Trump And GOP Evangelicals Versus The Founding Fathers.

It’s difficult for me to write anything that places the Founding Fathers and Donald Trump in the same sentence or even on the same planet. But I cannot let stand the Donald’s unconstitutional call for excluding Muslims from our nation. Nor can I ignore his recent pandering to evangelicals who claim that the Founders intended the US to be a Christian nation. Somehow, he has convinced evangelicals that he will protect their ability to “practice their religion in the public square”; to discriminate; to use government to force their beliefs on others. Their embrace of Trump is especially humorous given the fact that he seemingly considers himself a deity, and that he so obviously worships at the altars of fame, power and money.

Fortunately, there is no need for me to compose my thoughts on the confluence of religion and government. I can rely on much more authoritative sources – the Founders themselves.

General George Washington, hero of the Revolution and the nation’s first president:
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated.” – letter to Edward Newenham

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition. In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.” – letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore

“… the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” – letter to Touro Synagogue

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” – letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia

John Adams, revolutionary leader and the nation’s 2nd president:
“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” – A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America

“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” – 1797 Treaty of Tripoli

James Madison, “Father of the Constitution”, author of the Bill of Rights and the nation’s 4th president:
“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.” – A Memorial and Remonstrance

“And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing [sic] that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.” – letter to Edward Livingston

“The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”

“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” – letter objecting to the use of government land for churches

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s 3rd president:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.” – letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” — letter to Alexander von Humboldt

“Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” – letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper

”I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.” – letter to Elbridge Gerry

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” – Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, political theorist and diplomat:
“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” – letter to Richard Price

James Monroe, Founding Father and the nation’s 5th president:
“It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.” – First Inaugural Address

Thomas Paine, Founding Father, political theorist and philosopher:
“We do not admit the authority of the church with respect to its pretended infallibility, its manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins. It was by propagating that belief and supporting it with fire that she kept up her temporal power.”

Other Founders:
“Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.” – Roger Sherman in Congress, 1789

“Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.” – Oliver Wolcott at the Connecticut Ratifying Convention

“The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.” – Charles Pinckney at the Constitutional Convention

“No religious doctrine shall be established by law.” – Elbridge Gerry

Rethinking Our National Motto.

“E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one) was the motto chosen to represent our nation in 1776. It was suggested by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to the committee responsible for developing the Great Seal of the United States. It not only gave reference to the fact that our country was born out of 13 separate colonies, it represented the great diversity of the new nation. Unfortunately, Christian conservatives, capitalizing on the fear of a “Godless” communist Cold War opponent, voted to replace the motto in 1956 with “In God We Trust.”

The message it sends is dramatically different.

Does it really matter? After all, it’s only four words. The answer to that question is, most definitely, yes. You see, I worked in the advertising industry for more than 40 years. Much of that time, I was charged with creating mottos or slogans – a few words that clearly define a brand. That’s what the motto does. It defines the brand of the United States, suggesting that we are governed by faith (I would describe it as blind faith) over reason. How else can you explain the indifference of so many toward issues such as climate change and gun violence? These are not matters for God. These are problems caused by human behavior. And they are problems that we, as humans, must solve. They are problems that require an understanding of science, logic and reason. Unfortunately, too many seem to believe that such problems are too big or too complex for us to solve. They choose to ignore the problems, believing that if we pray hard enough, God will solve the problems for us.

Our Founding Fathers would not have done so. Prioritizing enlightenment and reason over blind faith, they chose to take matters into their own hands – to create their own destiny. If they had left it up to prayer alone, we would still be part of the British Empire. The Founders were also sensitive toward people of many faiths. That’s why the Declaration of Independence never actually refers to God in the traditional sense choosing, instead, to use more inclusive words such as “Creator” and “Nature’s God” – choices that could encompass people of all faiths, as well as those who belonged to no church at all. Neither did the Founders mention God in the Constitution – likely because many of them were, in fact, deists (people who believe in a higher power, but disdain organized religion).

E Pluribus Unum was all-encompassing. It told the world that the United States of America embraces all cultures, and that we could all work together for a common goal. By contrast, the current slogan implies that, if you do not believe in God – the approved Judeo-Christian God – you are somehow less of an American.

