Other view: Read the Constitution. You'll be amazed
In 1787, we're told Our founding fathers did agree To write a list of principles For keepin' people free. And it started out like this: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic...
In 1787, we're told
Our founding fathers did agree
To write a list of principles
For keepin' people free.
And it started out like this:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the language.
The words have been memorized by countless schoolchildren, often through a catchy Schoolhouse Rock ditty.
But the meaning of the Preamble and seven Articles of the main document that 39 men representing 12 states signed in 1787 has been -- and will be -- debated as long as there is a United States.
Does a strong federal government help make the union "more perfect" or less ideal?
Can "justice" be achieved through punishments that some consider justified and others find barbaric?
At how steep a cost do we wage war to protect "the common defence"?
What promotes the "general welfare" in a nation as vast, diverse and complicated as the United States?
And those bafflers don't even get to the skirmishes over the Bill of Rights, which was added two years later, or the 17 subsequent amendments.
Does free speech include disrespectful protests near military funerals or threats of violence against federal judges?
When does a cross on public property become an improper endorsement of religion?
What kinds of restrictions can the government place on gun ownership?
Who falls under the guarantee of citizenship for those born or naturalized here?
Must the states abide by the new federal health-care law? Can states adopt their own criminal sanctions for immigration violations?
Voices on both the political right and the left claim to want to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and return us to the core values our founding document embraces. Of course, they don't necessarily agree on where it is they want to take us.
But let's try to pinpoint some of the key ideas the Constitutional Convention delegates tried to express those 223 years ago.
That government can help people order their lives but can operate legitimately only when it derives its authority from those it serves.
That all the people should be fairly represented, the states should have some autonomy and the branches of government should prevent each other from becoming too powerful.
That liberty is a blessing; that it must be nurtured through thoughtful, active citizenship; and that it's every American's responsibility to uphold it in the present and preserve it for future generations.
Most Americans have but a passing acquaintance with the Constitution, their certainty about it grounded in vague and possibly inaccurate notions about what it actually says and does.
Sept. 17 was Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Use the occasion as an excuse to actually read the Constitution. Marvel at how a remarkably brief document provides the outline for a form of government that has survived and thrived through more than two centuries of tests and trials.
Celebrate the freedoms it guarantees. And think about those who've fought and died for our founding document and the ideals it represents.
This editorial was written by editorial writer Linda Campbell of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas.