“WE THE PEOPLE” – What It Meant, What It Should And Where We Lost Our Way

by Paul Hamlin


 

“We The People”

In modern political history there has rarely been three more radical, more revolutionary words spoken or written.  “We the people” represents an idea far bigger, far greater than the simple everyday petty politics.  The Constitution is the idea that all people should focus on first, arguments about policy and process should be wrapped in the founding document.

The dream of America, of representative governments, was and is that people, ordinary people, would see a need, a gap or a void and that out of love, honor and a sense of responsibility and self-sacrifice they would rise to the occasion and fill the need.  They would do this out of love for their neighbors, their state and finally their nation.

The Declaration of Independence was a proclamation of something new

This concept started with three little words that took the idea of democracy and the political systems of the Europe and turned it upside down onto its head.  The Declaration of Independence stated to the world that it was time for something more, something different.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

These ideas culminated with the formation of a new nation and a new government, a government that was dedicated to correcting the past mistakes of injustices and inequities of their European masters.  After the failure of the Articles of Confederation the new government was formed with the Constitution.  The actual revolution for the entire world started with these three words on September 17, 1787, “WE THE PEOPLE”.  A bold and sweeping proclamation that the birth of a new nation was indeed revolutionary.

The Constitution changed the way people were to be governed

A government and all the power inferred upon it, would be given freely to the governed, and it changed the world.  The idea removed the corruption, bribery and tyranny of a monarch and placed power firmly in the hands of farmers, merchants and shop owners.

This idea that the government was owned by the people was imperfect, the illnesses and inequalities of the time period and society, often created tension and inequities within the nation founded on and spoke of equality for all.  The history of America is replete with failures to uphold the standard and ideal of equality and freedom…whether it was the treatment of Native Americans, African American slaves, women, or countless other minorities.

The difference is that the founding document of this nation, of a young and idealistic nation is unrelenting in its vigilance for equality.  It constantly, without shame or prejudice, holds a mirror to the face of the nation and challenges us to become better…challenges us with the first three words “WE THE PEOPLE”. 

The Constitution is clear that freedom, that those inalienable rights, is for ALL people, and that truth constantly marches forward.  Those in the nation that long to adhere to those founding principles will fight and struggle to march alongside.

This nation has struggled with this identity, many times taking too long to understand equality or the God-given rights of ALL people, but this nation has proven a willingness, a slow desire to hold true to these ideals.  Even to the point of fighting a bloody war with one another to ensure that those principles survived, that this nation and its promise survived.

“…conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth…” – Abraham Lincoln

This nation continues this journey now.  We stand at a point in our history where WE THE PEOPLE will need to make choices. Decisions that will decide whether a government conceived, birthed and dedicated to the idea that the people shall own the government will survive, whether it will “not perish from the earth”. Will this nation, which has fought to find, understand and impart freedom continue to be a beacon on the hill? Will this nation continue to march alongside the Constitution that declares “WE THE PEOPLE”, or will it slip quietly into the annals of history, just another dusty footnote?

As past generations have stood and fought for the principles that this nation was born of, we now must make the same choice.  What are we willing to fight for, fight against?  What sacrifice will I make, what sacrifice will you make? What is the price of vigilance? What cost shall we place on freedom? Or will we compromise those principles for convenience and security?

We fought a war to hold true to the idea of “of the people, by the people, for the people”

OF THE PEOPLE

The government is not a ruling class, it was never even meant to be made up of professional politicians.  The dream at the foundation of the nation was that people would choose to sacrifice and give back to their nation.  After they had felt that they had given all they could or someone more qualified was chosen they would fold back into society.

This made it mandatory that the ownership of the government was THE PEOPLE.  This makes it more difficult to make harmful or self-serving decisions, because you would be at the mercy of your neighbors. The people controlled who represented them, and for how long and how they were to be represented.  This was done in the form of the vote, but also through constant accountability.

The Constitution, the ideas of the United States is tied, whether beneficial or detrimental, to the people.  There cannot, nor should there be any effort to separate the two.  There is no room for a government controlled by politicians that are not of the people.

