Constitutionalist No. 2: The Need For A Congress We Can Trust

“(‘The late convention at Philadelphia’) composed of men who possessed the confidence of the people,, and many of whom had become highly distinguished by their patriotism, virtue and wisdom, in times which tried the minds and hearts of men, undertook the arduous task (of creating ‘a national government more wisely framed’). In the mild season of peace, with minds unoccupied by other subjects, they passed many months in cool, uninterrupted, and daily consultation; and finally, without having been awed by power, or influenced by any passions except love for their country, they presented and recommended to the people the plan produced by their joint and unanimous councils.” – Federalist No. 2, by John Jay.

Perhaps part of our biggest problem as a democracy is that we have gotten away from electing public servants who we trust.

Trust is an issue whether you look at the legislative branch, where approval ratings were near 19 percent back in January, or at the executive, where the President has made numerous decisions drawing the ire of Americans, such as his choice to leave the Paris accord last week. We as a nation seem to have lost faith in the patriotism of most of our politicians, a stark contrast from the way it was when America was formed.

Of course that’s partly due to the differing circumstances of the times. Our world was simpler to navigate in the 1700’s, if only because things took more time. Social media obviously wasn’t a thing and information only spread as fast as a rider with a letter could deliver one via horseback, which meant that decisions of government took longer to affect, and responses had to be given more time to be composed. That’s a far cry from now, when the people know of any decision by a government official mere seconds after it was made.

The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of each shall remain largely untouched here, but what I will say is that in dangerous times such as these, the speed of information gives the people new opportunities to make positive changes to their government.

I sincerely believe there is reason to hope for the United States.

When John Jay wrote his portion of The Federalist, there were far fewer senators than now if only because there were fewer states. Yet there have always been temptations which could cause a government official to stray from placing the best interests of the nation first. Those temptations now are at least as numerous as they ever were in Jay’s time, but true patriots do still exist in Congress. These men and women work in a way demonstrative of placing the good of the United States and its people ahead of their own.

I have long marveled at a few of the most readily available examples; men like John McCain, a republican out of Arizona, and Elizabeth Warren, a democrat out of Massachusetts.

I have also of late marveled at the power of the judicial branch of the United States, specifically for its ability to challenge both the executive and legislative branches.

Perhaps the most recently example comes from Monday, when the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed a decision by a lower court, shooting down the redrawing of 28 State House and Senate districts in North Carolina. The lower court had ruled that the districts, drawn in 2011 by the mostly-Republican legislature, were basically racist. They were drawn, the court ruled, with race as a predominate factor without compelling reason, thus violating “equal protection principles,” according to the New York Times.

The combination of strong stances by the courts, and the patriotism of certain members of Congress should give us hope. Hope that true patriots do still exist in our legislative bodies, and that our government can be made, perhaps more than ever, to function for the benefit of everyone, regardless of class, race or gender.

Barack Obama’s election stands as an example of the power we have to bring positive change to our government through voting. We only need wield it.

But we must wield it.

The future of America need not be written by old white men.

We are the generation lawfully able to empower women and minorities in a way no other generation has ever been able to. We can elect members of Congress who believe in this principle. Through technology, we can remind those we elect that this is what we as a culture want and desperately need. We are at a moment when we can make great strides for humanity by passing laws protecting unjustly-minimized populations in our society.

When those politicians don’t listen, we can and must refuse to reelect them.

We must promote those from within our communities who have earned our trust: those who believe in what we believe and will place our nation’s welfare above their own.

We must persist in this pursuit, until Congress again is filled by those who the people can rightly trust to look out for them, not just the wealthy ones.

All of this is lawfully and peaceably in our power, but we must be wise enough to start voting and stop sitting on the sidelines of history. There’s reason to hope and believe in our government, but for that to matter we must be brave enough to lawfully and deliberately act upon it.

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Constitutionalist No. 1: The Introduction

Let me just come out with a question recently on the front of my tongue here lately, uncensored and blunt: Could it be that America is destined to prove democracy can’t in fact work?

Could it be that in 100 years, other countries will be look back on our nation not in the present tense but in the past, as the frayed memory of what was once the world’s foremost military and economic power before it collapsed upon itself? Could we be the one other countries then point to and say “See, our form of government is superior because clearly republican democracy and capitalism can’t work!”

History is rife with examples of governments failing, regardless of the form they took. It teaches that every form of government is at least equally frail as such a hypothetical democracy might have proven in the future to be, but by then that concern would have passed. Self-rule: The idea of a government operated by representatives chosen by and for the people, would have proven unfeasible in the eyes of the larger world, and thus so would the idea of a government based on so many important concepts fundamental to our unique empire, specifically one founded on what the Founding Fathers envisioned as universal equality.

