“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.”
Our nation has always understood that the strength of our country and constitution depended upon us — We, the people.
The power of our form of government and constitution derives from us. We, the people, are the ones who form the more perfect union. We are the ones to establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility. Fundamentally, neither the government nor the document can do this. We are the ones to promote the general welfare of the nation and secure the blessings of liberty for all who make this nation their home.
The powers of social media, the news media, reactionary groups and politicians have the power to influence us. But we have power too. We, the people, have the power to circumvent their influence and decide for ourselves what outcome we want. All we have to do is change our behavior. We can to pledge to respect one another regardless of our political viewpoints or the candidates we support. We can choose to respect differences of opinion. We can choose to speak only of those things that promote this more perfect union, the long hard road of equal justice for all people, and the blessings of liberty for all. We, the people can do this by pledging ourselves to heal our divisions, not permitting antagonistic sectarianism to rend our nation asunder. We the people can refrain from repeating, whether on-line or in person, ideas and statements that will deepen our divisions.
If we do not do this, our nation will face what other nations have experienced — the bitterness of civil war, tragic acts of violence, loss of life, spiraling hatred, loss of prosperity and the comfort we take for granted. There will be no safety at a movie theater or coffee shop. Places of worship will become targets for hatred. Families will be torn apart, never to speak again. Livelihoods will be lost. Loved ones will die. The imagined gains will be lost in a sea of grief. Our nation is not immune to these sectarian and ideological forces. They have spilled blood on the streets of Ireland and Kosovo, Rwanda and Venezuela. The cost would be unbearable and we will live with the consequences for years to come.
Our nation is not what it was fifty years ago. We do not all share the same moral frameworks or narrative of the world. This cannot be resolved through force. It can only be resolved through an expansion of genuine tolerance and respect, with the understanding that we live in different places, with different values, differing daily concerns, and different approaches to life. This leads to only two alternatives; a return to genuine freedom of speech and thought without retribution — even if such things are distasteful to us (whether on the left or right), or totalitarianism — forcing our ideologies upon our countrymen. Our nation will not survive the latter.
I am convinced that trauma lies at the core of our broken world. Tyranny, war, sectarian violence, and hatred traumatize us again and again. Collective PTSD reverberates through our histories. The media, with their “fear first” model of profitable reporting further this trauma. Political parties remain in power through fear. Ideologies must trade in fear to gain power. Fear and trauma are the twins of our ruin. It is time to circumvent their work and speak to another part of our brains — the part that engenders peace and love. This does not happen when we accuse one another of constant evil and impute the worst motives to our neighbor. These only trigger that part of the brain that send us into defensive postures, inhibiting our ability to listen with rationality and generosity. Force, accusation, and shame will only compound the problems we face and lead to violence. It is time to de-escalate.
What can we, the people do to change the outcome? Let us pledge to foster an environment of unity and peace. Let all people of good faith pledge to circumvent the news cycle, the cynicism, the political cold-war waging behind the scenes, through acts of kindness and words of peace. Let us pledge to share those thoughts and ideas that speak to that part of our brains that open up to trust and peace, not fight and flight. We can hack our collective mindset by speaking peace — not “our brand” of ideological peace, but a peace that transcends ideology. We, the people, can maintain and promote a more perfect union, not by forcing our will and opinion on others, but by patiently working with one another to promote a common way forward. Let us all (and not only our candidates) pledge to a peaceful transfer of power. Let us all pledge allegiance to a United States of peace. Let us all pledge to a patient, long term, intellectually robust, compassionate, and straightforwardly honest effort to maintain those noble values set forth in the preamble to the Constitution — to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. These values are agreeable to all.