At the close of the Constitutional Convention, the birth of our nation, when asked what kind of government the new nation would have, octogenarian Benjamin Franklin supposedly replied, “A republic — if you can keep it.”

As cautionary as that advice was then, it was a time of optimism when the sun was rising on our fledgling nation. That was before political parties and the bipartisan divide we have now. The cautionary advice has become a dire warning.

So, are we fundamentally different now from then? We are born — we’re humans first. We are members of biological families, with strong emotional bonds to others. We’re citizens, with rights — and responsibilities to protect those rights. And then, somewhere down the road, we may become Republicans or Democrats. And those late-coming labels insidiously begin to define us. And the definition hardens, encasing us in armor that becomes more and more impenetrable.

But we’re all humans, family members and citizens still, most fundamentally. Back to Mr. Franklin’s warning, I hope our Republican senators, Mr. Romney and Mr. Lee, and their colleagues will remember this and vote in the current trial as people, as citizens, without labels, first and foremost, so we can hope to keep our republic.

Al Forsyth, River Heights