The basic tenet of America is embodied in the U.S. Constitution, and it is out-of-date. That may seem like a sacrilegious statement but when analyzed carefully it takes on a different perspective.
I have written several blogs regarding the U.S. Constitution, and they all end up with the idea that it needs revising. In principle, I am sure many people would agree that any document approaching its two-hundred and fiftieth birthday probably needs revision if it is to reflect the next two centuries’ realities or, indeed, even today’s realities. There have been amendments over the course of its life, but they have added modifications what was already there, rather than reconsidering the basic tenets.
I am not suggesting that the U.S. Constitution be thrown away, or that it be revised on the basis of current policies and politics. The former would be counter-productive and stupid, and the latter would be destructive, dangerous and also stupid. However, blind adherence to the letter of any document in a world unrecognizable to those who formulated it, is equally illogical, regressive, dangerous and stupid.
Why, then, is the Constitution regarded as sacrosanct, when parts of it are very obviously way out-of-date, even detrimental to the current state of the Nation, and certainly constraining on its future?
It is understandable that a relatively young nation, like the United States, would want to cling to the one icon that represents societal stability more than any other national tenet. However, the very fact that clinging to this tenet, because of the monumental changes the country has undergone over the past two hundred and fifty years, intrinsically means that tenet must be out-of-date.
Let’s look a little deeper.
The country, and the Constitution, were established when the United States was virtually empty of people or, at least, the people that were there were widely scattered. Individuals, and individual groups, established their own norms and tenets, first in small communities, then in small towns, and then in states. Each entity jealously guarded what they had established and, when the Nation was founded, the document they wrote as the basic tenet of the America, reflected those individual units. Even the name of the country reflected that situation, although including the word “United” was more of a hope than a reality even then. I would venture to add that, today, the Disunited States might be a more accurate description.
The Constitution, which emphasized the protection of individual freedom more than encouraging community responsibility, has become anarchistic as the country evolved from an agricultural/rural, widely dispersed nation, into one that is urban, interconnected and interdependent. I would suggest that what worked in the first environment could not possibly work in the second, and our current massive divisions reflect that reality. The Constitution was written for the first environment. It would have been impossible for the Founding Fathers to write it in anticipation of the second environment.
Revisiting a fundamental tenet of a nation is fraught with danger, but also offers enormous opportunities. It cannot be approached lightly, and cannot be subject to the trivialities of current policies, politics or vested interests. Even more important, it cannot be subject to the soundbite whims of the media. It has to be a long term, carefully prepared, comprehensively-represented, vision for the country’s future as a nation. It cannot be a document that merely tries to provide the glue for a collection of individual units stuck together for limited common purposes, like a national military.
The process of revision should also be exacting, drawn-out, and as boring as possible, so that time and thought can be applied that is not subject to daily, subjective, dismemberment. We need a process that is long and slowly progressive, not a daily media circus. Yes, the media need to be involved, just like everyone else, but as a contributing entity not as a detached, irresponsible, critic. A vain hope, perhaps, but an essential basis for a document that will define the Nation’s future. The relevance of the basic tenet of America is at stake. I seriously invite comment on these thoughts.