“You are right,” said Amelia Bedelia. “And it hurts.”
. . .
“Nice work Amelia Bedelia,” said Miss Edwards. “By joining your own club,
you joined the other two clubs together.”
from Amelia Bedelia Joins the Club
written by Herman Parish
illustrated by Lynne Avril
Amelia Bedelia found it too difficult to choose between joining her friends who were puddle jumpers and her other friends who were puddle leapers. So she invented her own club, one that incorporated leaping and jumping. Everyone joined in.
If I had to choose say, between Butter Pecan ice cream and Rocky Road, I might opt, like Amelia Bedelia, to have a little of both. I’d give up a little Butter Pecan to get a little Rocky Road. That way, less Butter Pecan doesn’t sound so bad.
According to the online version of Merriam-Webster, one definition of compromise is the settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compromise
The word itself comes from the 1500s. Used as a noun, a compromise is the end result of a fruitful discussion where all parties agree to be a little selfless for the sake of gaining a greater good for all. Compromise, as a verb, describes doing the actual work.
In the 1820s, our country’s immense growing pains resulted in the Missouri Compromise. Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state at the same time Maine was designated a free state. Just over thirty years later, the Missouri Compromise was repealed and replaced with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, another slave-saving compromise meant to keep slave states and free states in balance.
But when a compromise is based not on the betterment of all, but on holding to the status quo no matter who is being hurt, the whole society is hurt.
Slavery can never be called good. Slavery can never be rationalized as necessary. Our worth as human beings is intrinsic to our personhood. It is the difference between priceless and worthless. We, all of us, by our very nature, are priceless.
There is no room for compromise on the issue of slavery.
Look what happened when the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act were tested in the Judicial system.
Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, both enslaved people, sued for their freedom. They based their case on two Missouri statutes. One allowed any person of any color to sue for wrongful enslavement. The other stated that any person taken to a free territory automatically became free and could not be re-enslaved upon returning to a slave state. Dred, Harriet, and their owner lived for a time in Illinois and Wisconsin, both free states.
A series of appeals slowly moved his case up to the Supreme Court. Even though Dred and Harriet won their freedom in the lower courts, the Supreme Court’s decision kept them enslaved.
Citizenship was a controversial idea in the mid-nineteenth century. Roger Taney, the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, claimed in his majority opinion that “all people of African descent, free or enslaved, were not United States citizens and therefore had no right to sue in federal court. He also wrote that the Fifth Amendment which assured property owners that their property could not be taken from them without compensation, protected slave owner rights because enslaved workers were their legal property.” https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/dred-scott-case
The public’s outrage toward Taney’s decision moved Abraham Lincoln closer to the presidency. And moved the United States closer to Civil War. (In a note of irony, when Abraham Lincoln became the sixteenth President, it was Chief Justice Roger Taney who administered the Presidential Oath of Office.)
Dred Scott and his family finally became free, but not because of anything Taney did. Scott and his family were sold to Taylor Blow, the son of Dred’s first owner. Taylor abhorred slavery and freed Scott and his family on May 26, 1857.
Passed in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to everyone born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves. It guaranteed all citizens “equal protection of the laws.”
When we reach compromise for the right reasons, to give a leg up to our most vulnerable, to reward those who work toward the ideals laid out in our Constitution, to put the greater good ahead of any one person’s or one group’s gain, we all become better people.
Still in 2020, many of the most vulnerable in our society are marginalized. Finding a good job, attending a well-staffed and well-funded school, living in a safe neighborhood, access to quality healthcare and clean water and nourishing food are all very high hurdles for many.
But, we can elect a congress who we believe will put the good of the many ahead of their own selves. We can encourage them to keep working for the good of our society by calling them, sending letters and emails. And by saying thank you when they succeed as well as making demands when demands are necessary.
We can elect a decent man president. A breath of sanity, stability, and sound judgement will be a very welcome change, indeed.
-—stay curious! (and vote)