Given the divisiveness that has permeated every aspect of the American experience, reclaiming the original motto would help us reclaim our identity. It would show that all Americans count; that we are willing to pull together for the common good.

Sometimes the best way to move forward is to first take a step back.

There Is No Freedom Without Responsibility.

The Fourth of July has long been declared a national holiday so Americans can take time to celebrate our freedom. To many Americans, that makes us unique. But, in reality, the US is not the only country with freedom. Indeed, based on a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which looks at 60 indicators in five separate categories measuring pluralism, civil liberties, and political culture, the US ranks only 19.

That means 18 nations in the world offer greater freedom than the US. Further, 75 of the world’s nations are democracies. Another 41 are governed by a hybrid system. In fact, of the 167 nations measured, only 52 are listed as authoritarian regimes, including several friends of the US, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Obviously freedom is something to celebrate. But have some Americans taken the concept of freedom too far? And are all of the citizens of the US truly free? The answer to those questions may well depend on who you ask. Certainly, the thousands of people incarcerated or on probation for drug use might not consider themselves free. Likewise, those who have been convicted of felonies and can no longer vote or find a suitable job despite having served their time may not consider themselves free.

In addition, the African-Americans who have been segregated into the poorest areas of our largest cities with under-funded schools, disproportionately high unemployment and few opportunities might not consider themselves truly free. American Muslims who are discriminated against for the way they choose to dress and worship might not consider themselves entirely free. The so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the US by their parents at a very young age, and now live in fear of deportation, are unlikely to celebrate their freedoms. And the Native Americans who live in some of the nation’s worst conditions, and who continue to watch their traditional lands stolen by large corporations without fair compensation, may not think themselves free.

At the same time these people are denied their freedom, others – namely some greedy and mean-spirited Americans – abuse theirs.

For example, many corporate leaders, bankers and hedge fund managers use their freedom and wealth to buy favor with politicians. They then use a variety of legal tricks to “legally” steal money from ordinary Americans. They ship American jobs offshore. At the same time, they use their wealth to convince politicians to cut taxes. And for good measure, they often stash their money in offshore tax havens in order to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Faced with less revenue, our federal and state governments cut the funding of public schools and universities. The inevitable result is that our nation lags behind many others in terms of upward mobility.

Corporate-owned news media have used their freedom to boost ratings with propaganda. Instead of reporting on things that really matter, such as bringing transparency to our government, they focus on sensational trials and violent crimes – especially those involving people of color. The result is to create more fear leading to more segregation.

Following gains by the civil rights movement, some racists in the South resurrected the Confederate battle flag under the guise of celebrating history. To the descendants of slaves, this was an obvious show of power intended to keep them in “their place.” At the same time, a small portion of our citizens have stockpiled weaponry with the express purpose of intimidating their neighbors and threatening the government to which they pledge allegiance. (Does the name Cliven Bundy ring a bell?)

Freedom, then – at least in the US – is relative. For some in the US, there is too little. For others, there is too much.

Some excuse such things by claiming that freedom is, by its very nature, noisy and messy. However, Germany is free. As a matter of fact, it currently ranks 6 places ahead of the US. Yet in Germany, it is illegal to display the Nazi flag. That may restrict the freedom of some, but it shows a clear sense of responsibility and a compassion for those harmed by Hitler’s regime.

Maybe it’s time the US embraced such values. Even after 239 years, we can still learn and improve our nation. We should understand that with great freedom comes great responsibility – that in a nation of more than 330 million, you cannot do everything you want without infringing on someone else’s freedom. That’s where responsibilities and regulations come into play. As well-educated men of means who celebrated enlightenment, I believe the Founding Fathers assumed our citizens would understand that concept.

Unfortunately, too many don’t.

Destroying Our Country To “Save” It.

Former Congressman Ron Paul has long been the darling of the so-called Tea Party “Patriots.” Like all of his ilk, he waves the flag and spouts quotes from the Founding Fathers in an attempt to claim the high ground of patriotism. Yet, Paul recently told the National Journal ” that he was “real pleased…and a bit surprised” when he learned there is a growing number of Americans who favor secession.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 24 percent of Americans polled between Aug. 23 and Sept. 16 of this year said they support the idea of their state breaking away from the country. And a majority (53 percent) of those who identify with the Tea Party favor secession. Interestingly, many of these people live in states that receive more from the federal government than they pay in taxes. They call themselves “true patriots.” They tend to run around waving a copy of the Constitution in one hand and the Bible in the other. Yet they’ve read neither.

