Living the American Dream
By: Abby Twyman | December 27, 2019
A professional colleague of mine posted an article the other day which argued all American's should take time to re-read the Constitution. Let's be honest - the last time you read it was in your U.S. History class - and even that may be a stretch. Cliff Notes anyone?? Given that I have an interest in how we are doing as a country and a world in regard to attaining the ultimate goal of peace on earth, I got curious about what I might find in the Constitution in relation to this topic. It was absolutely FASCINATING, so I wanted to share it with you all.
The Constitution begins with the preamble which can be thought of as a vision statement. It's what the founders of our country essentially agreed was the foundation on which this Union was going to be based. There are five values that have acted as goal-posts for our country, (1) justice, (2) domestic tranquility, (3) common defense, (4) general welfare, and (5) liberty for self and future generations. As I re-read the constitution, I began to consider what these values mean for us as individuals, families, and communities worldwide.
If we were to explore and analyze the data since the inception of this country, what story could we tell about where we've been and where we are today? This article is the first action I'm taking to further explore this idea. I wanted to start with a discussion of the 5 core values of America and where we might look for additional information about how we're doing in regard to living these ideals.
Let's first take a look at Justice. When things are just, that means they are fair and reasonable. At the point when things become unfair or unreasonable, the Constitution provides for the administration of the law in order to reestablish justice. The two main systems responsible for this are our social justice and criminal justice systems. The administration of justice is conducted within our court system and is typically personified as a blindfolded woman with scales and a sword. As laws are implemented, the justice system provides a means to both impart justice and provide feedback on the justness of the laws themselves. When issues are identified, how does congress act to rectify them?
The ideal of domestic tranquility generally refers to maintaining peace between the states but really applies all the way to down to peace at home as this is at the core of all our domestic lives. If our homes are not tranquil, we will not be able to create or maintain tranquility outside of our homes. Laws and social programs related to domestic and substance abuse come to mind when I think of systems within our country that are concerned with ensuring domestic tranquility in our homes. Additionally, issues around domestic terrorism and maintenance of peace within our communities are areas of concern related to domestic tranquility within and between states.
In the 2018 report Providing for the Common Defense: A Promise Kept to the American Taxpayer, our country's current approach to exemplifying this value is clearly laid out. The report includes phrases such as, "weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unquestioned strength is the most certain means of defense" and "we will ensure we never send America’s sons and daughters into a fair fight". The goals include (1) building a more lethal force, (2) strengthening alliances, and (3) improving performance and accountability, with the majority of resources being dedicated to the first goal. Does being more lethal really make us stronger as a nation and adequately protect the citizen from short- and long-term harm? Are there other actions we could take that would increase our strength?
The promotion of general welfare means that the government is responsible for providing the conditions in which all citizens can be healthy and safe. This applies to a range of issues including education, healthcare, food and drug safety, food security, economic stability, environmental protection, childcare, emergency services, etc. Without these safeguards, our citizens would be a greater risk of harm both in the long- and short-term. We all understand at a basic level that many of these things are critical to our survival as individuals, but ultimately they're critical components of our survival as a species.
And finally, Liberty, the iconic symbol of what it means to live the American dream. As a concept, it implies the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals as well as freedom from slavery, serfdom, imprisonment, and despotism. Its inclusion in the Preamble provides for the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship for all citizens now and in the future. After reading the article, How Free Are We Really? by Priyamvada Gopal of the University of Cambridge, however, I started to consider Liberty as an American ideal. In reality, how free are we as people? Do you feel free in every aspect of your life? Are there aspects of yourself you do not feel free to express for fear of being exposed to pain and suffering at the mouths and hands of others? Could we more fully live this value in our thoughts, words, and actions?
As a set of values and a vision for the future of this country, justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and liberty are great ideals on which we as governers of ourselves should strive to base decisions. In regard to our personal mission of creating a more peaceful world, they also seem like a good starting point for looking at our current state of being so we can both understand where we are in relation to the ideal as well as map out a path in the direction of those ideals with specific goals and objectives. If you are interested in being involved in the gathering and analysis of data related to the development of a more peaceful world, please reach out and let us know.