Guest Commentary / June 24, 2021

What We Have Forgotten

Changes that result from a conflict without efforts at conciliation only harbor and build resentment.

By Larry Craig

In Chicago, there is a fierce debate in the city council about changing the name of iconic Lake Shore Drive after the name of Chicago’s first non-indigenous settler, because he is black.

In Washington, Democrats want to overhaul the entire election system in our country with the barest possible majority in the Senate.

There is something wrong in each of these situations.

We have forgotten the basic premise of our Constitution:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Our government is about forming a more perfect union. We have never been more divided.

Justice is about treating every person the same. Now it depends on your economic status, your race, your gender identity, and an ever-increasing number of factors that individualizes your justice.

We have never had as much domestic turmoil and unrest as we do today.

The oaths our leaders take recognize enemies, domestic and foreign. We no longer even understand the roots of our country to know what a domestic enemy is.

We have divided our country into a myriad of groups all competing for a share of the common pie such that there is no general welfare anymore. Everybody has their own list of what they want.

So in Chicago, people are trying to ram through a change of name for Lake Shore Drive, knowing it is a divisive decision. In Washington, the Democratic Party, with the slimmest majority possible, wants to eliminate the filibuster so it can pass highly contentious bills with a split Senate that will only divide the country more.

The purpose of our government is for the welfare of the American people, to bring peace and tranquility, but it seems the government only wants to foster anger and division.

We need to stop being in a such a rush to pass bills that we know are controversial and spend more time talking about them and trying to reach more of a consensus before we expect to make changes in our country or our city.

We are told that this unrest, this turmoil, all these divisions are a reckoning for centuries of abuse, mistreatment, and exploitation.

Yet for the last 55 years, since our immigration system was changed to favor minorities, our country has been flooded with minority immigrants, legal and not. It seems that America, with all its flaws, is still the most attractive country in the world in the eyes of the world to move to.

What is lost in the discussion here is that changes that result from a conflict without efforts at conciliation only harbor and build resentment. Many of the changes that are rushed through are only symbolic and do nothing to change the regular lives of anybody.

At the core of these divisions is the basic idea of what America is all about. We all agree America is about rights, but we don’t agree on what that means.

The founding document of our country is the Declaration of Independence. The founding principle of our country is that all people are created equal and that God gave inalienable rights to human beings. And it is the role of government to protect those rights.

Being created equal means that nobody has a divine or inherent right to rule over other people.

And inalienable rights are rights that precede and supersede government. Government did not give them, and government cannot take them away. Things you can do without the government’s permission, regulation, or interference.

Now we think of rights as things the government owes you, things that other people have to do for you, things that compel other people to change their behaviors.

These rights require the government to spend enormous amounts of money, incurring ever-increasing levels of debt. These rights require that the government take money from some people and give it to others. These rights require people to do things they don’t want to do, to accommodate the rights of other people.

I believe we have lost our way as a country, and the divisions have created a fog that keeps us from seeing clearly the real issues that we need to talk about. I hope this is a start.

Please visit my blog at for articles I have written on politics, culture, and public life.

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