With Liberty and Justice
Before and after our country’s Revolution, a great deal of
thought was given to what would be substituted for the
restraint of British soldiers and British laws. The
Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill
of Rights—all were written to fill the void left by the lifting of
But although our founders had the wisdom to create the
necessary documents to provide a framework for freedom
and prevent the explosion of the newly-freed state, they
lacked the imagination to envision a freedom that extended
beyond themselves and people like themselves.
The authors of these documents were property-owning
white males, and our subsequent history has been a series of
"follow-up freedoms" for groups of people who were left
out of consideration initially—native Americans, African
Americans and women, to name just a few.
The authors of these documents have often been called
Christians, yet somehow they managed to circumvent the
basic tenet of Christianity, to secure for others what you
desire for yourself. In Jesus' words, “Do to others what
you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).
That is, if you’re working to attain your own liberty and
justice, you should be wanting the same things for everyone
in the country, regardless of race or gender.
Why did they fail to do so? They determined that, even
though they were mature enough to handle freedom, another
person or group of people might not be. They felt the need
to protect them from themselves.
This is a dangerous way of thinking for several reasons:
1) They put themselves above others (inequality);
2) They determined what was best for someone else even
though they revolted when someone else did that “for” them
(taxation without representation, paternalism);
3) They took away other people's liberty and justice
without giving them a chance to prove themselves
4) They spouted high-sounding words without really
believing in them (hypocrisy).
If liberty and justice are good for me, why shouldn’t they be
good for everyone--my neighbor, a person across the
country or a person halfway around the world?
One problem is that the founders were men, and many men
grow up seeing the world as a zero-sum game. Reared to
win--in sports, politics and careers--they see any gain made
by the other side as being made at their expense.
Women are more likely to value community and
cooperation. That was the gist of recent remarks by
Senator Susan Collins (R/Me) on the partisan gridlock in
Addressing the widespread loss of confidence in
government due to the shutdown, Senator Collins put
together a bipartisan group of 14 senators, including
Republicans, Democrats and an Independent, that
developed a plan to get the government functioning again.
In an interview with Judy Woodruff on the PBS NewsHour,
Collins said that tactics like gerrymandering and the 24/7
news cycle lead to a "shrinking middle" and the election of
people at the extremes.
Electing more women, she said, could make government
more moderate, ending gridlock and enabling government to
be more effective in serving the people.