President Donald J. Trump, our Nation’s 45th president, reaffirmed September 17 as Constitution and Citizenship Day in 2017.
Now, three short years later, it’s more important than ever. This year, President Trump’s proclamation on Constitution and Citizenship Day focused on the divisive events that the Unites States has been in the grip of within the last year.
A presidential proclamation is a statement issued on matters of public policy, and is a presidential directive, of sorts.
2020 has been a turbulent year for the United States, one that will surely go down in history among those times that saw a nation divided, split along ideological lines.
What divides us? You’d have to be living under a rock not to know; there’s differences in ideas on policing, racism, and how to go about protesting perceived injustices.
Debate is healthy for our country. That there are opposing views is a good thing; we need discussion to move forward. Without such, there’d never have been a Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Slavery never would have ended. There’d never have been any kind of reform or change. And, that means in any domain, not just as regards equality.
“Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” was enacted as a holiday in 1004, and the date chosen was in observance of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 in Philadelphia.
President Trump wrote a letter to America today, and here we highlight some key points:
“Our Constitution outlines a government that encourages individuals to flourish while still empowering the state to perform necessary functions like protecting law and order and providing essential public goods. This revolutionary concept has made and continues to make our Nation the most free and just society in the world.”
We must constantly ask ourselves, “Is this true?” Only by constant self-examination, as individual, and as a nation, will this statement remain viable. Freedom and justice are ongoing pursuits; it’s not a goal once attained that’s lasting. It requires work. And, the work never ends.
“In recent months, statues of great American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt have been threatened, torn down, defaced, and destroyed. In cities throughout our country, radical groups have attacked monuments honoring the unrivaled contributions our Founding Fathers made to human freedom.”
Ironic, no? Without a history, we are a people without roots; without a sense of history, we are nothing. True; America was never perfect, and never will be. The intention of the Framers of the Constitution was that it remain a Work in Progress. Those words have a dual meaning; that is, a work, or project centered on Progress for All, and in the more common usage, something that is underway, and not yet completed.
But the goal will never be completed; there will always be further to go. We need to remember our history; we need to honor those who came before us. Yes; they were imperfect human beings. But we should not be tempted to use a lens provided to us by our understanding in 2020 to judge those in the past as inadequate. There may yet be some negative aspects in our country, but it’s impossible to ignore the positive changes that have taken hold over time, ideas brought forth an put into action by men and women of diverse political, racial, social, and ethnic backgrounds.
Statues are lifeless. They cannot move. And, they should not move. Tearing down the statues that represent our story is just wrong on so many levels. Do some wish to begin their story now, in 2020? Why are they confident that the future will be better than the past? Didn’t they ever hear about those who forget their past who are bound to repeat their errors?
“On this Constitution and Citizenship Day, and during this Constitution Week, we recommit to upholding our constitutional system, to honoring its Framers and those who have sacrificed to defend it — who knew the true price of liberty — and to embracing the duty we as citizens have to preserve the society it has built.”
Each and every one of us, whether active duty military, veterans of the Armed Forces, law enforcement, firefights, teachers, students, men, women, gay, straight, trans-people, children, adults, seniors…each of us can play a role in helping to shape America’s future. But that must be a future built on the gains of the past; we must build our collective tomorrow on the certain foundation of yesterday…and, today.
The Constitution of the United States in not an outmoded document; far from it. Technology was already shaping and changing life in 1878, and so the Framers penned a document that would adapt with time, changing in subtle ways to meet the needs of a changing nation, and population, as we learned in civics class, “a Living Document.”
If you’re a staunch Republican, and have ideas based on Conservative values, congratulations; your predecessors had a big role in shaping our Nation. If you’re a die-hard Democrat, and wave your liberal freak flag high, know that your camp, too, helped make America what it is today.
But it’s not about politics; we Americans are individuals, born of a Nation that was conceived as a place where Individualism would create a society where our collective strength would be unmatched, where our differences in faith, values, and ideas, would be a strength, and not a weakness.
Remember, shutting someone out of your life because they voted for Trump, or voted for DeBlasio, is the epitome of insanity. Doesn’t anyone want to just talk, anymore? Can’t we have different ideas about how life should be, and yet coexist?
“Cancelling” other people is not the American Way. You don’t have to agree with someone to treat them like a person. You don;’t have to even understand their argumentation, or why they feel as they do. But it is your duty to remember that we all have rights. Rights endowed by the Creator. Inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Respect each other. Respect our shared commons. And, respect private property. If you want to protest, do so with intelligence. Don’t loot, don’t harm, and certainly don’t forget that the idea of change means that you’re trying to communicate your ideas to people who disagree, not erase them or pretend they’re no longer alive.
-Staten Islander News Org Editors