Congrats to Congress for passing the Respect for Marriage Act. I bet the president will sign it, although not everyone agrees.
Now I guess I love my country as well as anyone, and when I take a clear-eyed look at our nation’s history, I recognize our bumbling, stuttering steps down that long and winding road toward freedom and equality. While some call to make America great again by returning to and strictly abiding by the glorious and inalterable originalist ideas of the Founding Fathers, that call makes absolutely no sense to me. Maybe it makes a great bumpersticker, but it’s clearly and obviously a non sequitur.
You see, while the Founders expressed a truly wonderful utopian vision of freedom and equality during the so-called Age of Enlightenment, they never arrived at their destination. Instead, they laid out the vision, the promise, and left the prize for future generations to manifest.
Thus arises the simple question that lies at the root of many of the political conundrums that divide us today — is America a cast-in-stone monolith of principles laid down in the late 1700s from which we cannot not and must not ever deviate, or is our great nation a work in progress dedicated instead to the continuous development and refinement of freedom and liberty for all?
Come on, now. We know the answer to that question. Consider these deep and profound changes to the Founder’s original vision our country has already made. The Bill of Rights first comes to mind.
How about women who were completely and totally disenfranchised in the great unfailing wisdom of the Founders only to secure and obtain the right to vote about 100 years ago?
And how about this one. The Founding Fathers deliberately and explicitly left the matter of slavery to be settled by later generations. Don’t take my word for it. You can read about their discussions and debates on the topic in the Federalist Papers. While Thomas Jefferson nobly professed the truth that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights by their Creator in the Declaration of Independence, the Founders absolutely failed to achieve that lofty goal.
The South would not agree to free its slaves as a condition of joining the union, and frankly, we would not have the United States of America if the Founders had not made this horrible concession necessary to create the nation and set us on our current path toward liberty.
Do you know four of our first five American presidents owned slaves, including Jefferson, who also fathered children with one of them? “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?” Dr. Samuel Johnson protested in 1775, a year before the Declaration of Independence was written.
Jefferson himself wrote about the slavery question, “ … we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.” Less than a century later, our nation fought its bloodiest conflict in history — the Civil War — to resolve that issue and finally begin to set that wrong right.
Now I know some right-wing Kool Aid drinker will argue I acquired this work in progress, race-baiting perspective during my college days 40 some years ago when I was indoctrinated and brainwashed by those woke, leftist college professors bent on destroying America, but that’s just not so. I learned America was a work in progress way back in grade school in the 1950s, in junior high when we studied the Constitution in the eight grade and in my high school civics classes, too. I learned it in Chicago, in San Diego, in Fresno.
Yet somehow today, among many conservatives the very notion of America as a work in progress has become an evil communist plot. I can’t understand how any thinking person can look at our history and not recognize America’s true and profound greatness lies in its moving forward toward a liberty and freedom our Founders could only imagine. My biggest fear is where we end up when we have forgotten that.
Regarding the Respect for Marriage Act, I must say I don’t understand “The Gay.” I don’t think I ever will. I’ve known a few gay folks in my life, and I believe they were born that way. I don’t believe they chose to members of group that generates such hatred. Perhaps they really are “pricked by nature,” as Shakespeare put it. I know it’s certainly not a lifestyle I would ever choose for myself.
But the Respect for Marriage Act is not about me and what I would choose — it’s about other people’s right to choose the life they want to live. It not only grants some protection for gays, but also for those in interracial marriages that were once against the law. It’s about our nation moving forward and protecting the freedom of all our people, even those with whom we disagree or cannot understand.
I can’t speak for you, but to me, that’s exactly what America should be about.