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Binding words for Americans

By Alan Caruba
web posted July 1, 2002

U.S. President George W. Bush leads a classroom in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance
U.S. President George W. Bush leads a classroom in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance

The importance of the words that bind Americans together was seen in the uproar following a court judgement that "under God" was unconstitutional and should be struck from the Pledge of Allegiance. America was not founded by atheists for atheists.

The words of the Constitution recognize the right of all religions to exist and to be freely exercised, but not the right of the state to require religion is a requirement of citizenship. You can be an atheist in America, but you do not have the right to insist that everyone else ignore God.

Some sage once noted that America is the only nation that was founded on the basis of words. Tribes did not found this nation. No king proclaimed its existence. We are nation held together by a framework of words in our Declaration of Independence and, most importantly, the Constitution.

Federalist Paper No. 15 noted that "In a free government, the security for civil rights must be the same as for religious rights," declaring that "Justice is the end of government." Meaning it is the purpose of government. The authors of the Federalist Papers were John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Together, they produced 85 papers advocating the acceptance of the Constitution.

Thereafter, many people have striven to express what America represents. On July 4th and every other day of the year, we need to remind ourselves of the precious freedoms we enjoy and of the constant threat to those freedoms that exists.

Thornton Wilder noted that the Founding Fathers "did not only leave the old world, they repudiated it. Americans start from scratch." That Old World was run by monarchs and despots. The new one, while including many nations that now have elections, is still filled with far too many in which the voice of the people has no power whatever.

Adlai Stevenson said, "America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact-the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality."

"If you expect people to be ignorant and free, you expect what never was and never will be," said Thomas Jefferson.

The message was repeated in every generation. William Henry Harrison said, "We admit of no government by divine right, the only legitimate right to govern is an express grant of power from the governed."

Wendell Phillips said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Gen. Douglas McArthur said, "The inescapable price of liberty is an ability to preserve it from destruction."

In his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, "The world is different now. For humans hold in their mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet, the same revolutionary faith for which our forebears fought is still at issue around the globe-the belief that the rights of humanity come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."

Humanity was on the mind of Archibald MacLeish who wrote, "There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream."

Alan Caruba writes "Warning Signs", a weekly column posted on www.anxietycenter.com, the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. (c) Alan Caruba, 2002

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