The Fourth of July gives us a moment to consider the miracle that is this country. Some parts of our history are ghastly. Reflection on other moments allows us to savor the freedoms that the efforts of hundreds of thousands – named and unknown, famous and unsung – have fought and struggled to preserve and achieve.
We can deconstruct the Declaration of Independence, signed by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to founding this republic, while we acknowledge some of these same men were unapologetic slaveholders and all of them ignored the rights of women.
We can recount the shame of eminent domain, which deprived the First Americans of their land, their language, their dignity and, at times, their lives – as slavery did to the hundreds of thousands brought here in chains.
We can be horrified at the harm visited on our fellow residents in the name of some vague notion of justice or harmony, and we can only wonder at the blindness of so many leaders and followers to the pain and humiliation of residents who did not conform to the convenient “norm” of the day.
Victimhood has a powerful place in the history of this country, and the voices of victims and victims’ advocates have helped engineer strong and needed changes in laws, our thinking and our social structure.
An effective means, used time and again by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is to point out the injustice and speak to it as it relates to the values shared by people on both sides of the issue. Doing this elevates victims to advocates, giving them a share not just in the voice for change but in the evolving community itself.
This is where we, the people, shine. Collectively and communally we are stronger than when we fall into such divisive conveniences as “us” and “them.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump took another of his many intentionally divisive steps when he said he would order mass arrests and promised the removal of “millions of illegal aliens,” beginning the weekend of June 15.
The threat runs counter to the City’s Welcoming Ordinance, under which no City department, including the Police Department, may ask questions about the immigration status of any resident seeking City services. Except in cases of criminal activity, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can expect no cooperation from City officials, including police officers.
In responding to the president’s threat, Mayor Stephen Hagerty assured the community that the tenets of the City’s welcoming ordinance stand. This is something nearly everyone could support, a collective good for the community.
We live in a country where we can protest our president’s divisive and destructive tactics.
We have our Constitution to thank for all of this. John Dickinson, known as the penman of the Constitution, wrote in the preamble that the Constitution was ordained and established to, among other things, “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
One of those liberties is guaranteed by the First Amendment: the right, within certain limitations, to protest actions and conditions in the country and to petition the government for redress or change.
This is a time when many of us feel personally and collectively under siege. Our system of checks and balances seems frayed and frail right now. There is talk of impeachment and there are signs proclaiming “Resist.”
This is a miracle of freedom. It is the miracle of this country.