Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Required reading

When was the last time you read this? 

That's right, the Declaration of Independence. I wonder how many people have actually read the entire document? Of those who have, how many times -- once, maybe, because it was required in American History class?

It's one of those things I like to look up every now and then to remind myself of how we got here. The History Channel did a fine series called the "Founding Fathers", which they followed up with "Founding Brothers". Cokie Roberts has just published a book called "Founding Mothers" about the women behind the men. The one thing that one can get out of the Declaration and the history of those behind it and behind the events that followed is: These were amazing people who were in the right place to create what has been a most durable system.

I was talking about this to a fellow one day. When I allowed that we were fortunate to have men who could craft the Declaration, the constitution and the Bill of Rights, he snorted and said that actually they weren't particularly bright or dedicated and that the Constitution was a poor document.

The guy is an idiot.

Consider the Constitution. No country in the world, not a one, has a constitution that has been in continuous use for 216 years. It has been amended only 27 times, and only once has an amendment been repealed. Most of the states, I suspect, have many more amendments and there have been constitutional rewrites in several. Alabama has over 800 amendments to its constitution, but when it's suggested that perhaps a new one should be written, there is a huge hue and cry over changing what one nut described as a "God-given constitution".

I have trouble imagining some Alabama governor ascending Mount Cheaha and receiving the state constitution from a burning bush.

By the way, former Governor Fob James, while in office, wrote a paper describing why the Bill of Rights did not apply to states.

I am not singling out Alabama here; the idiot who thought the founding fathers were ordinary slobs is a northerner. Over the years, I've heard similar sentiments from idiots of all persuasions. Other modern politicians speak of the need to control the Judiciary, forgetting about the checks and balances that have kept our method of government in tact for over 200 years.

We are far from a perfect nation. There are still injustices committed, there are people who are hungry, there are opportunities missed. But, we, among a handful of nations through history, can speak out and work to improve and strengthen our system.

For that we can thank a bunch of guys who not only were willing to take chances, but also had the foresight, genius, and dedication to craft a country that would be different from any that had gone before.

I think that's worth celebrating.

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