In other words, Paul and his followers are so in love with our country they want to destroy it. They are so enamored by the Founders they want to divide the nation they created.

The truth is, like the Koch brothers who have funded the Tea Party movement from its inception following the election of the nation’s first black president, Paul and his followers claim to favor small government. But what they really want is no government. Indeed, Charles Koch has said, “government should be like a night watchman whose only responsibility is to protect private property rights and to preserve the laws of supply and demand.”

In other words, like all Tea Party parasites, Koch and Paul are of the “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” frame of mind. They don’t want to contribute to helping others climb out of poverty. They don’t want to contribute to the nation’s infrastructure. They don’t want to pay taxes. They don’t want to conserve resources or be stewards of our environment.

To support their positions, they quote the Articles of Confederation, which were so imperfect that they provided no way of repaying the loans needed to win the Revolutionary War; no provisions for a standing army, a federal bank or a federal currency. It was because of these flaws that the Founders convened the Constitutional Convention, creating a structure for our government with only a few absolutes (the Bill of Rights) and guidelines that have allowed our nation to grow and prosper for more than 200 years. It is a nation that is so resilient that it has survived attacks from abroad and within. It has survived more than 200 years of perpetual wars, including a bloody civil war. It has survived the Great Depression and the Great Recession. It has survived the slavery of Africans, the genocide of Native Americans and the greed of corporate “Robber Barons”… calamities that have destroyed many other nations.

In fact, the only thing likely to destroy our nation is the growth of political groups such as the Tea Party led by people like Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rand Paul who are promoted by Fox News and financed by the Koch brothers.

Conservative “Values.”

Whenever I hear someone talk about “values,” I silently prepare myself to endure yet another lecture about religion, hard work, freedom and patriotism. That’s because conservatives assume that they are the only ones who appreciate such things – the only ones who admire hard work, dedication to family and the benefits of living in the US.

Conservatives talk about religion, but they spout hateful ideas. They talk about freedom, but they want to discriminate against those who look different and those with whom they disagree. They talk about hard work, but they refuse to see others rewarded for it. They talk about getting the government off their backs, but they don’t want anyone to touch their Medicare or Social Security. They rail against illegal immigrants while denying equality to the First Americans. They spout quotes from the Founding Fathers, but ignore the statements from those Founders with whom they disagree.

They talk about patriotism, even as they are at war with our federal government.

For the so-called “values voters,” everything is black or white; us against them; Christians against heathens; fiscal conservatives against spendthrifts; cut-and-save against tax-and-spend. There simply is no room for middle ground. As stated by former president George W. Bush, “you’re either with us, or against us.”

I suspect this will fall on deaf ears, but here’s some news for conservatives. Caring for and helping others is a value. Negotiating peace is a value. Showing compassion for those less fortunate than yourself is a value. Leaving the environment in the same shape you found it is a value. Helping to educate others is a value. Honoring knowledge and accomplishment is a value. Tolerance for other lifestyles, ideas and religions is a value. Moderation and compromise are values. And you can be patriotic without waving the flag, shouting “USA” or supporting yet another war.

I understand, dear conservatives, that these may be distasteful and foreign concepts to you. But these are values shared by most of the developed world. In fact, your “values” of greed, anger, hate and intolerance are reviled by most of those who are educated and enlightened. You remember who used those words to describe themselves and their aspirations, don’t you? We refer to them as the Founding Fathers.

Let’s Try To Become The Nation Our Founders Imagined.

In reading The Untold History Of The United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick (a gut-wrenching, powerful and well-documented book), it’s clear that, contrary to what we were taught in history classes, the US has long been a cruel and greedy empire.

For more than 200 years, we have engaged in wars of choice with no other purpose than to capture territory and extract resources. We have brutally murdered, tortured and subjugated indigenous peoples, all the while patting ourselves on the back for bringing them “Christianity” and “civilization.” We perfected mass murder and water boarding in the Philippines. We forced China, Japan and Korea to bow to our wishes for trade. We exerted our will in the Caribbean and South America in order to claim their resources and protect the interests of our corporations.

