I am sure that you were shocked, as was I, by the outcome of our recent national election. This unexpected outcome has precipitated numerous questions and nagging doubts in many people’s minds. Fundamental concerns are being raised about the appropriateness of the direction being taken by the United States and about how we should respond. Now that we all have had several weeks to gain some perspective, I would like to offer the following comments to help us begin to think through our course of action going forward.
First, and perhaps most important, our Founding Fathers deliberately designed many checks and balances into our Constitution. This guiding document provides, among other things, that we have free national elections at periodic intervals, that the President, Congress, and Supreme Court each have limited powers, that elected officials who abuse the power entrusted to them can be removed from office, and that we are guaranteed the right of free assembly and speech, including when we do not agree with the positions being taken by our elected officials.
Over our 240 year history, literally tens of thousands of our fellow citizens have died in conflicts defending our Constitution. We also must defend it.
To continue to function as a society under this Constitution and not to descend into chaos, we must respect the outcome of our national election, as prescribed by the Constitution. At the same time, we should recognize that those who have been chosen by a majority are elected only for a defined period of time and that future elections will be held in which other persons will be chosen. These features all are part of our public compact as citizens of the United States.
Having affirmed this, we must remember that we do have and must defend our rights of free assembly and speech. Both of these rights can be used effectively to take issue with statements and actions by our elected officials which we find to be objectionable. For example, we have no obligation to support any public statements by any official that overtly or covertly endorses racism, sexism, Nazism, misogyny, white supremacy, or any other "ism".
Neither do we want to bring any hateful rhetoric or abusive action into our families or communities. We can and should set a much better example about what it means to be an American. We all are immigrants; we should welcome newcomers, as our own families once were welcomed. We seek to respect all people; we should teach our children and neighbors to do so. We seek to defend the less advantaged; we should protect persons who poor, disabled, isolated, elderly. We support the rights of all women; we should live this way in our offices, our sports arenas, and our homes. Clearly, this list of basic goals and needed actions is fundamental to who we are and to who we want to become.
Many of the people we serve are part of the so-called “other America” who are politically, economically and socially disadvantaged. We need to help bring these people into mainstream America. Our obligation to do this is no less urgent than is our obligation to address their health needs.
The bedrock principles of social justice must continue to be our major guide: First, all people have equal rights, including good health and well-being. Second, we value all people equally.