Exhale, America. Now, steady yourself.
We have the mixed blessing of living in interesting times. It is too tempting not to quote from the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’ mid-nineteenth century novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness … ” as the results of the midterm election were full of hope and horror, celebration and dismay for our freedom.
But then, perhaps this is as it must be for now, as this is an age in which we are constantly fighting in legislatures and in courtrooms for our civil right to keep and bear arms.
Will Americans look back to this constitutional period and wonder at us with thanks or disappointment? Did we stay in the good fight? Or did we give up by degrees?
When neighbors, friends or acquaintances who don’t follow this topic—or vote with it in mind—ask me about an election, I don’t get into the particulars of any race, at least from the start. I prefer to ask them a question that makes them pause: Do you believe that the rights of the individual, as outlined in the U.S. Bill of Rights, restrict government from infringing upon our protected freedoms?
Given the state of much of our public educational system, I am not surprised that this question stumps a lot of people. But, as it does, it causes them to retreat from talking points, from whatever Facebook link they once clicked on.
As they think, I am careful not to allow them to dodge the question.
Most finally agree the answer is "Yes."
“Ah,” I say, “then whatever your party affiliation, we share the critically important common ground needed to preserve American freedom.”
This surprises them. They expected partisan wrangling; in other words, they expected a sports-fan’s reaction to their team’s games, but instead they got a fundamental question.
This isn’t a dodge from me, either. The basic idea that the U.S. Bill of Rights, in particular, protects each individuals’ rights from government infringement used to be a shared core understanding that allowed Americans of all political persuasions to get along, as they were all beginning from the same vision. They understood that America was designed to be a constitutional republic and, therefore, that even a majority of voters, or of members of Congress for that matter, can’t strip citizens of their protected individual rights; instead, only a constitutional amendment can.
By the way, this shared understanding is why civil-rights struggles in America have largely been about efforts to bring liberty to disenfranchised groups. This is also true today of the legal fights to bring Second Amendment freedom to the parts of America where politicians have infringed upon this basic, natural and constitutionally protected freedom.
Now, if someone doesn’t agree with this most-basic principle of the American constitutional system, I have still highlighted an impasse they can’t hide by virtue-signaling. They have indicated that, in fact, they are so deep in ideology that they live outside of reality.
If they agree, however, as any reasonable person must, then we have established shared ground that is outside of partisan politics.
That this basic truth works on all but the most-devout partisans gives me hope even when a majority of voters have elected a politician who wants to take this freedom from the people.