There have been a lot of concerning events that have happened during the first two weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, and while they each pose very real and immediate threats the the liberties of the American people, there is a much bigger problem going on. I don’t think the leader of the free world understands how the Constitution works. For that matter, I don’t think the majority of the American public understands this document.
I am not saying this to declare that the US is full of ignorant bumpkins that don’t even know how their government works. I am sure everyone has read it, or at least parts of it. I am sure that most US citizens know about the three branches of government, and the Bill of Rights and were at some point assigned to memorize the Preamble, but most have probably not taken the time to actively understand it.
I don’t blame you. The original text is about ten pages long, and written in eighteenth-century English. Its purpose is to be administrative and as a result, it can be very dry.
I studied the “Philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system” as a part of what is probably the nerdiest and best academic team ever invented, it even has a long-winded name to match: We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution. (We called it the Constitution Team for short.) I spent a year closely studying the Constitution, my undergraduate study was focused on the American Revolutionary Period and the Early Republic, and even I still have trouble with it.
So, I decided to spend a nice Saturday re-reading the Constitution. To my surprise, it was difficult to find the full text on Google. In fact, the whitehouse.gov link wouldn’t even load. This is indicative of many things. Most of which, are probably conspiracies invented in my own head, but what it is really indicative of is that each American citizen needs to seriously sit down and read it.
Print out the original text. Take the time to consider it as a document that was meant to be actively understood, not wrapped up and delivered to you as a totem.
Consider the history behind every sentence, every word. Consider the people writing it, the political atmosphere, the social, economic, racial, and any other context that you can imagine. Stop, think, discuss, progress.
And, if you’re interested, I’m going to be taking the time to write up my own analysis, and I’ll be posting it here. I encourage you to join me, send me your questions, comments, concerns, and disagreeing opinions. Now, more than ever, we need to be engaging the US Constitution and talking about it seriously and productively.
You can find it here.