Because it has become so fashionable to sign pledges, compacts, and avow other forms of binding commitment, it might benefit us to consider making some promises based on patriotism rather than partisanship and opportunism. Please consider the following for what it is worth. These are promises one makes to oneself. They are promises we keep to each other, for our children, our parents, and any American we have ever loved, and for the Republic ordained and established more than 220 years ago.
The Patriot’s Promises
“As a patriotic American, I promise to uphold and advance governance of the United States as a Republic effectively exercising the powers enumerated and implied in its Constitution as written and amended. I promise to conduct all my civic and political efforts on the premise that we are not enemies, but friends, whose bonds of affectionate citizenship must not be broken. I promise to listen to the mystic chords of memory stretching from the graves of young Americans encircling the globe to every heart and home and touching the better angels of our nature to swell a rousing chorus of unity. I promise that I will advocate policies and programs of charity for all and malice toward none and work relentlessly to bind up the nation’s wounds and care for those who have borne the brunt of its many battles. I promise to champion the cause of widows, orphans, the downtrodden, and the dispossessed. I hereby solemnly affirm that this nation conceived in freedom and dedicated to the premise and promise of human equality will one day fully actualize the true meaning of its creed as one nation, indivisible, with liberty, equity, and prosperity for all.“
Making these promises is one thing, but keeping them through one’s actions might be another. What are some things each of us could do on a daily basis to keep the “Patriots’ Promises.”
First, be part of the solution or you are inevitably part of the problem. One should always remember the Republic is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. If one is dissatisfied with governance in the Republic, one could learn how to improve matters and follow through instead of cynically trashing some alien entity called the government and poisoning the public discourse with snide, flippant, fallacious, nonsensical vehemence.
Second, serve the Republic and our country not oneself or rabid factions. Governance requires action and the just powers of the Republic deserve effective use. The Founders and Framers knew they had a right and a duty to provide new guards for their future security. The Framers of the Republic wanted it to have and exercise the powers they gave it to achieve the purposes they stipulated in the Preamble. Therefore, we, the People, must insist that those elected to govern cooperate in the structure of separated powers so that the Republic can function as intended. People elected to office have a duty to govern, not to campaign or quarrel amongst themselves and thus, paralyze the Republic. We must not only think they should govern effectively, we must tell them to do so with letters, email messages, and phone calls.
Third, loyalties divided will not stand, united we soar, but divided we stall. We must avoid any solemn commitments expressed orally or in written form that compromise or impinge in any way our sacred duty as citizens to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic and bear true faith and allegiance to the Republic. We inherit this obligation at birth and bear it until we die. As freedom is our American birthright, allegiance is our inherited responsibility. Lately, too many of us act as though this responsibility can be delegated to others. It cannot. “It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work thus far so nobly advanced; it is imperative for us to highly resolve to complete the great task remaining before us.” We must no forfeit our birthright or shirk our inherited responsibility. In spite of the many attractions and distractions, no substitute exists for informed, involved, insistent citizen activism.
Fourth, practice a healthy skepticism and perform due diligence. Refrain from believing and forwarding the lies, smears, and bigoted remarks that so widely circulate today about individual citizens or particular groups. Gossip and rumor mongering flourish because too many of us participate, however, slightly. Our fellow citizens are our equals and we should not assist any attempts to deny, diminish, or obscure this civic truth. The diminution of anyone’s citizenship diminishes everyone’s citizenship. American citizenship is our most precious attribute and we must not allow any opportunists to drive wedges among the citizenry due to variations of color, creed, cultural heritage, gender, sexual orientation or other accidents of birth.
Fifth, hype, hits, hyperbole, and histrionics are noise, not proof. Use our current unprecedented access to information to vet negative or incendiary assertions in broadcasts, periodicals, blogs, emails, or mailings. Always remember that distortion, spin, error and outright malice often masquerade as news coverage or considered opinion. Before giving one’s assent to the latest headline, chain email, or high volume screed, do a few minutes research and look for credible corroboration. Allegations of a political nature can be checked by visiting http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/ and http://factcheck.org/. These sites examine a myriad of political remarks, charges, and claims on diverse topics by various political sources. They do so in an evenhanded manner. For general rumors and ravings, one should check with http://www.snopes.com/snopes.asp. These are not the only places to visit, but they provide a good start. We cannot flawlessly prevent the dissemination of hateful, distorted, bogus, and biased information. We can ensure that we are not taken in by it and do not spread the contagion to others by thoughtlessly forwarding or repeating the rubbish so often offered as information today.
