Americans are like the contentious crew of a rocky boat. We lurch left and right yet no matter how polarized, we keep righting ourselves thanks to our shared Constitution, bill of rights and nearly 250 years of thoughtful law. We may disagree vehemently, yet still agree to obey the law.
Some cling to the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. Some cling to the first, free speech (corporations not included). Some cling to the fifth, the right to peaceful enjoyment of private property. Right to life for some refers to the unborn and to others abolishing the death penalty. We are a complex people, proud of being a nation built by immigrants but uneasy about the slavery and genocide at our roots. Indeed we have polarities and paradox down to our core: liberty and justice, rights and responsibilities.
The founders had grave doubts about a standing army, much less a professional one. Instead, they wanted a militia conscripted into war, bringing their own guns and then released. They had grave doubts about corporations and originally designed them to dissolve once a specific job was done. Yet somehow we have a professional standing military that consumes a quarter of our national budget and a corporate state able to buy favorable laws. We’ve drifted, perhaps too far. Both the military and corporations seem to be above the law.
Whidbey is a microcosm of our nation — red and blue, south and north, Trump’s electoral win versus Clinton’s popular win. We have big issues here, tough issues, and we have conflicting views. As an island, though, we’re joined at the hip, or at least at Penn Cove. I hope recalling that we are an unfinished, complex, paradoxical nation will help us address thorny water, noise, land use, shorelines and property issues with a spirit of fairness and honesty, protecting our right to disagree — respectfully. We are the story of this nation, writing itself today — and righting itself again. I believe in us. I believe we can achieve breakthroughs rather than stalemates.