A day – and a way – to think about the U.S. Constitution


Constitution Day is one of those days we don’t celebrate. Still, the Constitution is what we retreat to when we want to defend our Constitutional rights whether it’s the right to free speech or to bear arms. And it’s the same Constitution that more or less holds together this nation.

Though we probably have a surfeit of commemorative days, Constitution Day 2013, Tuesday, September 17, may be one we should flag. Just about every interest group is quoting the Constitution to justify a controversial position. We tend to overlook the fact that the grand proclamation reflects the work of human beings (men of substance) living at a time and in a context. Granted, they did good work that has held the nation together for a couple of centuries. Still, they were humans, they were free men, and their perspective was that of a select assemblage of individuals who shared an experience that was particular, a vision that transcended their time.

It’s a challenge to celebrate the obvious. Worth it, though, because it is the underpinning of our daily lives in ways we seldom ponder.

The National Archives has created a useful guide, designed for teachers but useful for any caring American, whether fortunate enough to be born here or whether learning as a newcomer about the principles upon which this nation was shaped.

It’s worth the time to think for just a bit about the Constitution, not just our rights but about how those rights were forged by our forbearers. There are lots of ways to learn about the Constitution, the real thing and interpretations. National Archives has created some ways to start thinking http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ This is geared to teachers but it seems to me that many of us need to go back to school to learn some of these basics.

The Constitution gets quoted, misquoted, used as a shield or a wrap or a raison d-etre for all manner of things the framers could never have anticipated. Constitution Day is a moment in time to consider that, while we may be adrift, we are not without a rudder.