Sixth, remember and proclaim that actions speak louder than words. If political candidates or entire parties campaign on specific themes and ignore these themes when elected, call them to account. In 2010, for example, Republicans on a national and at state levels emphasized jobs and economic recovery as the centerpiece of their campaigns. After winning majorities in the House of Representatives and many state legislatures, these officials targeted programs they do not like for ideological reasons, attacked unions and collective bargaining, tampered with voting regulations, ranted against abortion and Planned Parenthood, and turned the routine increase of the federal debt ceiling into a worsening national crisis. Whenever any politicians say one thing incessantly and do something else persistently, we the people must hold them to account for their gaining of office under false pretenses. If we allow campaigns to deceive us and get away with it, we have nobody to blame but ourselves for dysfunctional, rabidly partisan government. Among ourselves and among those we elect hypocrisy and pretense serve no useful purpose. These ignoble behaviors divide us instead of unifying us and they foster the spread of a corrosive cynicism that is the equivalent of liver cancer in the body politic. As in human beings so in human societies, such a disease has a high mortality rate when not detected and defeated in the early stages.
Seventh, winning an argument without finding the truth is a Pyrrhic victory for only the truth keeps us free. Focus on rationality and clarity when discussing political or social issues. These things truly matter. Flippancy or deviousness have no proper place here. Do not seek to win arguments. Strive to find the truth and promote understanding. If disagreements are unavoidable, ensure they are based on factual matters and susceptible to rational resolution. The future of our children and our country depend on the aggregated understanding of the citizenry. Bring your best efforts and your best intentions to civic issues and political matters, nothing less will fulfill the office of patriot.
Eighth, never forget leadership is doing the right thing; fools and cowards prefer what is easy. Choose to do that which is right even if it is hard rather than that which is easy although it is wrong. As in all other aspects of life, what goes around comes around. In political and civic matters the apparent easy way out is usually the portal to eventual calamity. Do the right thing once you are confident what that is. In this way, you will earn the gratitude of men and women and of generations yet unborn.
Ninth, America is a pledge to keep, not a fortress to isolate. Demonstrate an uncompromising fidelity to all that is noble and worthy in America’s history, traditions, principles, and purposes. Do not deny or minimize the mistakes, injustices, blind spots, and shortcomings of the past. Acknowledge them and resolve to do all you can that they shall be historic exceptions rather than ongoing occurrences. The Republic has a noble set of aspirations. Our job as patriotic citizens is to more fully realize these aspirations and thereby, perfect our cherished unity.
Tenth, the only things we have to fear is fear itself and people intent on stoking it. Surmount all fear and scorn all thought of surrender when truth and right are imperiled. If we do not stand for the true and the right as we know it, then who will do so. If we do not make the effort when it is our time, when will the effort be made. “Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” If due to timidity or other factors we allow injustice and deception to win the day, we will at some future date look into the worried faces of those we love and have to acknowledge, even if only to ourselves, we could have made a difference, but lacked the courage to try and the resolution to persist. For me, that eventuality is unacceptable. Whatever others may choose, I will stand up and speak out now.
Eleventh, we are the US in USA. Work relentlessly in large matters and small ones to perfect our Republic as an engine of governance of, by, and for the people dedicated to asserting and achieving the principles of comprehensive liberty, equity, equality, and prosperity for all who share the honored name - American citizen. “No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. [A. Lincoln December 1, 1862]” As it was one hundred and forty-nine years ago, so it is now, we cannot escape history.
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Is there a world you long to see?
For the wretched of the earth,
There is a flame that never dies.
Throw off the darkening night, Citizens Arise!