We occupied Cuba, Dominica, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama and the Philippines. After World War II, we occupied Germany, Italy and Japan. We have sent our troops to every corner of the Earth and have long ruled the air and the seas. According to Stone and Kuznick, “by 2002, we had some form of military presence in 132 of the UN’s then 190 member nations.” And, by my best estimates, we have been at war for all but 33 years of our history.

Why? It mostly has to do with business.

We forced our will upon nations in order to control their gold, silver, copper, aluminum, rubber, sugar, fruit, land, even drugs. More recently, on behalf of our industries, we have pursued oil in the Middle East. We helped to overthrow democratically-elected governments in Chile, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere. We supported and trained death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. And we have bullied almost everyone else.

All the while, we celebrated our victories along with our good intentions.

Is it any wonder, then, that our people have long admired the Romans? In reality, we are them; a power-hungry nation of avarice and cruelty. Like the Romans, we believed that the gods or, in our case, God was on our side. We called it Manifest Destiny; the God-given right and responsibility to govern all those people we considered incapable of governing themselves. Of course, “those people” just happened to be people of color.

We have become the kind of empire our forefathers fought to escape. The Founding Fathers had high ideals; that all people are equal and have a right to life, liberty and happiness. Yes, many held slaves, but many wrestled with that fact and sought a way to end slavery while holding the states together. For example, although he was a slave holder, Thomas Jefferson wanted to bring slavery to an end. In recognition of the complex politics of the issue, he likened slavery “to having a wolf by the ears. You can neither hang on nor let go.”

We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. We must strive to be better; to lift people the world over out of poverty; to support and restore freedom; to end hunger; to rein in greed; to help educate children; to create jobs; to increase the sustainability of our all-too-fragile planet.

We may never be able to end wars, but we should make them increasingly rare. We should have a strong defense, but we cannot and should not be the self-appointed police of the planet. That was never the intention of the Framers. Rather, they believed that we should be an example to others; a model of liberty and justice for all.

We haven’t been, but we still can be.

If Teapublicans Want To Be Taken Seriously, They Should Lose The Superiority Complex.

They need to stop claiming that they’re the only real patriots; stop pretending to be the only true protectors of liberty; stop wrapping themselves and their ideas in the US flag; stop quoting the Founding Fathers, at least until they read the Constitution – the whole Constitution – and stop believing that God has taken their side.

Most of all, they need to lose the anger and hate!

There are some important questions our nation needs to answer in our future. What should we expect of our government? What government programs are essential? Which ones can be cut? When does government become an intrusion into our lives? What should be the role of the US in the world? How much military spending is enough? How much is too much? What is the role of money in elections? How much influence should the wealthy and corporations be able to buy? What, if any, role should religion have in government? What can be done to keep ever more lethal weaponry out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill? What should be done with the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in our country?

These are all legitimate questions that need to be answered. But we can’t have an honest debate as long as one side assumes that it has all the answers and, worse yet, that the other side has no place at the table.

Our government was founded to provide for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for our citizens. All of our citizens. Not those of one political party, ethnic group, race or religious belief.

The Founding Fathers argued intensely over the powers of our government. They debated their positions in the Federalist papers. Those on the side of a strong, central government won. As a result of the Framers’ decisions, our nation has had unparalleled success.

We should not hate our government or each other. We should debate loudly, but respectfully. The only ones who deserve our wrath are those who don’t vote and those who dismiss the views of others. That includes those who would hold our government hostage until they get their way!

The Government Of Me.

As the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party continues to express outrage at our federal government, it becomes increasingly clear that the Tea Party simply does not understand the concept of a democratic republic. Its members ignore the fact that the Articles of Confederation were replaced by a Constitution that created a strong, centralized federal government. They ignore the fact that the power of the federal government versus the power of the states was thoroughly debated by our Founding Fathers, and the Federalists won. They quote the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment while ignoring all of its original Articles that gave the federal government sweeping powers to “provide for the general Welfare of the United States.”

Indeed, they even seem to ignore the “United” in United States!

At the heart of the Tea Party anger seems to be a misunderstanding of what constitutes a democracy. By its very nature, a democracy is based on majority rule. That means a minority, sometimes a significant minority, is often unhappy with the direction of our government. And, as the result of a quirk in our Electoral College, following the 2000 presidential election, a significant majority of our citizens were unhappy with the outcome, having voted for another candidate.

