We the People

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


From the U. S. Constitution online.

So begins the United States Constitution. And so begins my series on that venerated document. Yes, I know I said I didn’t want to dive right into a series, but it was all I could think more or less coherently about.

This was inspired, more than anything else, by something I saw on Facebook, or rather the reactions to it. It was a short explanation of the amendment process, pointing out that Obama can’t repeal the second amendment because it takes two-thirds of congress to change the constitution. And people reacted with surprise. 

That really shook me. I mean, every time I heard someone talking about Obama repealing the second amendment, I assumed it was hyperbole. I figured they were exaggerating how much that evil secret-Muslim Obama wanted to take away their guns. Now I’m wondering how many actually believed it. The comment that made this post inevitable was someone asking if anybody could confirm that.

This is a basic process of American government, which has an entire Article addressing it in the highest law in the land, which is studied in public schools during the elementary years, and people don’t know about it.

I don’t know if it’s a failing in the education process, not coming back to the subject often enough or failing to drive home as children mature that these are the laws that will affect them as long as they live in U.S. territory; or if it’s just that anti-intellectualism that pervades American culture, that idea that knowing things is somehow shameful or embarrassing. Clearly, however, something needs to be done.

So, I’m going to go through the Constitution. All of it, bit by bit. Where possible I’ll put an entire Article in one post, where necessary I’ll split it up by Sections. I’m going to quote the entire text I’ll be examining, and I’ll post links to my sources for everything that doesn’t originate inside my own head.

My standard disclaimer applies here: I am not an expert on anything. I am not a lawyer, nor a constitutional scholar. I read a lot, and I try to pay attention to things and think about them, and I’m probably more comfortable with old-fashioned styles of English than most people, but this is definitely not an expert interpretation of the either the Constitution or the law. You will probably learn more following my links than you will from me.

I think it was in the fifth grade that I was required to memorize that preamble. Might have been fourth. At the time it was just another boring, pointless exercise at school, which felt like a long string of boring and pointless exercises. In hindsight, well, most of them really were boring and pointless. Seriously, there was a lot of time wasted in my education.

The thing about memorizing the preamble is that it really is pointless. This is the most content-free part of the entire Constitution, it’s really more of a mission statement than anything else. It establishes the goals of the document, and what was hopefully going to be accomplished with it, but it sets no policy or legal precedent.

Still, I want to point out one thing: The first phrase there, “We the People”, is a major part of American identity. Notice that it’s “We the People” who are establishing the Constitution. Not a king or a leader or a god, but us. The government established by the Constitution was formed by the people and of the people in order to serve the people.

Everyone eligible to vote is a part of this government, and has a voice in it. If we can just get past the American contempt for knowledge, if we can encourage thoughtful, considered voting, if we can make knowing what the fuck we’re doing something respectable, well, then we won’t have to “take back” our country, because we’ll have remembered that we had it all along.

Incidentally, if I seem inconsistent with whether or not I capitalize “Constitution”, it’s because sometimes I’m using it as a proper noun, the name of the document, and other times it’s descriptive. It’s certainly not because I don’t usually capitalize it, but decided to for the purposes of this series, and I’m having trouble remembering. Nope, not at all.

Next up, Article 1!

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on August 20, 2016, in U.S. Constitution and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. YEAY for leo who is still here! (and me who is also still here reading leo’s posts)

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