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Not Yet Perfect

September 21, 2016

"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."

It's quite a sentence and sums up our Founders' hopes for the new government it formed. So how are we doing in 2016?

We the People, in Order to Form a More Perfect Union…

It's safe to say that a significant part of our population doesn't trust our elected leaders. Yet we have greater access to our government than ever before. The campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump prove outsiders can effect change, even if the changes are not what a lot of us want. If this election proves nothing else, it proves that We the People can continue to find ways to make the system respond. For better or worse, the people are speaking...

…establish Justice,…While racial, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination is still unacceptably high in the US, the fact is that we've made enormous progress. Gays now have the right to marry, adopt children and openly serve in the military. Women graduate college in far greater numbers than men, and virtually every career is open to them. We still have pervasive racism, even after Barack Obama, but nobody can logically argue it's worse than 40 years ago. Most of us are horrified by statistics that demonstrate continued racism and we publicly support efforts to continue to root it out of our civic life. The struggle continues, but history is bending towards justice.

…insure domestic Tranquility… Are we domestically tranquil? Well, many think crime is worse than ever, but they have short memories. We currently have the lowest rates of crime, including violent crime, in the past half-century. Still, it continues to be way too high. Gun violence has recently ticked up higher and high-profile killings of police officers are horrific. This result is mixed.

…provide for the common defence…Sometimes, it can seem like the world is exploding around us in a terrorism-fueled fireball of death. But we have to look at the reality of our present in the context of the past. The world is a safer place than it used to be. No longer do we believe in the probability of nuclear armageddon. It seems like we've finally realized that we cannot bomb or invade our way to international solutions. Unfortunately, our attacks since 9/11 have been by our own citizens, not foreigners.

…promote the general Welfare...Unemployment is at a 10-year low and wages are finally rising again, yet we have many places in this country where the industries of yesterday have flat-out disappeared, leaving hollowed-out communities. Even though the US Economy remains the strongest, most dynamic in the world, we still have too many people shut out of the rewards. Our education system has the best schools at the top and far too many struggling schools at the bottom.

…and secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity...We have social-safety nets in place to take care of the the poor (Medicaid), the elderly (Medicare and Social Security), and the uninsured (Obamacare). Nobody rationally argues we shouldn't take care of the most vulnerable of our citizens. Nonetheless, unchecked entitlements are the major reason we have a national debt of $19 trillion. This debt threatens our our childrens' future liberty.

So…overall, our performance is not perfect, but I'd argue that we're doing pretty well. Remember the phrase is "in order to form a more perfect union." Even the framers knew we'd never achieve perfection. America, for all of its flaws, continues to work for perfection.

Maybe this pursuit of perfection is what still makes us great.