The future is never guaranteed. It is a product of many forces created by many people with differing agendas. It’s also a product of diligence and hard work by those who are affected.
While the Constitution set down a firm outline for how the U.S. should be governed, that original vision has always been subject to a great deal of push and pull. That’s to be expected. There is no set script. What unfolds is dynamic, ever changing.
The point is this: The future is in someone’s hands. If it’s not in our hands, someone else will be glad to take hold of the reins and shape the future to fit their needs, desires, priorities.
The Constitution sets a framework for self-government, but that requires each of us accepting our responsibilities as citizens.
To do that, each of us must decide what’s important to us, what should be in place to provide the kind of society and nation we regard as optimal for ourselves and our families.
Here is the question each of us must answer:
What are the basic conditions, perks, priorities, entitlements, services — it doesn’t really matter what you call them — that the set of institutions and organizations collectively known as government, is responsible for providing the citizens of this country?
While you’re thinking about this, the following constitutes what we here at the NEAR Foundation consider the most basic and primary building blocks of a functioning society:
Air. We don’t mean just air. We mean clean air that doesn’t choke us, make our eyes water or create the conditions for cancer. Seems fundamental. Amazing how often it’s overlooked.
Water. Again we are talking about clean water. Not Evian or Poland Springs. But water that we can drink, bathe in, cook with, irrigate our gardens with. The human body is over 75% water. Without a constant supply of healthful water, we become dust.
Food. Sustaining life is pretty basic. Famished or dead people don’t do well. And we don’t think this should be frivolously interpreted. Yes, we can eat dog chow. But we are proposing good nutritious food that supports healthy development and healthful sustenance. This is not too much to ask.
Education. Maybe first and foremost, we need to know, understand, think, and learn how to go about knowing, understanding and thinking. Lacking education a person cannot properly function as a social, economic or political being — an ignoramus cannot begin to participate in society or fully contribute as a citizen.
Health and Basic Health Care. Why is this so contentious? Being sick is a drag. It’s personally a drag, it’s a drag on those closest to us, it’s a drag on the economy. There are no winners when people are sick. To have a fruitful, functioning society, we must be at our best — physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, socially, politically, intellectually. When we are physically sick, everything else is compromised.
Safety and Security. This is a big one. Excluding items under other categories, like non-toxic air to breathe and food that doesn’t poison us, there are many areas which through our government we safeguard ourselves as citizens. A person should be able to walk down the street, or sit in a park or their back yard, without fear of being attacked, molested, robbed, raped, murdered. We should be able to be in our homes or work places knowing that a poorly maintained commercial airliner or a missile launched from North Korea won’t crash into our roof and incinerate us. We should be able to use a microwave oven without it exploding in our faces. We should be able to drive across a bridge without it collapsing underneath us. Related to that, we should be confident that everyone on the road knows how to operate their motor vehicles. If our house catches on fire, we should be able to count on firemen coming to put it out. The list goes on and on. You get the idea.
Equality Before The Law. The law is the law. It shouldn’t play favorites. No one is more or less important before the law. Violate the law, there will be penalties. Violate another human being, that person will have remedies in a court of law. It doesn’t matter if you’re Angelina Jolie or Donald Trump or Barack Obama. “Justice” is portrayed as holding a scale and blindfolded. And so it should be.
Opportunity. Opportunity comes in many flavors and is not unlimited. Everyone cannot be President of the United States. Not at the same time for sure. And impediments always are being erected to our realizing our individual potential. All too often they’re internal — defeatism, low self-esteem. So the last thing we need are more barriers from without. When a society erects barriers based on class status, wealth, ethnic identity, religious belief, sexual orientation, and so on, it becomes fragmented and loses its vitality. It can become hostile and end up at war with itself. We have on the books right now legislation and constitutional amendments to discourage this. It’s time we lived up to the language and spirit of these laws.
Democracy. Who gets to run the country? We were under the impression it was each and every one of us, participating on an equal footing. One person = one vote. It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s who’s got the cash. So are we going to have a democratic republic or an oligarchic tyranny? Democracy seems like a good idea to us.
Freedom. Freedom has its limits. But it should constantly expand until it reaches those limits. What kind of freedom? To dress, speak, sing, dance, live, love, worship, socialize, assemble, organize as we see fit, respecting the rights of others to do the same. It’s in the Constitution. This should not be rocket science. And it should be on everyone’s mind and part of every discussion about our nation. Freedom requires constant vigilance. It requires an ongoing adult conversation, no holds barred, no nonsense. The alternative is division, racism, conflict, disintegration, civil war, or totalitarianism.
These are the most basic building blocks.
What will it be? Can we construct a future that makes sense?
Can we fashion a future where we respect our differences and get along?
Can we build a future where we all get to share equally in the vast wealth and resources of our nation?
We think we can. In fact, we’re sure we can!
One way we can begin right now is getting our elected representatives to start listening to and taking orders from us, the people who vote them to office. If you haven’t already, take our national referendum and tell us which issues are most important to you in shaping the America you want. What will happen then is explained here in detail.
For just taking a few minutes to take this poll, you’ll receive a free copy of the NEAR Foundation book Vote Like You Mean It.