Happy Fourth of July!
Last week's abortion decision rocked our country to its core. Six of the nine justices voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 50-year precedent that caused thirteen abortion trigger laws to go into effect. Some individuals felt deceived about the ruling and now question the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court. Presidents typically choose judicial candidates who are law scholars and share their political affiliations and philosophies. In 2016, Mitch McConnel, former Senate Majority Leader, blocked President Obama from filling the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy with Merrick Garland, a judge that is historically known for being a moderate.
However, years later, he confirmed three justices during Trump's administration. Justices are supposed to be nonpartisan and have the interest of the American people. The Justices of the Supreme Court of the U.S. are required to take two oaths, the constitutional, and the judicial oath, in order to execute their judicial duties. The Constitution Oath states the following:
“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
But June 23rd's decision informed many of us otherwise because it showed loyalty to party over country. Those six justices ruled in favor of the minority. For example, in presidential elections, the majority does not rule. Presidents like George Bush and Donald Trump won their presidencies because of the Electoral College. The popular vote applies in local and state elections because it is one person, one vote.
For the past fourteen years, there has been a shift in our country's climate. People are now speaking aloud the whispers of the past. State legislatures are passing voting laws and redistricting maps to suppress voter access. Many fear what will happen next, so the question I have for you is: Is our Democracy dead or alive?
First, let's discuss what Democracy is. So Democracy derives from the Greek word dēmokratia. Demos means "people," and kratos means "rule." This form of government started in Greece during the 5th century. In the U.S., we have an indirect democracy, or a representative democracy, in which citizens elect officials to develop laws and create on their behalf.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate the 246th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, a document adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Almost a month prior, on June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress chose Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to draft the declaration of independence.
Thomas Jefferson, the primary composer of this document, stated the following:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness."
The colonists were dissatisfied with the treatment they received from the British and decided to rebel. They embraced the slogan "no taxation without representation” to express their dissatisfaction with paying unfair taxes. They felt voiceless and ultimately wanted their independence from Great Britain.
The French and Indian War initiated the dissension between the colonists and Great Britain. During the mid-1700s, Britain and France were looking to expand their territories. Both countries wanted the Ohio River Valley region. In 1754, the war began with Great Britain between France and its Native American allies in Pennsylvania. Seven years later, the British, French, and Spanish signed the Treaty of Paris to end the war. Under this agreement, the British gained Canada from the French and Florida from the Spanish.
Although this was an excellent win for Great Britain, it incurred massive debt. King George III and parliament felt that the colonists should be partially financially responsible for repaying the debt. Here are some major events that led to the American Revolution:
1. The Stamp Act
2. The Townsend Acts
3. The Boston Massacre
4. The Boston Tea Party
From 1773-83, the colonists and Great Britain fought the Revolutionary War. On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington in Yorktown. Almost two years later, Benjamin Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris, officially ending the war on September 3, 1783.
Four years later, on September 17, 1787, the Constitution was ratified and influenced by the scholars and intellects from the Enlightenment Period and the Iroquois Confederacy. The Bill of Rights, the second part of this living document, expresses that rights are given by God and not by the government. Unalienable rights are self-limiting and should never be disregarded. They wrote the Constitution during a time when not everyone received equal rights.
Every day it seems that the government is slowly chiseling away our fundamental human rights, forcing many of us to decide what we actually want for our country. Do we want to live in a democratic or authoritarian government? Midterms are coming soon, and elections have consequences. Remember, if everyone cannot vote, our Democracy cannot work effectively. Freedom for some is not freedom for all. To ensure our founding fathers' visions, we must take heed of George Washington's words during his farewell address:
"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty."
Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, believed that the country's power was in the individual states and not the federal government. Furthermore, he stated that they created this country for white men. Years prior, on July 5, 1852, at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, Abolitionist Frederick Douglass responded about being asked to speak at the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society about the importance of celebrating independence day by saying,
"Fellows citizens, pardon me and allow me to ask, why am I called to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to us? And am I therefore called upon to bring our humble offering to the national alter and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to those questions."
Although that speech happened over one hundred years ago, the sentiments still apply today. It is sometimes difficult to be loyal to a country that sometimes mistreats you. Although the love for this country still exists, just like James Baldwin said, "I have that right to criticize her." To become an agent of change, you should follow Killer Mike's lead by plotting, planning, strategizing, organizing, or mobilizing to ensure a better future for all.