The Tea Party members refuse to acknowledge that President Obama was elected and re-elected by significant majorities of voters. They ignore the fact that the 2012 election was, in essence, a referendum on support for the middle class; for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

They continue to claim that Obama was born in Kenya and should, therefore, be disqualified from holding the office of president. They continue to howl that financial and environmental regulations are “job killers.” They consider his signature accomplishment of making health care affordable to all Americans a socialist government “takeover.” And, instead of accepting majority rule, they seem determined to take away the voting rights of African-Americans, Latinos, students, women, and the poor – anyone who might vote against the Tea Party agenda.

In other words, as they wave the American flag and their pocket copies of the Constitution with only the Second and Tenth Amendments highlighted, they are attempting to cut out the very heart of our democracy…that of majority rule.

The Tea Party refuses to accept that our nation is evolving; that the minorities of brown and black are the majorities of the future. The “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” crowd can’t bear the idea of change; of giving power to others. I believe that is what’s behind their animosity toward President Obama.

They can’t accept forward-thinking ideas such as investing in our failing infrastructure while interest rates are at all-time lows. They can’t understand that a tax policy that punishes greed and rewards corporate investment in our nation benefits the vast majority of our citizens. They can’t grasp that jobs paying a living wage are necessary to the health of our nation and benefit us all. They can’t see that an environmental policy that conserves the health of our planet benefits everyone. As long as they have theirs, they refuse to accept the notion that affordable health care and a comfortable retirement are rights, not benefits.

Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to create a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” – the majority of people.

If you want a government “of the people, by the people and for me” you’re in the wrong place. You should find a remote, uninhabited island where you can become supreme dictator. Otherwise, it’s time you learned to accept majority rule.

A Divided Nation.

I began this blog several years ago with a post “Why We’re Divided.” The point was that our political divide is not merely the result of differing ideologies. It’s the result of differing “facts.”

Never has that been more clearly demonstrated than by two competing advertising campaigns running on this Independence Day. In my state’s largest newspaper, there is an ad bearing the headline “In God We Trust.” Paid for by a company that is owned by a religious zealot, the ad uses a variety of quotes from our Founding Fathers to support the claim that our nation was founded on Christianity.

A few pages later, there is an ad bearing the headline “Celebrate Our Godless Constitution.” Paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, it, too, uses a variety of quotes from our Founding Fathers to support the claim that our nation was built on the principle of separation of Church and State.

This is a classic example of proof-texting – selectively choosing quotes that support a particular point of view. This technique is often used by the religious to justify actions or beliefs. Religious leaders use verses from the Bible to justify war, to rationalize genocide, to discriminate against gays and others, to ignore – indeed blame – the poor for struggling as the result of policies they didn’t create, etc.

No matter how ugly your point of view, you can find a verse in the Bible, the Torah or the Qur’an to justify an action or inaction.

The same is true when it comes to quotes by our Founding Fathers. As Michael Austin writes in his book That’s Not What They Meant! Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right Wing, the Founders were so diverse, you can find a quote from one of them to support almost any point of view. Among the Founders were Protestants, Catholics, Quakers, Jews, Deists, Agnostics and Atheists. There were idealists and slave owners. There were farmers, plantation owners, printers, attorneys, inventors, ship owners and many others.

There were Founders in favor of a strong central government and those who believed the power should reside exclusively with the states.

So which ad is correct? Both of them. And neither of them.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, who authored our Constitution’s Bill of Rights, strongly believed in separation of Church and State. The majority at the Constitutional Convention agreed. However, many of the Founders spoke of “divine providence” and the “principles of Christianity.”

More important, the ads demonstrate the growing divide between Americans; between the Federalists and those who believe in states’ rights; between the devoutly religious and the agnostics; between science and religion; between those who trust government and those who despise it; between the wealthy and the poor; between red and blue; between black, brown, red and white; between the educated and the uneducated; and between those who believe the US is the greatest nation on Earth and those who recognize its faults and intend to change them.

I think it no exaggeration to write that our nation is at a crossroads, more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Independence Day is the perfect time to consider the consequences of such a divide. Committing to compromise and finding common ground are imperative to the future of our nation.