Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Keeping a Republic

After the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked what had come out of it.  Franklin famously answered, "A Republic, if you can keep it."
The first Constitutional Convention was truly an amazing things.  Thirteen sovereign nations brought their shared goals and some knowledge of English Common Law to the table and created a set of laws like no other.  An independent judiciary.  A free press.  Checks on the executive branch's power.  No state established religion.  The right of private citizens to bear arms.  Fair treatment to those accused of crimes.  Rights guaranteed to the state governments.  And, as time went on, these protections expended to include the creation of the electoral college, the abolition of slavery, equal protection and voting rights for all citizens, and term limits for our head of state.  The Constitution of the United States of America has truly been one of our treasures for 230 years.
Is it coming to an end?
Last Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven different countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and the Sudan).  It applied to all immigrants from those countries, even those who had green cards or US passports.  People flying in from those nations when the order was signed were either detained at airports, instantly deported, or removed from flights.  Americans protested in airports from New York to DC to Chicago the Boston to Philadelphia.  Others sued in federal court.  By the next night, a federal judge in Brooklyn had declared a partial stay on the order for those who had already arrived, and ordered them released from detention.  Three more federal courts followed suit.  Checks and balances ruled the day.  And there was much rejoicing.

It didn't last.
By Monday, we learned that Customs and Border Patrol were defying the judicial orders in favor of the executive order (which had effectively been overturned by the court.)  Moreover, they were denying the detainees access to attorneys and advocates.  Several members of Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, attempted to intervene on the detainees' behalf, but were also turned away.  By Monday night, the acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, was fired by the president for refusing to defend his executive order.
Somehow, none of this looks like my idea of "making America great again."
This series of events started with immigration and has gone on to be an attack on the very foundations of our government.  We have always prided ourselves on our smooth transitions of power, our checks and balances.  However, those checks and balances seem to be on life support.  Our freedoms are in jeopardy, as the president muzzles government agencies and his office presents "alternative facts" (how Orwellian).  Protestors are derided as "snowflakes" and "sore losers."  And the freedoms that we take for granted are being denied to those who have already been granted access.
It's time to ask ourselves: Can we keep this Republic?

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