The idea of freedom of speech, an independent-of-state community of journalists, the right to bear arms, the concept of a government both powerful yet limited in power by a written, established order of checks and balances; all those things would be gone, and would serve simply as evidence in a case study against the failed prospect of self-governance within humanity. The idea of a nation by the people and for the people, would have irrevocably proven impossible.

Will we allow ourselves to be the generation historically remembered for allowing this to happen?

Do not mistake my words as hyperbolic. With the election of 2016, the people of the United States chose a president who now leaves the rest of the world concerned about the state of American leadership. Our nation, once a proud light in a dark world, now threatens to depart from the very wax that allowed that candlelight to grow. Our standing as a “melting pot,” a place where the oppressed could find refuge, where the tired, weak, broken and ignored could find safety and shelter, has all been brought into question by the leadership we as a nation have chosen.

In Federalist No. 1, Alexander Hamilton wrote “The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.”

Hamilton published those words regarding the ratification of the U.S. Constitution back in 1787, yet they are equally pertinent today.

Despite the 2016 election, and perhaps because of it, the U.S. is at least as politically divided now as it was back in the 1700’s, as the nation debated whether to become a nation at all. Margaret Sullivan, a media columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote about the plight of the national opinion on politics. She quoted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer as saying “Most Americans absorb Washington news with an approach of ‘wake me up when you stop fighting.'”

Yet we as a nation do not have the luxury of sleeping in until 11 a.m. on this issue. This is not an issue we can take a vacation from, not one which we can set aside like a vegetable we don’t want to eat, like a budget we can wait until September to pass.

This is an issue we must face now. We must, as a public, wake up and discuss our nation’s ideological future as vitally as we confront our individual budgets each day or week or month.

Other issues at hand include questions such as “Is it still noble to be a refuge for immigrants from around the world?” and “Should we commit the necessary resources to welcoming those immigrants?”

The answer to those questions is “yes.”

We as a nation must, I reiterate: must, now look inward and renew our resolve toward being the greatest nation on the planet again, evidenced by our stance toward the oppressed, forgotten, and in need. It IS still noble to be a safe-haven for the tired, and the abandoned of this world. We as a country are built upon the principle of every person’s freedom to pursue Life, Liberty, Happiness, and depending upon your perspective of history, property. It is vital we recommit to preserving these ideals, and evolving the ideal that all men and women are created equal. These are the concepts we are now called upon to recommit to exemplifying. The eyes of eternity will judge us for our next efforts.

The choice we should make is not an easily-executed one. The American citizen, as evidenced by the quote above, is more distrusting of the current government than perhaps ever before in our history.

People don’t vote now because they don’t see the point in voting between two bad options (as evidenced by voter turnout between the 2008 election, when America had  seemingly two good presidential candidates and 2016’s, when many citizens would argue the country had none). People don’t vote now because as the last election demonstrated, the popular vote in America does not necessarily determine the winner of the election because of the whole “electoral college” thing.

People don’t vote anymore because we don’t believe our little vote matters in the national election.

Yet the individual vote’s perceived insignificance is a reason to become MORE involved in the electoral process, not less. With the current results of the recent election, the question lurking below the surface in the people’s subconsciousness might boil down to “Why does what we have matter? With all this political corruption, how can a person say our government is really the best model, or even that the founding concepts were right?”

I believe they are, and henceforth aspire to argue on their behalf.

I have no illusions about the flaws in our government or in the system, I’m not naive. But I am a patriot, one who believes in the ideas of self-rule by and for the people. Above all, I believe our nation is great, not because of the flawed and mortal men and women who may administer our government, but because of the overwhelming principles and the flexible nature of the document all public officials swear to uphold and defend: The United States Constitution. I believe in our overwhelming ability as a citizenry to, when called upon as we are now, to affect change upon even the system itself so it becomes increasingly better with age.

I believe in the justness of the sacrifices so many men have made defending others from oppression on that very Constitution’s behalf, many of whom the Americans will honor tomorrow as part of Memorial Day.

In the coming essays in this series, I seek to make a solid, educated argument to this effect. I seek to answer the questions above, to create an open forum in which we as a public can have a grounded, educated discussion about what the United States does and should stand for, and how best to ensure the unity of the two. I also present consideration as to how we might best alter certain governmental procedures to accommodate the pursuit of living by our ideals; namely discussing the electoral college and if/why it should either continue to exist procedurally or be altered in a way that allows the popular vote to matter more.

Above all, I seek to convince the reader that the American cause is a noble one, and the United States government, despite the occasional failings and flaws of the men and women who operate it, is worth not only preserving, but improving, and that now more than ever, we must elect to do promptly do so.

