“We the people of the United States, in order 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, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
You hear about the Constitution in the news: the Supreme Court rulings, the pocket-sized copies carried by Tea Party faithful, and its example for new countries venturing into democracy. But when is the last time you looked at why this Constitution was created?
In honor of the upcoming mid-term election, I’d like to review that Preamble with you:
- in order to form a more perfect union – Yep. We’re not perfect. We the people squabble and disagree, and divisions abound, some dating from back before the United States were united. However, we all agree that the Constitution is the keystone of the government. Sure, some of us want it to be the keystone of a multi-story mall complex, and others are adamant that it’s the keystone of a one-room bunker, but the Constitution’s durability helps to keep us together.
- establish justice – Youtube has excellent examples of the horror that other governments (or terrorist groups with government aspirations) call “justice”. And is there any doubt that part of what drives the immigration from our southern neighbors is the lack of an effective justice system at home? The Constitution is the re-bar in our justice foundation.
- insure domestic tranquility – We don’t have to have a coup or a civil war to overthrow the government, thanks to elections and term limits. Here in the US, folks can vote differently from each other, and not worry about endangering their lives or livelihoods. Other countries share this blessing, but the Constitution defines the American rules of engagement.
- provide for the common defense – The Constitution gives us the ability to raise an army to fight enemy combatants. The NIH budget ballooned when the security-conscious post-911 Republican administration thought outside hardware weaponry, and into potential biological threats. Today’s Ebola virus vaccines were partly funded by those government dollars. The powers of Captain America’s shield are nothing compared to the powers of our Constitution.
- promote the general welfare – Remember the TARP program, started by the Bush administration at the beginning of the Great Recession? Remember the banks “too big to fail”, and the buckets of money that Republicans and Democrats alike were spending? Convinced that the general welfare was at risk, they did what experts said was needed. Future economists and historians may debate the effectiveness of their efforts, but the Preamble tells us their intent was constitutional.
- secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity – Liberty. Not just for this generation, but for generations to come. Not just for the rich, white, heterosexual, native English speakers, but for all the people of the United States. Liberty not just for the short term — that myopic view that plagues human nature, but for the long haul. That’s what our Constitution is meant to do for us.
As you look at the candidates’ platforms or the ballot initiatives for this election, can you see glimmers of the Preamble in their intent? I expect you will. So make your plans to vote. Do your part in our government. Let the Preamble remind you Why.
inspired by a particularly good rendition of God Bless America in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series (Note: the video clip’s temporary silence happened at game time, and was not a post-production error.)