Wednesday I was at the annual Darwin Day at Duquesne University, the presentation was by the eminent professors Drs. Rosemary and Peter Grant on the continuing evolution of the Darwin Finch. It was an amazing presentation on the rapid evolution of the species due to the continuing environmental changes in the Galapagos Islands. If you are interested in the presentation it will (at some time) be uploaded to their site: Darwin Day 2018.
Anyway, after the presentation my mind started to wander (happens more often than not) on how everything evolves from external pressures and changes. Even Christianity has evolved over the centuries from small home-based churches struggling with keeping a unified church following the same systems of beliefs (delivered by tweleve Apostles (including Paul) and numerous disciples) to the modern day with thousands of denominations having little desire to interact with each other, some with teachings barely reflecting anything we find in the New Testament.
Would that my mind could stay there, but such was not to be the case, I started to think about America (United States of, as we fail to remember that Canada and Mexico are America as well). The US was a great experiment in self government (not Democracy, but self government), a people who cast off the imperialistic government almost 3,500 miles away so as to take control of their own destiny.
The new government was set up in such a way as to allow the country to be ruled, no, governed, by represenatives elected by the states (exact method varied from state to state). Sixty nine electors voted for George Washington, the first and only unanimous vote ever recorded for President. John Adams won 34 votes, making him the Vice President (each elector had two votes, one for each position). At that time only six of the thirteen colonies allowed for a popular vote. The only citizenship requirement is that you be a citizen of the United States (immigrant or natural born) for no less thatn fourteen years.
Our leaders then were smart, they knew that the Consitution had to be a living, breathing document in order to allow this young nation to grow, so they provided a method for future generations to change it to meet their needs, and change it we have (27 times). Fortunately, they were also smart enough to allow that one or two largely populated states (ex: NY and Ca.) couldn’t run roughshod over the rest of the country simply because they had more people. No, they were bright enough to know that in a true Democracy (one person, one vote) the little guy (or small state) would have no voice in this new nation, so they put in safeguards.
America has, over her 241 years, seen massive changes in law, culture, and ideology. We have moved from a country where the ownership of an individual was considered part of the natural order, to a time where we look upon it with disgust. We no longer allow for the treatment of women as property, or as the part of society that stays home “barefoot and pregnant”, but are looked upon as a valued partner in this great experiment. America has long welcomed immigrants to her shores – not. In the early nation Catholics were not accepted in most states. Chinese laborers brought over to build the railways (and other projects) were treated as sub-human. In the great state of diversity (NY) Irish were not allowed to hold jobs in many fields. Eastern Europeans brought to work in the mines and steel mills were treated poorly. Oddly enough, immigrant Mexican workers were welcomed, indeed they were not restricted by the immigration quotas of the 1924 Immigration Act. It was not until the Great Depression that Mexican immigrantion went, well, south. Now we are in a struggle caused, not by migrant workers, but by the drug cartels and 9/11. Prior to these events Mexican workers flowed freely between the two countries as seasons, and job availability, changed. Closing of the borders trapped these workers on one side or the other of the border, leading to the Mexicans on this side being classified as “illegal” immigrants, and those on the other side finding their choices limited to life in poverty and danger, or sneaking across the border hoping for a better life, much as millions of immigrants before them.
America continues to undergo Darwinian Evolution, like the Darwin Finch, changed by both external pressures and internal ones. This evolution comes to us in two forms (as all evolution does) – gentle evolution of an evolving species through inbreeding and natural progression, and through the violent changes brought about when the natural processes are interrupted. For the finch this comes about during those periods of drought and excess; in America this comes as societal segments become impatient (sometimes rightly so) at the slow progression of a developing nation (we sometimes forget that we are but 241 years old, unlike countries hundreds of years our senior).
So, we continue to grow and change again, this Great Experiment we call the United States. As we do so we must do it with the wisdom and foresight that our first leaders put forward – in changing to meet our needs and desires those in the majority must remember that this country was created not just for them, but to shelter and protect the minorty as well. We must understand that the desires of the majority cannot but used to overpower the rights of the minorty, for we are all equal citizens of these United States.