Anyone who follows the news even superficially recognizes that America is at a watershed of sorts.
Intellectually honest people know that we frequently haven’t lived up to the ideals of our founding–“liberty and justice for all” has been and remains tantalizingly elusive. I would argue, however, that so long as we at least aspire to the values of liberty and equality, so long as we recognize when we fall short, and try to address those failures, the country is moving in the right direction.
We fought a Civil War over the idea of equal human worth. As we are seeing, that war–and the debate over that idea–isn’t over. The Americans who voted for Donald Trump, who endorsed his attacks on immigrants, who “overlooked” his encouragement of the so-called “alt-right,” applauded his vitriol against Muslims and elevated him to an office for which he was manifestly unfit, did so because those sentiments resonated with them. They are the philosophical heirs of the slavery apologists and the thugs who beat and killed civil rights workers.
The good news is that the rest of us aren’t going along with this effort to define “American” as White Christian.
The most gratifying response to the election has been the enormous groundswell of civic engagement by people who had not previously been politically active. Marches and protests haven’t been confined to the big, blue cities like New York or San Francisco; businesses and churches and nonprofit organizations have spoken out forcefully against the re-emergence of the KKK and Nazis, and in opposition to Trump’s heartless decision to rescind protections for the Dreamers. New organizations have been formed–in Indiana, Women4Change, created in November after the election, has some 14,000 members. “Resistance” chapters dot the national landscape.
I recently came across another of those new efforts, Declaration 17.
Declaration 17 is an open alliance of private individuals who have joined in opposition, challenge and resistance to the policies and practices of President Trump.
Our goal is to rekindle public commitment to the founding documents that first articulated America’s core values.
If you share our faith in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the core American values we hold to be self-evident, please add your name and stand with us in opposition.
I don’t know how robust this particular effort is, but I really like the fact that it is emphasizing what makes us American–and what makes us American is not the color of our skin, not the God we worship (or don’t), not the geography of our birth. What makes an American is allegiance to the values of those founding documents.
Those of us who understand America in that way are engaged in a struggle against people who want to change the very essence of our system, who want to define Americans by their identity rather than by their willingness to embrace this country’s principles and values. They are a loud and destructive minority, but they are a minority.
As the description of Declaration 17 puts it,
We want the people to have hope—not despair. We want the people to remember that throughout our history, when America’s values have been threatened from without or within, we have prevailed in upholding those core values—and we will prevail again.