Misguided Chain Reactions

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day:

“You wouldn’t worry about what people thought of you so much if you knew how little they did.”

I saw another, which I’m paraphrasing because I’m not sure I have it worded exactly right.

Don’t dwell too long on the negative things in life, but rather turn your energy to those things and people that inspire you.

Maybe it was Tara Stiles, a famous Yogi I’m a fan of, who said that last one. Maybe it’s written in the Holy Bible; I’m sure it’s certainly wise enough a sentiment to be in there. Regardless, there’s an inherent vitality to the ideas presented in these two modern morals if we just listen to them.

On one hand, we have a quote telling us not to worry about what other people think, while on the other we have one telling us to focus our hearts on those that inspire us, not those that bring us down.

I think we ought to focus on thanking those who inspire us by becoming great enough that we inspire them to keep on inspiring.

We ought to seek people around us who build us up, people who we know will think of us in their nightly prayers and who will look forward to our company in the coming days. We ought to surround ourselves with no nonsense people who will push us and inspire us and put us in our places when we aren’t living up to our obligations. People who will call us out not just when we aren’t living up to the physical obligations we make like showing up to meetings on time, but the obligations we make that are more mental, such as showing up prepared and energetic and ready to work whenever we arrive somewhere. We should seek people like my friend and mentor in the Tap Ensemble here at K-State who tells me bluntly when I need to work on a step and master it, even if it’s a basic one, but who I believe also will call me out in the morning if I don’t bring my normal energy to the place as well. We should seek to put ourselves in company of people like this, people who’s toughness with us is founded in care and the desire to see us grow. People who’s skill in our chosen crafts inspire us to push ourselves harder; not so that they’ll think more of us when we’re not around, but so they’ll think more of us when we are.

As we strive to be better and to fulfill the expectations of those who inspire us, we should deliberately think more of them. We should think of them in our evening prayers, we should tell people about how grateful we are for them, we should thank God for them or the universe for them, or maybe both depending on your beliefs.

The people of the world generally have a problem: we focus too readily on things that bring us down.

When I say “bring us down,” I don’t just mean things that make us “sad.” I think that’s part of the problem too, our communicators and writers have gotten so cliché in their use of the word “down” that it can seemingly mean nothing else beside “sad.” But thoughts and emotions that bring us down can be completely unrelated to sadness. Fear or anger are obvious ones that can make a person feel “down,” but there are less obvious emotions such as resentment, jealousy, and even irritation or annoyance that can do the same. These things cause us to think more about negative things, things we don’t like or believe in, and they draw our focus away from what we should be focused on: our passions and using them to benefit the universe as much as possible.

This morning, I woke up and checked Facebook and saw my employer, the newspaper, posted an article about the band’s performance at the K-State football game last night. I saw how many people were offended by the performance. I was irritated, not at the newspaper at all by any means, which I’m grateful and blessed enough to be employed by, but at the idea people were so offended by what I thought was an amazing performance. I was irritated at how many people saw a sexual innuendo in it. Maybe I was too naive to see it, even as I watched it live online and had a “bird’s eye” view of the thing. Maybe I was too naive or stubborn to see it even as I watched the meme online afterward while trying to focus on the video itself instead of the childish giggling of the twenty-something-year-olds in the background. Maybe my mind isn’t in the gutter as much as I sometimes beat myself up for it being.

Either way, the performance was good, and I can’t imagine performing music while marching in such specific patterns while listening to the music, keeping rhythm and beat, and staying in step. The difficulty of such a combination is unimaginable for me. I sang choir for four years. Maybe I wasn’t any good, but just singing the right notes with the right dynamics and tempo alone was hard. Doing it while moving would have been nearly impossible. Still, people were hating on/criticizing the band members and the band director, so much that the band director put out an official statement on Facebook. This really angered me. It still does when I think about it.

I digress again, and there you see how quickly it can happen! There you see how easy that trap of negativity is to fall into even as I write about it and am consciously aware of it. That quote up near the top of the page about focusing on what inspires you, instead of what brings you down, immediately came to my heart even as I read the article and got annoyed at all the Hatorade baths people were giving the band instead of the Gatorade baths they deserved.

When I realized my irritation, it felt like a gentle scolding. It came from all I’d been taught by God and life. It was not an angry scolding but rather a disappointed one. In my soul, it felt the way the words “Son, come on now. What are you doing?” would have felt had those come from my mom or dad as I grew up. It wasn’t angry, but it was clearly a distinct, unhappy call to step up my game and focus.

That’s my point in all of this. We as society need to focus more. We need to stop dwelling on what’s bad or what irritates us. It’s okay to feel those things, it’s even okay to ponder why they are bad or irritating. It isn’t productive to dwell on them though. We need to find our passions in life; those things that we can do as energetically as we used to play on the playgrounds in our elementary schools, and focus on those.

