They put it all on the line, our Founding Fathers, when they signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. Signing the Declaration was not a pro forma exercise. The 56 people who signed agreed “for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
While the foundation of our country had flaws, it was guided by people who put values above their own self-interest. And to secure those values they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.
Since its adoption, some key flaws in our Constitution have been addressed, or at least attempts have been made to do so. A Civil War stopped the spread of slavery to new States, and ended it. Women received the right to vote. Starting in the 1960s, the country passed civil rights laws that protect people’s right to vote and that prohibit discrimination in housing and employment. Gay rights, including the right to marry, are now recognized.
We have fallen short in many areas, and change has come slowly. But many leaders have appealed to our better selves and offered hope that we could collectively work toward a better future for all of our children, of all races and ethnicities.
President Donald Trump and his team have unraveled much of that, and threaten to unravel more.
In the last few weeks, the Trump administration demonstrated that its evil has no bounds. Trump initially defended a zero-tolerance policy of prosecuting people who crossed the U.S. border without documentation, even though it led to separating children from their parents and placing them in cages where many could be heard crying.
He also falsely blamed Democrats for his policy, but he was willing to use the policy – and the children – as leverage to force Democrats, and perhaps moderate Republicans, to fund his border wall and/or to adopt a harsh immigration bill.
On June 20, Trump signed an Executive Order to stop separating children from their parents, but he did so only after a public outcry forced him to do so. His order does not adequately address reuniting children with their parents.
In September 2017, Trump signed an executive order taking protections away from an estimated 800,000 Dreamers, innocent children who were brought into this country by their parents and who have lived here for many years. For many, the United States is the only country they know. While the order has been stayed and is the subject of litigation, Trump has been using the Dreamers’ plight to leverage his efforts to get funding for his wall and a harsh immigration bill. Trump is using them as a bargaining chip and upending their lives.
Trump is opposing any legislation that would create a path to citizenship for 12.5 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom have worked here and paid taxes here for years. They are relegated to living in the shadows and in fear of being deported and split apart from their children. The children go to school wondering if their parents will be hauled away by ICE while they are at school.
Trump’s team is seeking to limit people’s ability to seek asylum in our Country, including women who have been raped and abused and threatened with death in their home country.
In recent weeks, Trump has once again railed against illegal immigrants as “murderers and thieves and so much more” who want to “infest our country.”
Rather than bringing people of different races and cultures together, Trump thrives on fomenting racial and cultural divisiveness. He has expressed support for white supremacists. He imposed a travel ban on seven countries, six of which are predominantly Muslim. While the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban on June 26 in a 5-4 decision, under the standard of review adopted by the majority, Trump’s repeated statements evidencing a religious animus toward Muslims were deemed irrelevant.
Trump expressed contempt for people from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, stating a preference for Scandinavian people. His administration is taking actions that many believe are intended to suppress the vote of Black and Brown people.
The list goes on. He has attempted to cut back health care for millions of people. He is rolling back enforcement of the civil rights laws. He has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord and is eliminating regulations that protect the environment, despite predictions that many coastal regions may be under water by the end of the century, and tens of millions of people may be without food or drinking water if we continue as we are. He has ridiculed our allies. He has befriended our enemies, who are guilty of atrocities. He lies repeatedly. He has tarnished our Country’s honor.
We need to keep in mind on this coming Independence Day that we cannot allow Trump to normalize bigotry, hatred or a lack of compassion. We should take our own pledge to maintain the dignity of people of all races and cultures throughout the world.