Saturday, July 4, 2009

The People

We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
provide for the common defence,
promote the general Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The People, thus capitalized, is a powerful two-word phrase rather unique to the United States. Not only is it documented in this Preamble to the Constitution, but also in Lincoln's powerful Gettysburg address when he emplores, 'of the people, by the people, for the people..." Carl Sandburg wrote, "I AM the people--the mob--the crowd--the mass..." La Liberté guidant le peuple, "Liberty Leading the People" by artist Eugène Delacroix, inspired the Statue of Liberty.

There is a delicate dance that must be performed between a democratic government of, by and for The People and other forms of governance. Communism, as history shows, often becomes just as corrupt as right-wing dictatorships. It's much like the Goldilocks tale of balance: "not too hot, not too cold."

It's always difficult to play the middle when the extremes are so much more comfortable. Parenting, for example, is much more challenging from the center than at the two extremes, which is why parents often gravitate to one of the extremes.

So too with governance. Frequently, "The People" become the victims of overarching political schemers. The vision that Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton, Jay and Washington dreamed for this new nation was pure and unblemished. Surely, they were not altogether ignorant of the possibility and probability that this virgin government would be repeatedly raped by men who had their own personal agendas and ambitions. These so-called Founding Fathers had to know, deep in their souls, that this quest for a government of The People would soon be challenged, compromised, by aggressive men who would use their power for specious purposes.

And so it has been, over these 233 years. Nauseously, every four years, we hear of yet another a new plan, a new set of promises, a new line of verbiage which promises that The People will be better served through this or that set of politicians. We are often hoodwinked. Our dreams deferred.

Perhaps a government of, by and for The People is surreal. It may only exist in theory. The innate human quest for dominance, power and greed may trump this ideal. Fantasy posing as reality.

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