We the people.
When did we forget this? This was first, this was the central truth of our foundation, of our society since first we cleaved together as families, as clans, as tribes and villages, and then cities and nations. This was first, and from this flowed all else. We the people.
“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.”
That was how the American founding fathers expressed it. In ancient times the free citizens understood and accepted the basic truth that they collectively formed the Polis, the People. All free citizens understood and accepted that as members of the Polis, of the People, they had a duty to the Polis, to the people in times of peace, and in times of war. We the people stand together, or we fall together. This truth has not changed, but much has been forgotten.
The root of two words is lost to the living memory of the people. Let me remind you now. Polis, means the people. That is us, all of us. This word is the root for two other words, and because all of us seem to have forgotten this, much is wrong in our society. Police and Politician are both derived from Polis. Both exist to serve the Polis. Both derive their authority, their purpose, and their honour from the Polis they serve. The police exist to protect the lives, freedoms, and property of the polis they serve from criminals, and serve as guide and facilitators in times of crisis and disaster that the orderly movement of peoples from areas of risk, or the orderly routing of aid and resources to areas at risk, can be managed by trained professionals already in place inside the city.
The Canadian Constitution reads
“ Every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly and to be qualified for membership therein.”
This outlines the central truth that politicians can only be chosen from among the polis itself, and whose powers are constrained and limited by the needs of the polis, not the pollticians as defined clearly in the opening phrase of the constitution:
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
Recently I have heard our own teachers protesting the inclusion of Canadian Armed Forces recruiters being permitted to be at Career Day, as if it were somehow shameful to allow our citizens in training to have the opportunity to explore the chance to serve the polis they are about to take up full rights of citizenship in. While we tend to think this hatred and contempt of the military is a Canadian disease, the governor of the State of Texas, along with a disturbing number of public figures recently chose to cast the movement of troops on a large military exercise as an “Invasion of Texas”
These are your own people. These are your sons and daughters, taught by you to honour their nation, to risk their own lives in dedicating themselves to train to place themselves ever between their polis and harm, to defend their hearth and home with their courage, their training, and all too often, with their lives. In return do we give them honour? Do we stand with pride to see our sons and daughters serving with such dedication? No. We shame our ancestors, we shame ourselves, we shame our polis, our nation, by casting our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our fellow citizens not as our guardians, not as the shield of the folk, but as invaders. As if this was not their nation too.
I have friends who are police, who are in fact good and worthy people who understand that the shield they bear symbolically on their chest it a token of the shield carried by our ancestors in very real defense of the folk. They too are the shield of the people. However that seems too often to be forgotten by both sides.
Too many police look upon the citizens as two classes; sheep who need to be driven to do what is right, and feral dogs who need to be beaten and caged. If this is how you feel, take off the shield you dishonor and the uniform you defame. You are half of the problem.
Too many people look upon the police as the enemy, as the public face of a world that is conspiring against you, and laws that exist solely to enslave you. If this is how you feel, leave. No, really, leave. Get the hell out of the country. You have the right to freedom of movement, and the freedoms that you enjoy here as citizens are freely offered, including freedom of movement. If you think that this nation is not worthy of your love and respect, your duty and service, feel free to get the hell out of it. Do not stay here and fight against the polis you reject, go and find a polis that you feel you can be a part of and help to make it better with your duty and seek to become a citizen of a polis you would be proud to call your own.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news to those who think the laws exist solely to punish them; but the laws of a democratic country are the expressed will of the people. Some of them are bad, and require fighting through the courts and through public opinion to change them. This is one of the duties of a citizen when he sees injustice in his polis; to advocate for a more perfect union, because this is our polis and we understand that our needs as a people will continue to grow as we continue to grow. Most of our laws exist for the protection of each other; if you find these laws to be a constraint, consider that you have chosen to make yourself a danger to your own people by bad choices. The flaw may well not be in your stars but in your choices. That is for you to fix.
As a Heathen, we believe that all true relationships are reciprocal. That all healthy relationships involve a fundamental equality of exchange. Duty between parent and children flows in two directions in different forms but in similar scope. Duty between citizen and state also flows in two directions of different forms but similar scope. I hear much talk about not being our brothers keeper, well if not us, then who? We the people. We are the people. We stand or fall together. The bonds between us, one to the other are in a very real sense, all that stands between us as failure individually and collectively.
When I was a young heathen and read the Hamaval, I wondered that the bulk of this holy book, this book that carried the wisdom of our ancestors, consisted mostly of outlining our duties to each other. Showing us how to build and foster the bonds between each other. The gods did not tell us how to praise them, save the one note that it is better to offer to them never than too often; as they made it clear their primary concern for us is that we look after each other, and remember the gods only after that is taken care of. When did we forget that?
We didn’t all forget it. I looked at the Baltimore riots and I saw hope. I see some of you shaking your head. Perhaps we are looking at different things. I saw the faces of true citizens shining forth. I saw people who lived the truth of our union. Who showed us the strength of the folk, the foundation of a free and democratic society, the foundation of the rule of law. I saw citizens taking a stand in front of the police.
Not armed men preparing to unleash violence to settle things, but free citizens who chose to stand in defense of their city, in defense of their polis because it was their polis. They may or may not have the words, but when you see a line of men standing before their police to protect them, those grim faces shout three words: We the people.
That is the face of hope.
We were once a people who accepted that citizenship was a duty, and that undertaking that duty was the greatest honour a man (and now a woman) could know. We were once a people that really did seek ways to serve each other because we could, and we should, rather than looking always to take what was owed us, and vote in to office those who promised to give us more in exchange for giving back less. There was a time we understood that Responsibilities were what earned us Rights. Citizenship was a duty, not an entitlement.
We the people must remember that reciprocity is the key to all healthy and sustainable relationships. “With half a loaf and half filled cup, full friend found” These words describe giving to those in need in the Hamaval. This is not giving to those worthy of your contempt, as a way to demonstrate your own superior social position. This is helping another member of your polis because when we help each other, we grow strong together, and we begin to see each other as a polis, as one people. We are as strong as the bonds between us. Build those relationships. Make strong what has grown weak and faded. Make us one people again, one deed at a time.
We the people; this was once the central core of our existence, an unquestioned truth. It remains the foundation of our strength, and the foundation is rotting.