Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Tree-Acorn Convergence: Plus A Constitutional Primer

They say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. In our case that is very true, but I am actually talking about myself now, and not hubby as the progenitor of the latest event. Honestly its not even about the boys right now, it is purely about me.

We always tell ourselves to watch the children and make sure that they do not let their obsessions over take them and to not let their perseverations harm them in any way. But your children, or at least mine, did not end up with the genetic predisposition for obsessions just on happenstance. Oh no, I can honestly tell you, that I have plenty of my own little obsessions and perseverations as well.

This morning or rather, yesterday evening into this morning is a case in point. You see there are several things in life that annoy me greatly. One of them is ignorance of the law and not just any law, but when people misunderstand and misread the purposes and rights associated with the US Constitution. While we can agree to disagree about what certain rights entail and how much government interference is allowed, there are some absolutes that just are the way they are. Case in point, that the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has the right and the authority to rule on the Constitutionality of a law passed by Congress and if a law passed by a state overreaches into the US Constitution they have aright to review that law as well. Plain and simple it is called judicialreview. It was the first case discussed by SCOTUS setting out the parameters of its mission.

Apart from that there are three branches of government, the legislative, the judicial and the executive. Our Constitution provides for a checks and balances approach to legislation and the power of the government. It is something someone is supposed to learn about in elementary school. But apparently there are a great many people in the country who do not seem to know about that. Plus there is a huge volume of law surrounding the Constitution and while scholars do not always agree about an outcome of a case, they do understand the typical rules and requirements as laid down by the court in order to decide an issue. However there happen to be an inordinate amount of people in this country who have decided for themselves what the Constitution means, how it is to be applied and whether it is relevant in their lives without an understanding of the fact that they simply do not know what they are talking about.

So here I go responding to people's comments on a particular law professor's blog. In my obsessive way I try to politely explain that there are Constitutional scholars who are discussing the issues at hand and then I link to a video of one particular well respected and well-known Constitutional scholar (here). Well the unholy hullabaloo that followed was unreal. Not being one to let anything go or let anyone call me an idiot, I of course answered back vociferously. I do not know why it mattered to me. Not one person knows who I am and I had no idea who they are. It just got my dander up that people are so stupid. Their snarky ignorance just galled me and quite frankly pissed me off.

Well I posted about it on facebook and in their own inimical way several persons happened to chime in asking me what the heck is wrong with me and why am I wasting my time? @Childanxiety even mentioned that I couldn’t fix stupid (that is true) and that I need to spend my time doing something more productive, like write that book I always talk about. Meanwhile my New Year’s resolution was to write that book, and nope I have not even started it. I suppose if I spent less time reading what others wrote and being annoyed I could get my own tuchas in gear and keep my promise to myself.

Well it took me a moment to pull my self back from the abyss of obsessive perseverations. I have removed the blog link from my political blog list and have decided to not care what anyone answers. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t really matter. In the real world there are people that you are never going to be able to fix and when their ideology is mixed up in hate and ignorance it is even worse to try to dispel some of the inanity. I just find it so sad.

There is nothing that I love more than the brilliance in the US Constitution. Its simplicity is its magnificence. No it is not a perfect document by any means of the imagination. How could a document written by human beings be perfect? But its imperfections are something the founding fathers acknowledged and that is why they left it with the ability to be amended. But it's the Constitution’s codification of the rights of the individual trumping the rights of the state which is unique still to this day in the world in which we live. The gift that we as Americans have been given is beyond measure in the annuls of human history and for some to take it, convolute it and then try to sell it back to you as anything but a document of freedom for all is intolerable to me.

I can’t help myself when others disrespect the brilliance in the Constitution by turning it into something it is not. However, I am afraid I am gong to have to divest myself from caring what others think and put my energies into something positive, uplifting and find a way to propel myself forward without obsessing on inane individuals who don’t matter. Perhaps it is time to at least figure out just what kind of book I want to write. I have looked at novel writing, but I am not very good at creative writing. Perhaps I should write a novel with a message about the Constitution and the value of freedom for all. Yes I know its been done before. All I need is a hook, a way to find a new approach, something that will get people to read it.…Unfortunately wizards and vampires are a little overdone right now.

Like I said, the acorns don’t fall far from the tree…. going to use some of the tricks I try to teach the boys to pull them from their obsessions. Lets see if any of them work for me. I will let you know.

Meanwhile here is my take on the US Constitution:


It is important that we, Americans, never forget the importance and the significance of these three words. We need to remember that these words are written into our Constitution larger and more pronounced than any other words for a reason. We must never forget that we the people are the United States. We the people created this nation. We the people took destiny into our own hands and told the world, we the people will control our own future. We the people will not be denied.

It’s not as if there is even a question really in today’s day and age that the United States is all about the people. It is quite evident that the people when they are denied will stand up and be counted. There are those that when called to serve stand up and sacrifice for our future. When issues abound there are those that politic and lobby for their beliefs and point so view. There are those who are civically minded volunteers, active in their communities, thus making all our lives joyful, secure and free.

But to understand why something is important, I also think it is necessary to understand just how rare it is and just how vulnerable it can be. ... we must understand that to enjoy the freedom to make all our own choices means we must take ownership for our failings as well as our successes.