We should be focused on what we love. We should be focused on serving God and the universe (depending on your beliefs here) through our passions. We should be so focused, in fact, that we don’t have time to keep dwelling on what upsets us, or bothers us, or angers us beyond the point that it inspires us to try and change it. In other words, if it’s not something we can control but it’s something we don’t like, we must be tough enough and disciplined enough to turn our attention back to making the most good with what we can: our passions.

When start to do that, when we start again to dwell on those people or things that inspire us to be better, we will begin to inspire others to be better. We will think of them when they are not around and they will think of us, and we will start to create a circle of inspiration that will spread like a nuclear reaction, and the world will be better for it.

It has to start with us, and it has to start right the hell now.

Relief At My Discovery Tonight Regarding Stephen Colbert

So tonight, I was curious what happened to Stephen Colbert and why I hadn’t heard from him after he was supposed to be taking over The Late Show.

I guess I’m behind the power curve on this one, but in case y’all didn’t know and were wondering in the back of your minds like I was, he’s scheduled to host his first show on September 8th, according to this article by EW.com Senior Writer Natalie Abrams.

The reason I am sharing this is simple: I’m extremely relieved to hear that the lack of attention to him hasn’t come from him just getting on and being awful (which I dearly hope doesn’t happen) but rather is because he simply hasn’t begun performing yet :). This discovery fills me with joy.

I’m not a guy who has cable, and I don’t subscribe to Netflix or Hulu either, a characteristic that puts me in the minority of all generations, especially my own. But here’s the thing: I love actors and I love people, don’t get me wrong. This is not an indictment on any of them or their art, because I respect both the people and the art of television acting as much I respect almost any other group or art. But my philosophy is this: I don’t watch television because A. reading is a lost art and you can never do enough of it, and B. If I’m busy watching television, realistically I’m watching someone else fulfill their dream using time I could be spending to chase my own.

Again, that isn’t a hit against other artists, including actors, and there’s nothing wrong with watching them as a form of entertainment. I just don’t enjoy that form of entertainment as much as I enjoy a play or a night watching a game at a sports bar with friends. The cost of cable is outrageous and doesn’t match up with how often I’d use it, and even though I would use it, the fact is that it’d be distracting me from doing what I should be doing: either reading, or working out my body, mind, and my own crafts (writing and dancing).

With that all said though, Stephen Colbert is one of the most comically brilliant minds of my generation. He is, very possibly, our equivalent of what David Letterman was to my parents, and I find it rather fitting he gets to succeed Mr. Letterman in 2015. Because of this; because of his talent and all he did on The Colbert Report while I moved from my late teens to my early adult years, I may just have to get cable to watch him become an even bigger legend than he already is.

Just a thought. :). If you haven’t ever watched any of his work, click here :).

“TapDance” class/”In America” Notes/Thoughts

In Tap class a couple of weeks ago, we watched the film “Tap In America.” I paid attention of course, but the writer in me can’t not take notes during such things, because I write to remember, as well as to entertain. However, I asked a question Thursday and it could be said that this question indicated I hadn’t exactly paid perfect attention to the film. So I want to clear up why I didn’t exactly catch everything like I would have if I hadn’t had my notebook, or in this case my iPad with my notes app, open. Here’s what I took. No particular description can be added, as I don’t remember what was going on in the film while I took these notes, I just know what I thought. Here it is, transposed exactly, smiley faces and all :).

“TapDance” class/”In America” Notes/Thoughts (Note says date was Nov. 6, 2014)

I wonder what Latin-American style tap would/does sound like?

–Maybe something like Bachata in tap shoes? Or Zumba?

–Let’s pretend for a moment it’s totally natural of me to think all this 😛

–But for real, that’d be a killer Julie question

Bringing out iPod armband for after class would be a really good idea

Black shoes are the way for me I think. Not a fan of white or silver or anything

I love the way tap can be used as like an added drum by the dancer to add something to the music. For all those times I spent long drives beating with a pen on the dashboard, all this hours visualizing myself recomposing a piece to add an extra set of snare drums when I had nowhere near the music theory knowledge needed, nor the motivation to attain such a thing…I think this stuff may have been what God was leading me up to. This is where all of those experiences can play a part in mine; where what I’ve always wanted to do can be possible on in the most true-to-me way possible…

Unconventionally 🙂

If we’re to keep doing this though, and be expressive about it, we’re going to need to introduce more calcium into our diet and be careful. As a runner, this style puts me at a much higher injury risk than most other dancers and/or runners.

Another Julie question: Do most performance dancers keep a set of black shoes and a set of white ones then? Or how does that all work?

Alas; why we do yoga 😛