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Happy 240th birthday USA

This is my annual happy birthday column to the country I love so much and still believe in. I have to go back, though, to the heritage of our country because right now we’re a little unbalanced, fearful and defensive. These are qualities that humans experience and after all, our government is hopefully created by the people. It would be helpful if people with these qualities were not in leadership positions, however. Maybe to get ourselves back to balance it would help to see what unified our founding fathers and mothers when our country was born.

“WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. “ (Second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence)

There were 56 who signed it. They believed in basic human rights. Were they all the same religion? No. At www.usconstitution.net I found out that in researching the signers they found the following religions from those whose religions they could find: Anglican, Congregationalist, Deist. Episcopal, Presbyterian, Quaker, Roman Catholic, and Unitarian.

I had to look up Deist, because it was significant for me that Thomas Jefferson, who is given credit for most of the formation of the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin Franklin were both Deists. This is the definition I found for Deism: belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe. The term is used chiefly of an intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries that accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.

And yet, there are references in the Declaration and in the Constitution to “Providence,” another name for God, or the protective care of God. Perhaps that shows a willingness to give a little.

Were they professional politicians? None of them! It hadn’t become a profession. These men crafted our future in their time aside from their regular work. There wasn’t pay. They paid their own way. These were their jobs: Lawyer, merchant, farmer, doctor, land speculator, plantation owner, scientist, printer, minister, and musician. They represented their communities.

So this mixed bag of concerned folks with high ideals, morals, and sincere desire for their home country to offer the best it could for its citizens (Yes, I know that women’s and children’s rights are still being considered for ratification) came together and with their collective experience, heart, faith in humanity and wisdom crafted a living document. It’s living because it gives people the right to modify the law and to institute new government to “effect their Safety and Happiness.” Brilliant planning for evolution!

We’ve been modifying our government ever since. School classes have gone through the process to create laws where they live. So many people complain about our government. They need to organize, collaborate, remember the keywords “safety and happiness” and go through the process.

1. Laws begin as ideas. A citizen with a good idea can contact their state representative to discuss their ideas. If the representative agrees, they research the ideas and write them into bills.

2. When the representative has written the bill, it needs a sponsor. The representative talks with other representatives hoping one will sponsor it. When it has one …

3. … The bill is introduced. It’s placed in the hopper, a special box on the side of the clerk’s desk. Only representatives can introduce bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.

When it is introduced, a bill clerk assigns it a number that begins with H.R. A reading clerk then reads the bill to everyone, and the Speaker of the House (boss, or director) sends the bill to one of the House standing committees.

4. Committees are made from groups of representatives who are experts on certain topics, like education, or agriculture. They review, research, and revise it before deciding if it should go to the House for a vote. They may send it to a subcommittee of specialists first.

5. When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent (reported) to the House floor. Now it is debated by the all the House of Representatives there. They explain why they agree or disagree with it. Then a reading clerk reads the bill section by section and the representatives recommend changes. When all the changes have been made, the bill is ready to be voted on.

6. They can vote in three ways: by saying “aye” if they agree, or “no” if they don’t. Standing up to be counted in favor or not in favor, by using an electronic voting machine.

7. If it passes the House, the bill is then certified by the Clerk of the House and delivered to the U.S. Senate. Then it goes through the same process as it did in the House.

8. If it passes the Senate, it then goes to the president who has three choices. He can sign and pass the bill and it becomes law. He can veto (say no to the bill) and send it back to the House with his reasons for the veto. If the House and Senate still believe in it, they can hold another vote on the bill. If two-thirds of the representatives and senators support the bill, the president’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes law. His third choice is to “pocket veto” the bill. If Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law after 10 days. If Congress is not in session, the bill does not become a law.

9. When it becomes a law, then it is enforced by the government.

So Happy 4th of July, although it was probably fully signed Aug. 2, 1776. Have fun. Be safe.

•••

Hale ‘Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org. For more information about Hale Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org

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