“The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom is courage.”
I write this on the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States.
More than 50 years ago, I took an oath to defend the Constitution “against all enemies domestic and foreign.” There is no expiration date on this oath. I believe that President Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to the Constitution and a threat to the freedom of our Republic.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits the government from restricting the right of the people to assemble peaceably. Despite the provision of the First Amendment, President Trump had peaceful protesters removed from their assembly (in Lafayette Park) outside the fence of the White House and forcibly driven away from that location so that he could have his picture taken mimicking a pose made famous by Adolph Hitler. In all my years this was perhaps the most chilling moment I ever have witnessed in terms of its threat to our freedoms.
Seeing the current president standing beside Vladimir Putin and taking his side in the debate over whether or not Russia had interfered in the 2016 election (directly counter to the conclusion of the American intelligence services) is a close second in terms of sensing our freedoms are under serious threat.
We can add the violation of the First Amendment to the daily violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, the abuse of power evidenced by the Ukraine debacle, and the ongoing violation of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive functions of government to President “Bone Spur’s” trampling of our Constitution.
Where is the Congress? What would it take for the members of Congress to rise in defense of the Constitution? Is there anything that would cause the Congress to take a stand in defense of our Constitution or country? How about Russian bounties for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan? How about separating children from their parents at our southern border—a truly Nazi-like behavior? How about the significant abuses of power uncovered by the Mueller investigation which many members of Congress simply dismissed? I read the published version of the Mueller Report. If you have an IQ greater than a paramecium it is impossible to ignore the evidence documented in that report. The American people have been waiting for more than three and a half years for the current members of Congress to put their country before their political party. We wait in vain.
Over the more than 240 years since our successful rebellion against the British crown, something more than 1 million Americans have lost their life in defense of our freedoms. Millions more have carried the wounds (both physical and mental) incurred by their defense of our country for the remainder of their lives. (These casualties are the men and women that Trump described as “losers” and “suckers.”) Sadly, many current members of Congress seem unworthy of the freedoms that our veterans’ sacrifice has provided them.
Every week, if not every day, brings additional embarrassment to Americans as the current president insults our heroes, trivializes our values, picks fights with dead men, insults young women, and on and on. Trump probably has done more to deepen and widen the divisions among our people than anyone who has held public office in the history of our republic.
And, of course, under the leadership of this president, the federal government has failed miserably in its response to the current pandemic. As I write this, the U.S., with 4% of the world’s population, has managed to accumulate 20% of the world’s fatalities to this disease.
The inescapable truth is that Donald Trump is incapable of leading a free people. A man who lacks the common decency, and even the basic dignity, of the people he aspires to lead will be unable to lead them to free beer. Fortunately, despite the dereliction of their most basic duty by the Congress, the American people have an opportunity to stand up to defend the Constitution this coming November. You even could participate in this defense of our most fundamental freedoms. Vote for the other guy.
The Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence are incredible documents. Not because they were a completely accurate reflection of the society that existed in the 13 colonies — they were not. After all, women could not vote. Most people of color were not free. It took many years before those wrongs were rectified.
Nor is it because the individuals who created them were perfect human beings — they were not. They were, however, exceptional people — smart, brave, yes, perhaps even a bit idealistic as they envisioned what could be, not just what was.
I think of our founding documents as providing a roadmap on our country’s 240-plus year journey toward a society that is more just, more free, more equal in opportunity for all people. We have had many severe challenges on this journey. Among the most notable have been wars, racial and other divides, economic inequities, and pandemics. However, the American people never have failed to answer the call, never have failed to prevail over the challenges we faced, and our country still is here.
We will get through the current problems and soldier on. Of course, we will, no doubt, face further problems as the world remains a dangerous place. However, this danger is not our world’s defining characteristic nor is perpetual unhappiness the destiny of our species.
We may never quite attain a society where all peoples truly are equal, free and absolutely no injustice exists. After all, this is the planet Earth — not heaven. But, my friends, isn’t the journey worth our dreams and our efforts?
Be strong and be of good cheer — and, vote for the other guy in November.
Richard W. Woodman is a retired professor and a former military intelligence officer in the United States Army. He lives in College Station.
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