Where are we, the people? | News, Sports, Jobs


I have long argued that the most important text in American history is the First Amendment.

Without this amendment’s protections of a free press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to peaceful assembly, as I have long said, nothing else matters. Take away any of these things and Congress or the President could drag us into tyranny, more easily deprive us of other freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.

Although these words remain of great importance, I no longer consider them the most important.

No, this distinction belongs rather to the first three words of the Constitution:

We.

The.

People.

Not only did these three words immediately invest all the power of the American government in the voters, not the elected officials, but they also established the American ideal that we all need each other for our nation to prosper.

We.

Not me.

People.

Not nobody.

We the People, in order to form a more perfect union…

Union.

No disunity.

The declaration of independence was signed by 56 patriots. Can you imagine what would have happened if only one had signed? Or if these 56 had each signed their own declaration?

If the coronavirus crisis has shown us anything, it should have been this truth that we too often forget, that we need each other.

The need for our doctors, nurses and paramedics and our public health officials became evident, of course. But we also needed our neighbors who went shopping for our neighbors who were afraid to go out, grocery clerks who still showed up for work every day, butchers, farmers and factory workers who followed their tasks to make sure we could always buy what we needed to buy.

If not for our sustenance, we have learned how much we need each other for our happiness and our sanity. God didn’t create solitary animals when he created the human race, and all those days cooped up in our homes showed many of us just how crazy we could get without meaningful human interaction.

For some people, the pandemic has triggered an inherent instinct to take shelter, dig a hole in the ground, and stockpile food and supplies for the coming apocalypse.

Many of these people think they don’t need anyone.

Very few of them are correct.

Maybe they grew their own food in a garden and hunted, but someone had to make their gardening tools, their bullets, their rifle. Someone else made the backpack they use as a backpack, the plastic bins they use to store their supplies, the sheets, bedding, and the bed they put in their bunker underground. Someone else made the concrete that lines the walls of the bunker.

There’s nothing wrong with living like a survivalist. I’m just saying you didn’t do it alone.

We.

The.

People.

Too many people these days are all clinging to our individual freedoms. My freedom of choice, of movement, of speech, of religion, whatever. My freedom to pursue happiness.

We forget that the freedoms of others matter too, just as precious and worth protecting as our own. We forget that if we push our freedoms too far, they inevitably begin to encroach on those of others.

We forget that this is where our rights end, and that line is called compromise, civility and society.

This line is called a republic.

And we forget that when all our rights are protected – not just the rights of some – we all end up better.

When our neighbors prosper, we prosper.

Look, for example, at the charts showing income inequality and the growth of US economic output by decades. The years of our nation’s greatest economic gains—from the 1940s through the 1980s, when gross domestic product regularly topped 6%, 7%, sometimes better than 10%—were also the years of least income inequality, when personal wealth of the highest earners grew at roughly the same rate as the median and lowest earners.

When the wealth of high earners began to grow exponentially faster than that of the lowest earners, gross domestic product began to stagnate.

In short, the nation does better when we all do better.

So let’s start supporting each other again, instead of opposing half of our compatriots.

Let’s make us, the people, America’s number one idol once again.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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