hiding from a shooter in their school. That a parent need never worry that a stray bullet will pierce their sacred walls and windows to harm their child.
We find ourselves in a place where, illogically, we must demand that our Government, big and small, far away and local, treat us Citizens as superior to corporations, as worth more than the dirty dollar.
Our forebearers fled their homes for a brighter future. They came to these shores for a better life, including the freedom to be themselves while being heard. They came here as outcasts, as the oppressed, and made themselves and their future generations a promise. That America will never do to them what their ancestral home did to them. This is the overarching Promise that America has made. It’s time that Promise was kept.