Last Monday, people gathered in Jamrich to celebrate Constitution Day with a professor-led discussion of major issues. Focus centered on the Supreme Court, with conversation circling the court ruling on Trump’s travel ban, among other things.
On this holiday, we had a lot to celebrate. The U.S. Constitution, written and signed in 1787, is one of the most revolutionary documents ever to be created. This single piece of parchment created a framework that allowed our once small and rural country to develop into the most powerful nation that history has ever seen.
The further we advance into the future, though, the more reluctant we seem to become in upholding the principles set forth in our founding document. Political frustration wrought by the seemingly endless gridlock of government has led some to question whether our Constitution is worth holding on to.
In an Op-Ed published in the New York Times titled “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” Louis Seidman, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, argues that the constitution is no longer relevant and hinders more than helps. “As the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.” Another article titled, “Should the Constitution Be Scrapped?” published in Smithsonian Magazine declares, “This is about taking the country back for ourselves. There’s no reason to let folks who have been dead for 200 years tell us what kind of country we should have.”
I’ll be the first to admit that the state of our government is abhorrent. With national debt well over $20 trillion, a political climate characterized by intentional misinformation, and an ever-increasingly expansive government, I understand the frustration. However, these problems exist not because of our Constitution, but because of us. In fact, that document is the only thing keeping our train on the rails.
One of the most common critiques of the constitution is that it’s outdated. Being over 200 years old, critics argue it was written in a time when our rural economy was dependent on slavery and women were refused rights. With so much progress since then, how is it that we remain shackled to the same document? Although, it was written in a very different time when our country faced very different challenges, the principles laid out in the Constitution are timeless. Ideas like checks and balances don’t lose relevance just because old issues do. The Constitution wasn’t written to address the challenges of their time, but to outline the rights of people and put limitations on the government for time eternal. That’s why the Constitution is written in broad, interpretive terms, not in detailed specifics. It is meant to give general direction, but be broad enough to meet the challenges facing our time. When we do face challenges that can’t be surpassed with the current law, we have the ability to make amendments. As many have said before, our Constitution is a living and breathing document, growing with the nation.
At the end of the day, our government is made up of us. The Constitution is in place to protect us from ourselves. Too easily, reactionary politics can sway populations, and with it, governments, between far-right and far-left policies, creating a dysfunctional mess. Thanks to the limitations of our founding document, our country remains relatively stable, tethered to purpose and direction.
It doesn’t matter if we’re living in 1787 or 2018. Freedoms like free speech extend from telegraphs to Twitter. The document wasn’t written for the times, but for all of time.
Although we may be frustrated or outright infuriated at our government, it doesn’t mean throwing out everything we have, if not the only thing we have. The challenges we face today are temporary and situational. Reactionary, radical proposals to overhaul our entire governmental structure are tactless, not trendy.