Last week, at the Eastsound Post Office, I asked for American Flag stamps. I said aloud, “Now, there’s something to be proud of. There’s something worth fighting against.”
Judging by looks on the faces of some patrons near enough to hear my comment, I realized that such an ambiguous statement was easily misunderstood.
This is what I meant, and wish now to stand by it even more publicly. As a historian and teacher, I know that:
1. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as tradition and Supreme Court decisions, guarantee each of us the right to practice the religion of our choice – whatever that religion – without interference from individuals or from the government.
2. Again, according to the First Amendment, as well as tradition, there is no one official religion of the United States of America that takes precedence over all others.
3. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the sole power to originate and pass laws. The President, of course, does have a veto power; the veto can then be overridden by a 2/3 vote in Congress.
4. Only the Congress of the U.S. has the power to declare war for our nation. (This is clearly stated in the Constitution, although in practice it has not been followed since 1951.)
5. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees equal treatment before the law for all individuals.
6. The First Amendment also guarantees an independent press with the right to report free from government harassment or pressure.
That’s a summary of the democratic and civil rights that, I believe, now are in danger of being lost. What I am proud of as an American is our grand tradition of holding these aspirations as goals that define us at our best. What I am willing to “fight” against are efforts by the national government, since the President’s inauguration, to undermine what have been the ideals of the United States of America.
What are we if we are not our best selves?