The human/inhumane injustices built into and reinforced by American power structures and expressed throughout our history are (this is crucial) subject to criticism, reformation and transformation because of our founders’ foresight, because of checks and balances, and because of our Constitution. I would expect any American (who knows our history, who reads literature, who thinks critically, and who understands the importance of meaning made in larger contexts) to be in accord1.
Besides appreciating the fortunate fact that we are in this together —individuals, families, neighbors and strangers, Americans with Americans, Americans with undocumented immigrants, Americans with the rest of the world—most of us also recognize that the best aspects of our nation are the values and beliefs that:
…no single person, cabal or party should hold all political power nor govern unconstrained
…we all must have equal rights and protections
…free expression of dissent (outrage, criticism, satire and humor, protest) ought not and cannot be muzzled or punished by the State
Americans who enjoy our (far-from-perfect, but possible to improve in enlightened, sustainable ways) common freedoms, protections and provisions—from police and fire departments to roads to economic assistance to education to parks to protected religious gatherings and practices to national defense—are beholden to the American Constitution, which guides, organizes and provides the foundations of our collective, civil life.
And, honest Americans who take advantage of and appreciate even some of those common freedoms, protections and provisions must see that the intentional undermining of fundamental processes that promote the peaceful transfer of power is a terrible, selfish, shortsighted and nihilistic idea, the consequences of which would spell the end of our messy but hopeful republic… as well as the end of those freedoms, protections and provisions for everyone but the rich, the connected, the powerful. Civil War? Those do not tend to proceed without bloodshed nor to end well. Societal chaos as a change agent is nothing more than an outraged child’s fantasy, a revenge tantrum that imagines satisfaction in somehow making society pay, with immeasurable costs. The French Revolution was against and away from monarchy, towards the hard-won establishment of a republic. The fight was towards equality, democracy and justice, not away from it.
These thoughts today in response to Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the House GOP leadership, who recently tweeted (according to a 9/25 Denver Post article):
“The peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution and fundamental to the survival of our Republic. America’s leaders swear an oath to the Constitution. We will uphold that oath.”
I do not agree with Cheney, my fellow Wyomingite, on all (or many) matters, but we have the right and responsibility to differ. I stand with her on her statement, however.
I trust and hope she is speaking the truth and that, should the challenging party and its candidate win, she and her fellows will honorably follow through to ensure the continuance of our nation’s long tradition of peaceful transfer of power following elections.
Conservatives and liberals, Democrats, Progressives, Republicans, Independents, unaffiliated, straight, White, Black, Brown, young, old, pretty, ugly, smart, not-so-smart, short, tall, weak, strong, wealthy, middle class, poor, rural, urban, homeless, healthy, compromised, abled and disabled, law enforcement, military, and civilians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists: I trust and hope all agree that, should the current party in power win, the same respect for the outcome will prevail.
I trust and hope that the dictum United we stand, divided we fall 2 resonates for most of us in prosocial ways that acknowledge our interdependence. United we stand is not a call to elite groups to stand together against those who would constrain their power. It is not a call to terrorists, fringe groups, rioters and conspiracy theorists to imagine themselves a “we” special and apart, only to turn on and destroy the fabric of our larger society with nothing to offer in its place.
Or, is it?
Is a larger, generous, honorable “we” —the we of We the People, of United we stand—even real? The One Nation Under God— has that notion of “one” been shown to cover too many self-righteous, separatist passions, sins, hatreds and divisions to survive a critical examination? Is there a we of fellow humans, all in this together, a we not seduced into interest groups—tribes, clans and gangs—by willing participation in discrete “communities” that exist only to excite feelings of superiority, reinforce stereotypes and create distances?
Is there an American “we” that embraces this project of living together without tearing apart what’s best rather than fixing what’s worst?
If not, what will become of… of you? And you? And you? Of him? And her? And her? And them? Of me?
1 With some tweaks or disgreement by those more well-versed than I, a literate if simple citizen with no special proclivity for political histories.
2 Attributed to, among others, the estimable Aesop; Mark 3:25; Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17; enshrined in the patriotic lyrics of founding father John Dickinson; repeated by Patrick Henry and Stephen Douglas; reproduced in the unofficial State Motto of Kentucky and on the Missouri State flag, and heard in many a speech and song.