“And to the Republic for which it stands…” is one of the most memorable phrases from the United States’ Pledge of Allegiance. The only noun and verb found in that phrase is “Republic” and “stands.” To make a complete sentence, the two required parts of speech are—a noun and verb: For example, she wept.
This is why Colin Kaepernick taking a knee is such a symbolic gesture. He was saying in essence that something’s wrong with our Republic or that something is threatening it—because—it should be standing differently.
What America will continue to represent and stand for is the question.
Kaepernick, after consulting a military veteran, according to the New York Times, started his quiet protest of kneeling during the singing of the National Anthem during NFL games in 2016 . He wanted to “raise awareness of racism, social justice and police brutality against ‘black people and people of color’” .
During the 2016 Trump Campaign, the social ills that have long vexed America emerged. The resurgence of racist, sexist, xenophobic and ableist rhetoric shed a light on what was left unsaid: A slew of isms that have long existed systemically and in “dog whistle” forms of racism in our business and social relations. America badly needed infrastructure change, faced the threat of our healthcare coverage being stripped and had our election process compromised, according to our top intelligence agencies, by foreign actors . Over the last two years, we had a lot dismantled.
Every country goes through periods of reconstruction—emphasis on the plural. Implied in the word “reconstruction” is that something was “de-constructed.” We have to pause and understand more deeply what was dismantled piece by piece, but particularly in our election process. Why? It is connected to something Americans hold most dear: Our freedoms.
Before answering the question of what was dismantled, before answering the question of what essential freedoms were threatened during the 2016 campaign, first, a definition of terms: What does being in a republic mean? What does being a democracy mean? What does it mean to be in a period of reconstruction?
There have been many kinds of republics throughout the history of organized society. The author of The Decline of the American Republic, John T. Flynn outlines in his blog post “Republics in History,” what he identifies as the five major ones: They are located in Athens, Rome, Great Britain, France and the United States . What they have in common is smaller than their differences. Yet, the common feature between them all is that they have an electorate. The electorate, as I understand it, is a designated group that makes decisions about how to administer the power—the work and the property—of the people.
Administration of power matters almost as much as the power itself. The republican structure, the electorate structure of our democracy is not about party affiliation—it is about a way to organize the precious resources we have been endowed.
This is why whom we choose as our electorate—our elected officials—matters. We have labored. We want the fruits of our work and our working to be honored.
The collectivity of our work is what the state emerged to consolidate. It is a way to organize our activity. Older than the republican structure of governing is the democratic one. Being a democracy is the name we place on the awareness that our power wields something—has capability.
A democracy is one where either consensus, coalition or majority rule is how decisions are legitimated. In The Guardian, there is a notes and queries forum page where someone from New Zealand posted the question, “Which country can claim to be the World's oldest democracy?” Some of the respondents argued that Iceland could have since they follow a constitution dating back to the Vikings (930ad) called the Althing . Some of the respondents cite the ones from Greece and Britain . One other mentioned democracy is the ones that was “perfected” here in what we now call America.
The Iroquois Confederacy is the constitutional government that existed in what we now called the United States. It is a democratic structure. To the shores of America, the Westerners brought the republic structure of governance. Such created—a more perfect Union.
It is important in rebuilding, reconstructing a new America, that we Sankofa, that we go back to get what we need in order to go forward. We need to learn something of our forefathers and foremothers.
The Iroquois Confederacy is a governing system that encompasses the following six nations—or let’s call them for the purposes of parity—the six states: Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas and Tuscaroras . Iroquois is the French name for Haudeenoshaunee, which means “People Building a Long House” .
The Iroquois Confederacy is one of the oldest “participatory democracy” in 100,000 years of history . A democracy is a system where the seat of power is based on the governed, who consent to and lease their powers of governance to whom they choose. The distinction to make between a republic and a democracy is that the electorate in its structure does not gather or touch base with those over whom they govern—in making legislation or taxation; that means not consulting the people on the receiving end of policy decisions. Does the extreme of that ring a bell: Taxation (or policy) without representation?
The perfection that the United States of America has come to constitutionally represent is—a Republic and a Democracy. For the seat of power is always with the governed. And the administration of that power does need specialized hands.
“Under our system, each state is a small republic, supreme over its internal affairs save where specifically restrained by the Constitution,” writes Flynn. The support that holds up that state are the people who work in it, doing what they do day in and day out. Think about it: In physics, the force always exerts its pressure upwards. All of the work that we do holds up those who we elect to wield—to distribute back that power justly and fairly.
It’s an interesting thing to note that it is two republicans: Trump and the late Senator John McCain that have of recent posed two choices for what it means to be in the republican party. It has been noted that Senator McCain is one of the last Lions of the Senate. He represents an elected official who went door-to-door, served in the military, fought for campaign finance reform and believed in bipartisan legislation—activities that put the people and service first.
Then we have Trump. His brand of republicanism puts self ahead of country; he dodged the draft, won’t release is tax returns and refuses to work even with the people in his own party.
While there is some disagreement about the articulation of our democratic ideals, we, at least, agree on the democratic ideals and freedoms themselves. For example, we herald and cherish our right to freedom of speech. The magnitude of that reverence can be measured in all of the tweets or Facebook posts we make every day.
Regarding the ideals of the republic, we are still choosing a brand.