The Preamble of the Constitution uses the terms general
welfare and blessings of liberty. What are some of
the concrete specifics of these terms? For the purpose of this
essay, I will group these specifics into what I call my American
Piñata. Let's break open the Piñata and see what
falls out today.
VALUES AND IDEALS
Equality of women
Protection of children
The first four
specifics are related to our outlook on life. There is usually,
although not always, a cause and effect interaction among these.
The work ethic is a belief that our jobs should be
meaningful and not dehumanizing. Work that is degrading and work
that is strictly profit-driven are not within our ideals.
Meaningful work has both financial and emotional rewards. The
work ethic also separates us from the terrorists. Americans work
for what they want. Terrorists destroy or take what others have
in education for all children. The public education
system is intended to make it possible for all children to receive
an adequate education. Advanced education can lead to more
fulfilling work for many people, but not necessarily higher pay
nowadays. Another important aspect of education is that our free
elections depend on an educated citizenry. People must know how
to read and write, and how to think critically.
come to America for the possibility of upward mobility.
Americans appreciate the success of the self-made man.
Ideally, this means that you do not have to do what your parents
did. You can shift the course of your family history. You can
even start from nothing and build something. You can leave behind
an unhappy past and start fresh in America.
also experienced the hardships presented by malevolent landlords.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Americans value private
home ownership. Buying your first house is like a rite of
passage. Urban renewal has made apartment dwelling more
attractive and practical, but most Americans seem to prefer to pay
off a mortgage. We are a domesticated people with an interest in
home improvement. We fix things. We make things work better and
The next two
specifics involve the relationships among people as opposed to the
use people as objects. The equality of women enables
society to function more happily and productively. The
subjugation or abuse of women robs society of half its human
potential. Terrorists appear to hate women, even within their own
culture. If terrorists can be terrified, it is female sexuality
and intelligence that terrifies them.
protection of children is based on caring relationships.
Children are dependent on the care of adults. Children have no
choice in how the adult world treats them. It is necessary to
have laws that protect the most vulnerable members of society
from abuse and exploitation. Americans value the concept of a
happy childhood. A well-adjusted child should be better able to
fulfill educational expectations and work responsibilities.
Finally, we come to
the psychological and spiritual specifics, optimism and
worship. These qualities provide a foundation for our
morals, principles, and relationships. As optimists we tend to
believe that what is good for us is good for humankind. We
affirm democracies and internal democratic reforms. We look at
life in terms of hope and possibility. Self-actualization is
valued as highly as a basic human right.
spirituality has become the preferred term, I have chosen
to use the term worship. Worship implies belief in a deity,
in an authority higher than and outside of oneself. To be really
American means to have a conscience. We believe there is a
creator of life and an ultimate accountability for how we spend
our time on this earth.
What makes all
these qualities click together? What makes hard work and
education effective? Well, let's take another whack at my
American Piñata and see what falls out this time.
American values and
ideals proceed via the channels of opportunity and
independence. This is a country where people can turn
their disadvantages into advantages. Taking advantage of
opportunity requires a work ethic and optimism. Taking advantage
of independence requires equality, responsibility, and
accountability. America is the home of the brave. We are
defenders of democracy. We are liberators of the oppressed and
protectors of the vulnerable. This is our true national
character. This is also historical fact.
If we have houses,
schools, computers, a savings account: we owe this to the writers
of the Preamble of the Constitution who taught us to promote the
general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.
Until we meet