I think by this point, everyone has to admit that the current U.S. President has never read the Constitution of the United States. But the truth is, neither have most of the rest of us. Yes, it’s his job. But guess what? It’s ours, too. If we lived in a monarchy, we could shrug and curse the powers the be and go about our business. But if we want the freedoms of democracy, we all need to get out and vote and we should know what our Constitution says while we’re doing it. So on Memorial Day, I skipped all the flag-waving (I always do) and the BBQs, and I sat down to read the Constitution. And you know what? It was interesting.
Reading through it, I was surprised how spare the text is. There are only seven articles, and some of them are only a couple paragraphs long. Clearly, the framers knew they were setting up a government, but they had certain issues they cared about strongly, and others they figured would work themselves out in the wash. A few times I caught myself thinking, “Hey, that’s not how we do things now!” or “I wonder if that word meant the same thing to them as it does to us?”
But like the medieval sagas that I love so much, the Constitution plays it cool. If you just read it like you’d read a novel, a lot of the drama gets lost and pretty soon you find yourself chewing on word salad. I enjoyed giving it a read-through, but I can understand why others might not. And even nerdy me could benefit from a more careful reading. So I’m going to read it again. Bit by bit. And I’m going to share the bits here. I hope you’ll read it with me. I think it could be really interesting.
I’ll start next week, but if you want to get a head start, this website has the complete text, as well as definitions and footnotes that can be quite helpful. Don’t feel bad if you have to look up some of the words – that’s how we all get smarter, right?