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Rev. Kevin Johnson

Rev. Kevin Johnson

In 1776, our founders gave birth to a new country, the United States of America.

While there are various narratives about how America was birthed — colonialism, slavery, segregation, sexism, etc. — our country has become synonymous with structuring a belief system based on equality for all and exercising our rights to freedom of speech.

Our nation was built on the tenets of democracy: rule of law, freedom of press, respect of human rights and active political processes. It is the foundation for which our country stands.

However, since the rise of the tea party in January 2009, America appears to have moved backward instead of forward. Over the past few years, we have seen our nation return to a very dark place.

This movement was fully manifested with the election and inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States.

Per the FBI figures as of November 2016, we are witnessing an uptick in hate crimes like we have never seen before.

There was a 7 percent increase in hate crimes overall in the United States and a 67 percent spike targeted toward Muslims. These statistics are not representative of the America that I know and love.

While many have applauded Trump’s disruptive leadership style, others argue that his management style and tactics have become and are destructive for our great nation.

During Trump’s first two weeks in office, he issued eight executive orders to bypass the United States Congress to advance his own policy agenda.

He signed executive orders to repeal the Affordable Care Act, construct a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, halt federal government hiring and institute a travel ban that prohibits seven countries with strong Muslim ties from entering the United States.

Although it is within his presidential prerogative to issue executive orders, many of these orders executed are reminiscent of a dictatorship.

Trump seems to ignore that America is built upon three branches of government — executive, legislative and judiciary — and wants to rule with absolute, dictatorial power.

This form of leadership does not catapult democracy, but rather erodes it.

For example, last week, after a controversial and bruising confirmation hearing, Betsy DeVos became the country’s Secretary of Education.

Due to a 50-50 tie on the senate floor whether to approve her nomination, the senate was split. On Feb. 1, Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie and voted in favor of DeVos becoming the Secretary of Education.

Pence’s vote signaled that there is no longer a checks and balances system with the Trump administration. And this is dangerous for democracy.

The arguments against DeVos’ nomination were legitimate. She is not a proponent of public schools and once suggested that guns may have a place in schools. For many, DeVos is gravely unqualified to be the nation’s educational chief.

In addition to DeVos’ nomination, Trump nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to become attorney general, despite his controversial past.

Sessions has a well-documented history of making disparaging statements against African Americans and equal rights.

During an unsuccessful bid to become a federal district court judge under the Reagan administration, the late Coretta Scott King drafted a letter on March 19, 1986 to oppose his nomination because of Sessions’ questionable support for voting rights of African Americans.

George Orwell once stated that “Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

America must return to its principles and decorum of democracy.

Belittling federally appointed judges, using power and influence to bully retailers and the media, and lashing out at every critical commentary is a form of tyranny.

We all enjoy the right to freedom of speech. But, there is a responsibility that comes with having that freedom..

In January, President Obama addressed a crowd in his hometown of Chicago during his farewell speech and stated: “The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.

“But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.”

Democracy is our birthright as citizens of the United States of America.

We’ve come too far to undo all the advances our forefathers and mothers fought for and cannot allow others to dictate our future.

As always, keep the faith.

Kevin R. Johnson, Ed.D. is a frequent columnist and the lead pastor of Dare to Imagine Church, 3801 Market St., Philadelphia, Pa. Follow him on Twitter @drkrj.


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