Friday, September 16, 2005

"Honoring" the Constitution

On Sept. 17, 1787 the Constitutional Convention, after meeting for four months in Philadelphia, agreed on the final draft of the United States Constitution. In so doing they thought they were establishing for themselves and their posterity a permanent, limited, federal (which provides for divided, not consolidated, power) government.

In 2004 Congress passed a law requiring all federally-funded schools and agencies to provide materials and/or programs every year around September 17 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. So, Sept. 17 is officially “Constitution Day,” although many schools and agencies will observe it on the 16th since the 17th falls on a Saturday.

I think “Constitution Day” is a great idea, but as I look around America in 2005 this latest effort to honor the Constitution just rings a little hollow. Far too many Americans are completely ignorant of the contents of that document for their efforts to honor it to have any legitimacy at all. That includes our national “leaders.” Please consider …

Our federal government currently spends billions and billions of dollars on things like the National Education Association, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, funding the arts through the National Endowment for the Arts. Congress sets minimum wage requirements, nationalizes millions of acres of land, and basically does whatever it wants whenever it wants. All of this is in direct defiance of the Constitution. Congress has no constitutional authority to do any of this.

Our citizenry is not outraged at these abuses because it is largely ignorant of the fact that they are unconstitutional. According to a story on, a few years ago a petition was created that had the text of the Bill of Rights on it. Everything that identified it as such was removed so that it appeared to be a current petition. Most Americans refused to sign the petition because they thought it too radical.

In addition, polls continually embarrass us for our lack of knowledge about the Constitution. One such poll, conducted by the University of Columbia’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis, found that 49 percent of Americans think the First Amendment goes too far. Half of Americans think the press is too aggressive and should be censored to some degree by the government. Almost half thought the FBI should be able to monitor religious groups in the name of national security, even if that meant infringing on religious freedoms. These answers were provided by people who didn’t even know the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech.

Another study, commissioned by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, discovered that half of American high school students believe the government already has the authority to censor the Internet.

This kind of information does not bode well for America. But it sure is good news to those who would seek to rule over us. One of the primary dangers to liberty is becoming a reality in America. Listen to the words of our forefathers …

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison

Again, I support the celebration of Constitution Day. This document receives precious little attention. But I fear that Constitution Day is to become little more than lip service and a means of assuaging the guilt many may feel for having long ignored it’s boundaries. If our leaders really wanted to honor the Constitution they’d respect it's authority and immediately pull the federal government back to within it’s guidelines, because honoring the Constitution with your words while displaying contempt for it with your actions is completely useless.


At 6:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

This is a sound commentary, but please make one correction: "it's" means "it is." The possessive is "its." We should be as accurate as possible in order that our credibility is in tact.


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