No, You Cannot Have Your Country Back

I want my country back!

That was the hue and cry of the Tea Party movement in the summer of 2009. Many Republicans heard the call, dug their heels in and stood against anything that the Obama administration wanted to do. Today those people lost a bit more of “their country” when President Barack Obama signed into law the most sweeping social welfare legislation of the past 45 years. There are already states attorneys-general lined up to challenge the constitutionality of the law. I think those men, the Tea Party Movement and the Republican Party have lost sight of what America is.

There are those quick to throw the Constitution in our face when we ask government to take more responsibility for the welfare of our citizens. What these people conveniently ignore is that the Constitution is not the end of our country, it is the start of it, the opening ground rules so to speak.  Our founding fathers recognized that they could not predict every contingency that would influence the course of our nation. Hence Article V of the Constitution allows for amendments to be made to it. In addition to those amendments our country is governed by federal, state and local  legislation. This is how a civilized society operates, with a written code of order.  The Framers had the wisdom to define some specifics but to know that some latitude was needed to ensure the nation could evolve. In particular, the Framers knew the importance of distinguishing between a right and a privilege and they made sure that the Constitution could not be used to abridge the rights of our citizens. The ninth amendment states:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

via Bill of Rights Transcript.

Furthermore, our Declaration of Independence made it clear which fundamental rights our founding fathers believed in:

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

via Declaration of Independence – Transcript.

It is to the extent that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been advanced in this country, that we have fulfilled the promise of our founders. What makes our country arguably the greatest country in civilized history is our ability to evolve, our ability to recognize when we have wronged our citizens and then correct that wrong. What makes our country great is that against the tide of cynics who wish to protect their own comfort and safety, we have enacted legislation that protects the vulnerable. We have a rich history of making this country fair for all people, whether it was freeing blacks from slavery, to giving women the vote, we have time and time again taken a nation built by and for Christian white men and expanded it to be the most inclusive nation on the face of the Earth.

Today’s health insurance reform legislation, while far from perfect, takes us another step in that direction. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi gave a concrete example on the floor of the House Sunday night. How can we be free to pursue the American Dream if we cannot change jobs for fear of losing our health insurance? This country, without health insurance reform, restricts the liberty of its people. Insurance reform is consistent with this nation’s commitment to protect its people. Life threatening illness is not consistent with life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.  A country in which only the rich can enjoy the “privilege” of good health flies in the face of the very fundamental rights our founding fathers delineated. Therefore access to health care is not a privilege, it is a right and it must be protected by our federal government.

Today was a step toward  answering the call of the Tea Party movement and the Republicans. Today we said:

If you want a country where the rich only get richer and the poor only get poorer then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where the noble concept of self-reliance is used as an excuse to ignore those in need through no fault of their own then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where the middle class and poor can be bankrupted by illness because it’s just not your problem then
No, you cannot have your country back!

If you want a country where morality takes a back seat to political expediency then
No, you cannot have your country back!

The truth is that you really started to lose “your country” on January 1, 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect. While very limited in scope, this was the first document to really redefine what liberty meant in this country.  It is sad that so many of you have still not seen the light more than 140 years later. You still do not recognize that it is America’s heart that makes it unique among civilized countries. Our country at its best recognizes and encourages the contributions of all its citizens and every legislative milestone that makes it more likely that more Americans succeed is a victory for all of us.

So Tea Party member, Republican, Conservative, status quo lover, you cannot have your country back because your county is not the “real” America. The real America is a country that constantly strives to be a more perfect union. Today’s signing of health insurance reform into law marked another step in progressing toward that goal.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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