We have many people today who claim to be conduits to not just the original intentions of the founding fathers, but they also claim special knowledge of how the founders would approach the problems we currently face.
We have those who should be the more qualified messengers such as Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, the more colorful messengers such as Glenn Beck, and the more familiar messengers such as everyone's opinionated neighbor Bob.
If you were to express to any of these people that you were a little unsure of your understanding of the Constitution they would gladly pull you up a chair and congratulate you because you were talking to one of the few people who could enlighten you. Anyone who speaks a truth different than theirs cannot be trusted.
This divisiveness ceased being paranoia and began being typical when high profile conservative Republican "leaders" such as Sarah Palin chose to divide the country into real America and everyone else.
Today's Democrat follows many of the same economic principles of FDR, Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Since those same principles are today represented in the form of President Barack Obama, conservative America has done a masterful job of labeling those principles as European, socialistic, fascistic as well as a few other adjectives carefully chosen to incite fear amongst the sheep.
The birth of this country is an amazing story and the men who made this nation possible deserve to be remembered accurately. I respect these men enough to presume that if they were to return today, after they attempted to use a microwave, they quite likely would feel a little sorry for anyone who would think that they would make decisions for the early 21st century based upon the only world they knew in the late 18th century.
Let me clarify, these men were responsible for the birth of the nation and creating a framework for the rest of us who would follow to govern ourselves, co-exist peacefully and ensure the peaceful transition of power; the many generations that followed have been responsible for the growth of that nation. We have learned a great deal in more than 200 years and yet there are those who would sacrifice all of that knowledge in order to party like it is 1776.
The founding fathers made it possible to add to or amend the Constitution. They certainly knew that the world would change and that inability to adapt would result in failure.
Not only did they understand that change is inevitable, but as a group of men from different states with different needs and values, they would necessarily have had to understand that this experiment in Democracy would not work unless everyone (white men) were allowed to keep these same needs and values, while living in the same community and building a nation together.
When I read the First Amendment;
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
I wonder if it ever occurred to any of these men to add freedom of thought to their fine list of basic human rights? They may have overestimated the capacity of future generations to understand that these rights such as freedom of speech or the right of the people to peaceably assemble would have never been necessary were it not for their desire to guarantee freedom of thought.
We have nine Supreme Court Justices whose job it is to interpret the Constitution. The nine justices are well studied, immensely experienced and have given considerable time to understanding the Constitution. A few attended the same school, and I suspect more have heard the same lectures. Yet these nine judges have different opinions about this subject and their rulings indicate such. Not only is disagreement tolerated, but it is both expected and respected.
In communities around the country and even around some dinner tables similar respect is difficult to find.
Would the founders not be surprised that they would have to enlighten the rest of us that they did not want to promote unity of thought, but rather they wanted to protect diversity of thought?
Why is it necessary to explain this? One of the reasons why America has been so productive and fruitful is because of the diversity of its people with different experiences and therefore different ideas. The better ideas of which are rewarded.
Debates such as those between people who claim states rights versus federal rights and the other way around have gone on since before the Constitution was drafted and will go on for as long as the flag flies. Thinking one way or another does not disqualify you as an American. It does qualify you as a concerned citizen with an opinion that is important to him or her.
Thinking differently does not mean that you are unpatriotic; in fact it is essential to the American experience and I will suggest that anyone who does not understand this is missing out on one of the most important aspects which defines us as a nation and which separates us from others and that is unfortunate.
If we must incessantly refer to American exceptionalism then the very least we could do is look for examples of that exceptionalism. The ability to think what we will without fear of negative repercussion certainly qualifies.
Each and every day I am reminded of just how differently people can think or react to a certain subject or story. It is mind boggling at times, but as long as the democratic process is true and exists, civil debate will always be the chosen weapon of those who are truly inspired by America's greatness.
Although we are not required to respect our neighbor's opinion we do acknowledge that they are entitled to that opinion. Allowing them that opinion without demonizing them should not be the exception, but rather the rule.
We talk, we argue, we decide, we vote and then regardless of the results we should go to each other's barbecues and kids' baseball games.
After all, that was the American way.
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