Politicians no longer attached to the people lose focus on the importance of the people, they lose the ability to relate to the people, and they lose connection with the ideas and needs of the people they represent.  The longer you are removed from the daily life, the more difficult it is to relate to the people that you are supposed to represent.

BY THE PEOPLE

The United States is reliant on the people, not just for their votes, but also to take and hold leadership positions in the government.  The thought process for this was that the population would continuously rise up to meet the needs that currently confront the nation as a whole. The gifts and talents of the entire population are the drawing well for the government and leaders within the government.

The people of the nation become the agents for change.  They are not at the mercy of a faceless, uncaring government because they are the government.  They are the plumbers, electricians and carpenters that become representatives for their peers.  They are the bankers, the accountants and lawyers that bring skills from everyday life to the government.  They are your neighbor, your teachers, your local business owner, and they are accountable to the people that they are neighbors with.

That is how the system is BY THE PEOPLE.  The people elect their neighbors, and they are their boss.  There is absolutely no room for nepotism, bribery, favoritism, corporatism, etc.  This is about the people owning their fate, charting their own course…becoming the master of their destiny.  Ultimately this is the epitome and representation of the American Dream.

FOR THE PEOPLE

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

The role of the government is to be a temporary caregiver, keeper and guardian for the governed in matters that they cannot provide for as individuals.  It is not to care for power, care for money, or remove responsibility for life from the people…it is to protect the rights of the people that are inalienable and to ensure that people are safe to pursue those rights granted by “Nature’s God.”

What will “we the people” look like for our children?

FUTURE “WE THE PEOPLE”

We are the people.  The idea of “we the people” is dependent on us.  It is dependent on us engaging and being involved.  It is dependent on us being informed and educated on elections, candidates, and issues.  It relies on us being constantly vigilant, ensuring our freedoms are being protected, being guarded.

We can see the decay in the idea of “We the people”.  We have seen involvement and engagement corrode.  We feel less capable of voicing ourselves.  We are surrounded by a Congress and representatives that we feel represent us less and less. Career politicians, charlatans and confidence men have infiltrated the system and there is more concern in the government for the government than for the people.

The people feel that their voice has been taken from them, they feel disenfranchised, they feel marginalized and all alone.  There is concern that the system has forgotten them.  This in turn has become apathy, despondence.  The fire and passion for the idea of “WE THE PEOPLE” is fading.

The system is a fragile ecosystem, that relies on the people.  It relies on our ability to stand up.  Our voice to be heard.  It relies on our desire to be heard to be stronger than the desire of political power and corruption.  If “we the people” fail, the great experiment slips quietly into the history books.  If the love of power by corrupt people is not driven out by the voice and power of the people, we become the very thing that we sought to overturn in 1776 and again in 1787.

Benjamin Franklin said it this way, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Our vote and approach at the ballot box, in the debate and with our candidates speak volumes about who we are as a people.

Do our politicians represent us?  No? Voice your concerns and vote.  Have our representatives lost the thread of truth about the dream of “we the people”? Speak up, educate yourself and them. Never sit back, but instead step forward.

Is our system more concerned about power and convenience and security, and less concerned about freedom and truth?  Be heard, become a citizen leader.  An office inhabited by someone who does not understand must be challenged.  Challenge them on the ballot.  Challenge them with the argument.

The tenuous nature of the Constitution is what makes it great…and keeps “we the people” engaged.  We are never too far from losing the ideas that we love so very much, and it relies on us to fight to not allow that to happen.  Democracy is only as good as an engaged population.  It is also amazing how durable it is, because of “we the people” and for no other reason.

We stand at the crossroads of a new world.  The bold steps into the future are scary and will rely on a new generation of “we the people”.  We will need to stand up and reject convenience and false security for truth and freedom. Can we reject the siren song of the newest threat and fight for an idea that is worth fighting for?

That decision will be up to “WE THE PEOPLE”.


(Paul Hamlin is running for US House of Representatives as an independent candidate in New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District.  You can find out more about him and his candidacy at paulhamlin.com)

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