“We the People” is the opening phrase for the United States Constitution, which was ratified on September 17th. Frequently we focus on the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth of July, yet it is the Constitution that defines the United States government. It helped define what we can do with our time and our money, frequent themes within a frugal life. As a writer I am drawn to the words and what they mean to me. So, allow me on this overlooked anniversary to play with those words and a bit of logic. Feel free to do the same and see where they take you. What country do we, not just me, define?
We the People sounds like a fine basis for a society. We, a plural, a community. The People, capitalized, humans without discrimination.
Look at the phrase without the influence of history or political histrionics. Now, design a society that supports that concept.
People. People must live and to do so they must survive. The basics come to mind: food and shelter. Food leads to agriculture and the proper care of the land, the water, and the air. Shelter is not as much about housing as it is about protection from the elements. Houses work well for that, but the main thing they do is protect people from the detrimental effects of exposure: too much sun, too much wind, too much rain, too much cold, and their many variations. For people to survive they must be healthy, which with good food and shelter becomes much easier. Health also includes defense against nature’s biological hazards. Sanitation helps and treatment of infections is also necessary.
People is plural, many individuals.
We is effectively singular, it is community. At its smallest, community is the family. Generations extend family forward and back giving importance to more than one lifespan, to more than only the present. The younger generations benefit from the mother’s health even before the child is born. The older generations benefit from the support of others while giving back experience and lessons. Teaching works best when communications are easiest. Different people and different stories mean different communications: written word, song, dance, picture, experience.
Those two paragraphs are enough to argue for good health care, housing, environment, infrastructure, and a knowledge of the world around us. Child care, elder care, education, the arts, and an understanding of each other provide continuity for the species.
Labels blind us to the true meanings of words. But it seems to me that providing for we the people would be conservative, a philosophy and strategy that seeks to preserve and perpetuate our species.
Defense is necessary, but only because this “we the people” disagrees with another “we the people”.
Finance is necessary, but only because we have yet to figure out how to provide for, and distribute equitably enough goods for everyone.
The concepts we and our society need aren’t new. They are fundamental and part of our history. Since we learned to write, we’ve recorded the effort; but our species goes back hundreds of times longer than our oldest writings. Those issues have been with us throughout.
The one thing that has gotten us this far is that none of is can do this alone. It requires “We the People”. So, as I asked above, “What country do we, not just me, define?”
PS There is a personal lesson. Having done this I started to look at and reassess my personal choices and values and realized that I lack that simple definitive statement. I want to find my personal version of We the People, and I’ll make sure it is a complete sentence.