But first we must also address the issue of what is the Constitution. No not in a specific, article by article, way. Anyone can buy a copy of the Constitution in a bookstore or order it on line to find out the exact rules under which this government functions. What I would like to discuss is the power of the document. What it has actually accomplished, something that had never ever been accomplished before in history.

What I am talking about is the power of the US Constitution to transform a disparate group of unrelated and unconnected people into the freest nation to have ever existed in the history of humankind. That it took people from across the globe and created what we now call an American. That these same so-called self-styled Americans have even evolved and created a challenging new philosophy of nationhood.

Yes, it took centuries for us to appear, but we had to begin somewhere. As with the development of societal norms, the development of a people, the society in which we live, also thrives on evolution. No I am not just talking about civil rights, suffrage, equal protection or disability rights. I am talking about something much more esoteric, something much more abstract as to who we are. We Americans are the confluence of ideas from around the globe. Not just in food, clothing and language, but in culture and law and relationships. We may have started our nation as an outgrowth of the British Empire, replete with a very British understanding of society, but we made it more than that.

Some do point to the American Revolution as evidence of a break with English tradition, but in truth, it really wasn’t. The American Revolution was fought, because the British government usurped the very English rights of landholding men. The government of George III took from our founding fathers that which they held more dear than their own lives. Lives which they in fact were willing to forfeit in order to retain and that was the very English ideal of individual liberty (of course at the time they were only talking about white, landholding men, but we have thankfully evolved past that) . This concept of liberty is all about the right to direct your present and prepare for a future of your choice. Intrinsic within it is the idea that individuals are entitled to participate in the development of these rights through representative government.

OK, so many say the Congress isn’t representative of the American people today. For that we have no one to blame but ourselves. But we have seen a wellspring of action and the people have demanded to be heard. This has been a raucous election season and it is not over. But this is our Constitution in action. This is the legacy that our forefathers gave us. This is the legacy that our forebearers died for. This is what people around the globe daily die for.This is freedom and it is glorious.

Even the formation of the government in the Constitution is modeled after the English system of parliament. Remember we even had a ruling class, our senators used to be appointed by the governors of the state, not elected by the people. Meanwhile, it was the House of Representatives that was representative of the people. There was also no mention of term limits for a president. It just became de rigueur to serve only two terms to follow in Washington’s footsteps. Not until after FDR, was the Constitution amended to include a two-term limit on a Presidency. Ironically, the founding fathers had even left open the potential for a King, even though they would have all bristled at the thought.

But how did the US Constitution help us to evolve and bring together the confluence of ideas that has made us who we are today? The Constitution holds us all together, by allowing everyone to be who they are, and be Americans. No I am not talking about the hyphenated American, or class warfare. I am talking about the power of the Constitution in our everyday. It is the Constitution that recognizes a human’s need for self- realization. In fact, the power of the Constitution within our society is that you don’t even know it is there unless you need it. The Constitution empowers anyone living within the borders of this nation, citizen or noncitizen, legal alien or illegal alien. All can access its protection. If you are in the purview, and subject to the laws and regulations of the US government (you don’t even have to be in physically within the borders of this country) then you are entitled to the aegis of the US Constitution.

Every American knows that he has rights under the Constitution. Of course, he may not be able to name every right in those first ten amendments, but Americans know the government is hard pressed to really interfere in their lives. Americans understand that the Bill of Rights is not about granting us powers over our day to day existence, but it is about the curtailment of the powers of the federal government to interfere in our day to day existence. It is us, We the People, who give the government limited powers, and We the People who can take or give power as we see fit. Americans understand that no one, not even the President is above the law. (Presidents can be impeached, they can be forced to resign, and they can be chastised by the Supreme Court, or overridden by Congress). No one and nothing is more important than the people. That is the power of the Constitution and that is why our society grows and changes and evolves almost on a daily basis. Sometimes we evolve in even violent ways (civil war, social unrest, even some types of demonstrations), and sometimes we evolve in nonviolent ways (sit ins, marches, speechifying, townhalls, laws and amendments, lobbying and politics) but our nation evolves.

We change because the Constitution allows us to challenge each other. We challenge each other‘s ideal and thoughts and beliefs. We challenge each other’s ideas and truths. We challenge each other’s concept of government and what role the government will play in our lives. But mostly we challenge each other’s idea as to what kind of America we want our children to inherit. We challenge each other’s idea of legacy. We challenge each other’s idea for the future. We challenge each other’s notion of what is good for posterity. We even challenge each other’s idea of what makes us proud of this country.

So that is how the Constitution creates a people. It takes a disparate band of human beings, who are up for a challenge and it allows them to be challenged. Many around the world do not understand Americans. Many do not understand the individuality and independence that is intrinsic in the American spirit. Many around the world do not understand that our differences are our greatest strength. Many around the world do not understand that our arguments and our fighting and our not always pleasant discourse are the things that make us a people. For as a person grows through trials and tribulations to become much more than they ever thought they could, so does a nation. So does this nation.

So next time when you read the Constitution look for the invitation that reads, come help create a people. Do you see the dare it lays out before you? It is written boldly and plainly so all might see. It invites those who are not afraid. Come help me build a nation it calls. Come stand with me and we shall know what it is to be free. 

Until next time, 

Hopefully with all my perseverations gone,