On July 4th, 1776, 239 years ago, a new nation was created based upon an idea of rule by the people. This was radical and the starting point of a great experiment in social contracting wherein rules led citizens not rulers.
We have seen over the past week our vision of democracy at work providing the world a grand view on how a three-branch system of government, conceived to protect our citizenry from absolute power, was made manifest through rulings of the Supreme Court.
Whether you agree or disagree with the high court on the issues it has reviewed, you must acknowledge it has succeeded in performing its particular duties by evaluating laws passed by Congress and signed by the President and examining how our constitution works when presented with modern societal concerns.
Those who crafted our constitution were keenly aware that what they were about to develop and eventually launch had been discussed for years prior– with no motivation to actually attempt a true democratic state anywhere else in the world. Why? Because giving people the ability to rule would cause problems mostly due to our inability to agree, put aside our own immediate interests and our seemingly natural instinct to fight one another.
Our founding fathers had great courage to try and implement a new system of government; one where conflict could occur but through rationale processing would be dealt with and eventually accepted by one-side or the other. Our constitution was a promise of people who lived under tyranny. They wanted to secure the blessings of liberty. But it is also interesting to note that the constitution doesn’t even mention the word democracy.
At the conclusion of the Constitution Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have you wrought?” He answered, “…a Republic, if you can keep it.” As a country, the Declaration of Independence was the promise, the constitution was the fulfillment (this last sentence is written in the inside cover of a copy of the Constitution that sits on my desk given to me by the 111th Congress in 2009).
As the inheritors of this democracy, we each have a fundamental duty to participate whether through the exchange of our vote on Election Day, or, as is more common today, signing online petitions or just making our voices heard. We must be present.
And we should never take for granted our ability to be involved in the political process. Our futures depend on it.
For me as a child, coming on one of the first "Freedom Flights" (Viaje de Libertad) escaping a communist regime, I am grateful for the promise of what we are and what we have to offer each other. My family came with one suitcase, little money, cautious optimism and yet a sense of wonder about the possibilities that laid ahead. My journey and transformation into America was underway and I ( like so many other immigrants ) would soon accept and embrace my new country with open arms. Just as she welcomed us all into this land of liberty.
Sure we have our warts and all, but each day we are another step closer to the perfect ideals of the greatest experiment in the history of mankind. America really is an oasis in the desert, a shining light of cultures, traditions, races and we are truly the land of the proud and the brave.
Before our constitution was adopted, the Articles of Confederation called us a League of Friendship. We have grown to become an American family where we may disagree at times but know how to stay together at the end of the day.
John Marshal said about our constitution, “…a constitution, intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” For some, progress or changes constitute crisis, but we shall endure and move forward. Because we are America.
As a collective, a Tabula Rasa – we are authors of our own character, or to put it another way, we are equals. And as equals we must continue to press forward to keep this experiment alive in order to prove to the world, what was once considered impossible, government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth and continue to thrive here at home and across the globe.
Happy Fourth of July! God bless America!
Dn. Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey and President of Independent Cities Association representing 50 cities and over 7 million residents. He came to America as a 6-year-old, escaping the communist regime of Cuba. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com