The Founding Fathers’ unfinished business
For decades, blacks in America have been inspired by the promise of America as expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” These solemn words, included as part of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1783, had been sufficient to terminate the legality of slavery in this state. Unfortunately, the rest of the nation did not quickly follow suit. As a consequence, America is still embroiled in a battle over whether racial and gender equality should prevail.
Fortunately, the Founding Fathers established the U.S. Constitution in 1787 as a legal guideline for the conduct of government. Despite their many differences of opinion as expressed in the Federalist Papers, they were able to produce a constitution that provided an amendment process to continue civil debate on governmental issues. With the exception of the Confederacy and the subsequent Civil War, national cohesion has held.
Our Thanksgiving holiday provides all Americans with the opportunity to take a breath and consider the divisive issues confronting the nation with the impeachment of Donald Trump. Citizens are now subjected to volumes of information from print, television and the internet. It will be an odious task for citizens to determine what is truthful and of value in deciding what is the appropriate result in the impeachment. In addition, Democrats will have to select a candidate for U.S. president in the 2020 election.
Thankfully, early results indicate that citizens are up to the task. TV ratings indicate that cable news stations — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — have had nearly double the audience for normal viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is contrary to what Republican Party operatives have predicted. With this kind of response, it is unlikely Sen. Mitch McConnell will perfunctorily close the impeachment trial in the Senate. The public reaction would endanger his reelection to office.
As the process of impeachment proceeds, it is important to remember that some of the issues that divided the Founding Fathers have not yet been totally resolved. When the country was established 243 years ago women, slaves and white men without property were not permitted to vote. It took 89 years to end slavery and 144 years to give women the right to vote.
Prominent Western Europeans came to this continent that was inhabited by Indians and Mexicans. These immigrants took control of the land and established the United States of America. They then became very restrictive on what other immigrants they would admit. Africans were brought in as a free source of labor without much consideration by the slaveholders that it is natural for human beings ultimately to fight to be free.
So in November of 2019, Americans are still debating which immigrants shall be permitted to become citizens, what democratic privileges will be available to all, and how the economic might of the nation will contribute to the American lifestyle. Black Americans are aware that “…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That is the American promise. All reasonable, fair-minded people will seek to resolve civil problems with that standard in mind. And everyone has to give thanks that such highly evolved principles must ultimately guide the nation’s affairs.