Some decry the Constitution as flawed because it is old and obsolete. How can a document written more than two hundred years ago address modern issues? The Framers lived in a pre-industrial, pre-technological world. They couldn't anticipate the world we live in. How could they architect institutions to govern it?
The Constitution is a blueprint for limited government designed “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”. We the People does not include machines or technology. These things, sophisticated as they may be, are just tools. No, We the People includes just people. All citizens of the United States of America. Self-governing people.
Many decry the Constitution as flawed because it denied women the right to vote. Yet there is no mention of the woman's right to vote, either for or against, in the Constitution. Where are the words “woman” or “women” even mentioned in the Constitution of the United States of America.
Interesting, isn't it?
All of the representatives to the Constitutional Convention were men. They were largely very successful professionals. Most were well versed in the law and knew that in writing contracts it was as important to say what you mean as it was to mean what you say. They did.
Many decry the Constitution as flawed because it allowed or authorized slavery. Yet, there is no mention of it. Where are the words “slave” or “slavery” even mentioned in the Constitution of the United States of America?
Some claim that the Constitution considers blacks (or African Americans) to be just three-fifths of a person. However, the words “black” and “African” appear nowhere in the Constitution.
Isn't it interesting that it doesn't even mention them let alone legalize slavery?
I lay awake last night wrestling with regrets. Yesterday, February 23, 2015, I met at a luncheon with a small band of octogenarians, at the Marriott Hotel in Newport Beach, California, to share their memories of Iwo Jima and the battle they fought there seventy years ago. Surrounded by their family and friends and Marines of every generation and every war including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, as well as the Cold War, they shared their stories. The event was hosted by Operation Home of the Brave and Iwo Jima Monument West which, led by Ms Laura Dietz, is raising funds to bring a monument memorializing their victory on that distant Pacific isle to Camp Pendleton where these brave men learned the art of war. Sadly, as the event ended, my courage failed me and I wondered all night if I could have waded ashore with them and earned a place on their memorial.
The monument was cast in stone by sculptor Felix de Weldon who was serving in the Navy at the time the Marines raised their beloved flag above Mount Suribachi on the Island of Iwo Jima. He was inspired by the iconic photo snapped by Associated Press photographer Joseph Rosenthal. While this photo, reproduced in every newspaper and on countless posters inspired Americans to rally to buy bonds in record numbers, Weldon was inspired to fashion ten statues commemorating the event. A 10,000 pound version of it which had stood for years at Arlington National Cemetery, has become available.
I woke up this morning at my usual time, 6:30 am, sans headache. I showered, shaved, and brushed my teeth. I exercised, dressed, ate breakfast, and fired up the computer and checked. Nothing significant had changed. Today is Thursday, just as Thursday always follows Wednesday. So what if it's New Year's Day, 2015? An excuse to party, to drink, to dance. Is that all there is to the beginning of a New Year?
How sad. The only song I find sadder is John Lennon's Imagine. To be bereft of principle. To think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are America's most admired people of 2014 according to a Gallup Poll. Police are being assassinated as thugs are being celebrated. The Republicans who were elected to put a stop to the growth of big government are already coddling up to a President who promises to promote even more federal intrusion into our lives. That Americans feel more politically and ideologically divided today than ever before, even during the Civil War. How can I read that and then wish you a happy new year?
Is it true?
Is that all there is?
No. There's more...
There are a few quaint traditions that have faded from the culture but not from my memory. People wore poppies on Veterans Day. Everyone wore a carnation on Mothers Day, red if she was alive and white if not. Americans stood for the playing of the National Anthem, hands held over hearts. Sure, some still observe these traditions. Others do not. Many do not even know that they were common practices once upon a time.
I saw the disparity of memory and knowledge as I sat outside a neighborhood grocery store this weekend passing out Buddy Poppies for the Veterans of Foreign Wars and taking donations from those who cared. A few paused to talk. One offered to fetch me a cup of coffee for it was chilly this November 11th in Southern California. I could not help but wonder how many or how few understood the significance of the little red artificial flowers that I offered.
Many people in the United States are unhappy with its national anthem. Some complain that it's too war-like and mean. Others find it hard to sing. However, I believe that it has a redeeming value in the question that it asks: “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” I ask myself the same thing almost every morning now almost two hundred years after Francis Scott Key penned that question.
