By Julie A. Werner-Simon
Each day brings with it a headline of back-tracking on justice and indignities hurled at those identified as “the other.” Last month alone brought with it (i) the retrenchment of the Endangered Species Act (which saved the bald eagle and a myriad of other species from extinction) now itself “endangered” as the Administration has announced it will no longer protect “threatened” species as a matter of course; (ii) the Administration’s denial of asylum avenues for child immigrants (who face death and extreme violence in their homelands) designed to result in the increase of deportations; and (iii) one of the nation’s minorities, Jews, singled out as traitors for exercising rights afforded by the Bill of Rights to our U.S. Constitution. And this week, the Administration (asserting itself as the “supreme law” over all states’ air quality) announced it was revoking the state of California’s legal authority to seek cleaner air (anti-pollution) standards than those of the federal government.
Our chief executive has stated (from as early as the third presidential debate in October 2016) that “the Constitution should be interpreted the way the founders would.”
It’s been 232 years since the September 17, 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia. I submit that those in our White House need a “refresher course” on the stated purpose of our nation’s founding – as articulated in the Constitution and by its’ authors. Our founders sought and succinctly stated in the opening lines of our Constitution, that America was created to “form a more perfect union [and] establish justice.” James Madison (who would become the nation’s fourth president) when promoting the ratification of the Constitution by the states — reminded our forebearers in Federalist Paper #51 that the purpose of this new government (as we Americans envisioned it) was to create a just society.
This perspective was espoused a few years earlier, in 1784, in a pamphlet by then-New York attorney, future Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who took to print to laud and caution his fellow “New Americans.” Hamilton referred to the Revolution against Britain as “a revolution of human sentiment – the influence of our example having penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism.” But he reminded us of our duty to “justify the revolution by its fruits.” Hamilton wrote that “the world has its eyes upon America.”
While Hamilton and Madison took their final bows in 1804 and 1836, respectively – their words have a deeper resonance today. Take heed: There are despots among us. The world is watching. May we be afforded the opportunity to “breathe easier” if we exercise our civic duty to eradicate injustice.
Julie A. Werner-Simon (“jaws’) is a former Federal prosecutor and Constitutional Law Fellow at Southwestern Law School.