Action, compromises necessary to achieve a “more perfect Union”

The season of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas is a time of recognition and light on our lives and those of our fellow citizens.

With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants living together in a country that gave birth to the first democracy. We all share the aspirations of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

The preamble to the Declaration reads: “We take these truths for granted that all men are created equal, that they are endowed … with the rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness …”

And the preamble to the Constitution says, “We, the people of the United States, to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to ensure domestic tranquility … and to secure the blessings of liberty for us- Ourselves and our posterity… establish this Constitution. “

This constitution sets out the powers and limits of government with checks and balances to prevent a dictatorship with a bill of rights protecting our individual freedoms, including speech and religion.

The founders wrote that they were creating a “more perfect Union”, not claiming that it was “perfect”. Compromise was needed to achieve the goal of uniting all states into one United States.

The founders left the task of permanent perfection to all future generations. This responsibility is instilled in us by all of our religions who believe that God has commanded us to make the world perfect – and by humanists who believe that human ethical responsibility creates this obligation. Perfection is the goal which is slow and uncertain but each of us must continue the task.

The main moral of the failure of the Constitution was that it allowed the maintenance of slavery. The founders accepted it as a compromise. Many hoped it would end on purpose. But it took a civil war to end slavery. However, the mistreatment and denial of black rights continued after the war.

Our black fellow citizens still suffer from prejudice in many phases of life. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., in one of the biggest speeches before 250,000 in Washington DC in August 1963, spoke of his dream, “a dream … rooted in the American dream … that all are created equal” and that … Children “not to be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

This led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin, and religion in public places and federally funded programs, as well as strengthening the enforcement of voting rights and the desegregation of schools. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 followed, banning discriminatory electoral practices.

The Reverend King reminded us on March 31, 1968, at the National Cathedral that “the arc of the moral universe is long but leans toward justice.”

We have accomplished a great deal since 1776, making our country a great democracy, citizens of various nationalities, races, religions and cultures all possessing not only equal voting rights but all legal rights.

But we still have a long way to go to make our country a perfect union.

Today we are living in a period of rapidly increasing hate crimes and harassment. About 62% of hate crimes were based on race and ethnicity, with the highest percentage being Black victims and an increasing percentage being Asian victims; 20% of victims based on sexual orientation; and 13% on the basis of religion, with an increasing percentage of Muslims and the largest percentage of victims being Jewish when they represent only 2% of our population.

Our government has responded by pushing for better hate crime tracking, raising public awareness, providing funds for police training on hate crimes and strengthening public education, as well as providing funds to help religious and community groups provide security. Individual and collective advocacy groups respond to hatred and prejudice by raising public awareness, reporting observed incidents, and implementing many types of educational programs.

All of these actions are necessary and useful, but as the negative trend continues, many insist that more be done to reduce stigma, the cycle of which is passed from family to young children. It is easier to successfully reduce stigma in children because it is not as ingrained as it is in adults.

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect writes: “Children learn from adults how to blame, hate and bully…”. hatred and bigotry.

It urges that steps be taken to pass legislation in each state making this education compulsory. A curriculum should be established and mandated for K-12 grades in all of our states to teach the values ​​of equality and dignity (not to be confused with critical race theory) among all peoples, races, genders and orientations sexual.

The call was made for a coalition of all rights organizations believing in the dignity of human equality, all religious leaders, all leaders of each ethnic group to accomplish this mission. The Anne Frank Center said the task of securing the required legislation “is complicated but not impossible”.

Will they and us answer the call to help fulfill this legislative mandate to allow the “arc of the moral universe” to continue its “turn to justice?”

Harold Halpern is a retired lawyer residing in Lakewood Ranch and is a board member of the West Coast Florida Section of the American Jewish Committee and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

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