Key was a captive of the British while their fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor all day and night, until 3 am on the morning of September 14th. He wondered why the shelling had stopped. Had the fort fallen? That would seem the most likely outcome. The British had besieged the defenders since September 12th during which time not a shot had reached the British ships from the fort's guns. Thus, Key stood (popular myth has him standing atop the bulwarks, clinging to the ship's standing rigging to steady himself) as he strained to see which flag flew above the walls: The American stars and stripes or the British Union Jack. Alas, not a breath of air stirred and the flag hung limply from its standard, its nationality indistinguishable.
Why didn't Key ask one of his captors? Most likely, they couldn't have answered him. They were awaiting word from Robert Ross, the British general who led the troops that had disembarked at Sparrows Point, at the confluence of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay, and were supposed to capture Baltimore. Ross's force had already captured and burned Washington. Surely they could brush aside the Maryland militia and recreate their victory in Baltimore. When Ross's courier arrived, they were stunned to learn that he was dead and that his forces had been defeated by Sam Smith.
A controversial television commercial put me in mind of an experience I once had at a engine parts shop in Newport Beach, California. A French yachtsman on an around-the-world cruise happened to be there shopping for a part when I arrived. This commercial reminded me of his complaints about Americans and all of the holidays they took off from work. Really? Aren't Americans the ones who work themselves to death pursuing the American Dream?
It's taken me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of term limits. How about you? For me, they seemed to be an admission that we couldn't be trusted with the vote, that we would simply cast our ballot mindlessly for the same person year after year. Or maybe there's some other reason for imposing term limits that has nothing to do with us. Maybe it's time to rethink it...
In his new film, America, Dinesh D'Souza examines our love of country. He quotes Edmund Burke who famously said, “To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” D'Souza then purports to apply this test to America.
D'Souza has his point of view. Now, let me tell you another story...
I am the grandson of immigrants. Both of my parents were born in America of parents who emigrated here in hopes of building better lives. My mother's came from France and England. My father's came from an obscure village in the Carpathian Mountains, in a region then ruled by the Arch Duke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today known as Slovakia. They were Slovaks. All became coal miners in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
I know little of my mother's heritage. She was disowned by her family for marrying beneath her station even though they too were coal miners. Thus, I can only report on my father's history.
My father's family was dirt poor. They had no closets, cabinets, or cupboards in the home where he grew up. There was nothing to store in them. Indeed, the house itself was merely rented to them by the mine owner in exchange for their labor. A nail on the wall was sufficient to hang their clothes when they went to bed.
Father was afforded just a few years of elementary education before he was required to go to work in the mines as a breaker boy toiling over a rapidly moving belt where he helped separate the slag from the coal. In time, he became a mule skinner, leading the animals that pulled coal carts from the bowels of the earth. It seems a life with little hope of escape. Although it seems a bleak existence, the miners struggled to survive.
For example, my father told me how wives would pack extra bread in the miners' lunch pails. The miners would break off a small piece and place it nearby. If the bread didn't disappear, it was time to escape the tunnel because it was assumed that the rats, the ones that regularly stole the bread, had abandoned the hole and the miners should follow. Interestingly, to this day, I am compelled to follow every story of trapped miners. I feel a bond though I escaped their fate.
Ultimately, my father escaped the mines by becoming a prize fighter, a barroom bouncer, a cab driver, and then a mechanic. He moved south to Baltimore and found employment as a maintenance machinist at the Lever Brothers plant. In time, he obtained his high school diploma, a college degree, and then graduated from law school. With his education completed, his fortunes rose until he could build a custom home on Chestnut Ridge north of Baltimore, overlooking the Worthington Valley where moguls bred some of the world's finest racing thoroughbreds. The distance between this poor son of coal miners and the wealthy grew very small indeed.
That is the America I grew up in. That is the America I love. How could I not? Unfortunately, the progressives launched a war on poverty and poverty won. As recent surveys prove, upward mobility such as experienced by my father, is becoming an ever distant dream. The great irony is that the disparity between rich and poor that progressives decry, is becoming greater ever since progressivism hamstrung the system that afforded my father and other Americans upward mobility.
The more we read Edmund Burke's thoughts, the better we see our present plight...