034 – The Constitution and People

Written 7 Jan 2021

Let’s put aside “right” and “wrong” for a moment. Many of us in the world, especially in the USA, are concerned for the events in Washington D.C. at the Capital on 6-7 January, 2021. It is a concern that has been growing over the years and isn’t played out in it’s entirety, yet. It could be a long two weeks before Mr. Biden takes on the immense power of the Presidency.

The USA is scarcely unique in having the fundamental issues of transfer of power come up: it’s been happening for thousands of years in virtually every known type of civilization. There is an oft-repeated phrase from numerous sources either as a quotation or a paraphrase: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” With humility, I’m not sure that is correct. Even if we learn, we are condemned to repeat it. Why? Because all of this involves humans. We can come up with Constitutions and other ways to deal with differing opinions about either how a government operates, and who is “right” about how to do it, or who is in power, but we have never been able to get everyone to agree on it. Probably never will.

In this case, enough (but not all) people in responsible positions (eventually) came up with the political will and personal courage to follow the guidelines they took an oath to protect, and it has (so far) seen us through one of the most, if not the most, serious challenges ever faced by our government in the USA. Some well meaning leaders took positions that I personally disagree with, but if they followed their oaths, and the Constitution they swore to uphold, I can defend them. That those guidelines exist is a tribute to the people who created the U.S. Constitution, and the country. It was not, and still isn’t, an easy task.

The American Constitution isn’t perfect – far from it – but it was put together by people just like you and me who decided to really care and discourse, and compromise, and take reasoned and collaborative action to fix perceived problems and set up for the future. In the USA we tend to deify the Founding Fathers responsible for this document (much to our detriment in my opinion). They were fallible humans just like us. But they did it.

One fascinating book about the specific events of the 1770 “Boston Massacre” and John Adam’s defense of the British defendants gives some insight as to the facts of the situation in the United States prior to the Declaration of Independence as opposed to the often mischaracterized historical “stories”. These factors were strongly considered in creating the U.S. Constitution. The event in Boston was in some ways similar to what just transpired in Washington. (If you choose to think I make a direct comparison, you do me, and your evaluative skills, an injustice.) I strongly recommend John Adams Under Fire: The Founding Father’s Fight for Justice in the Boston Massacre by Dan Abrams. It is informative and valuable and reads like a good novel. How do responsible and informed people deal with the often irresponsible actions of those governed?

A second, more contemporary, perspective is the book/play What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck. It is a very readable and even handed discussion of how the Constitution affects our lives, today, in very personal ways, and discusses why we should care and what we can do about it.

Lest you are left with the impression that I am hiding behind discussions and objectivity as supplied by someone else, I personally hope that the persons holding the offices designated in Article 25 of the U.S. Constitution take action – NOW – and remove Mr. Trump from office, immediately. My desire for this is based on the rational fears of what he could do in the next two weeks as confirmed by his history so far.

You are welcome to leave comments pro and con of course, but I would hope that you take some time to read at least some of each of the two referenced works so you can make a more informed decision about what you feel should result from the situation we find ourselves in – not just the citizens/voters of the USA, but citizens of the world. An informed discourse is the only – the ONLY – hope for a reasoned future and the success of experiments in democracy. Make no mistake – it is still an experiment and it will fail if we do not take our responsibilities seriously.