Conflict Led to the Formation of this Country: The Great House of America.
When I moved into my neighborhood many of the houses nearby were still being built. In particular I witnessed the construction of a new house on the plot directly behind mine. Fascinating! In a few months a flat piece of land transforms into a full magnificent structure. Since then, the House has switched hands several times with old owners moving out and new ones moving in.
Looking at it now I realize that the United States as a nation is very similar to that house and the original builders. Our founding fathers were some of the best architects the world has ever seen because for over two hundred and twenty five years the House that they built the United States of America having weathered many storms and exchanging hands from old owners to new ones several times still stands today while those around it have been demolished and rebuilt over and over again. The key to the stability of any house as our founders well knew is a strong foundation. The foundation we know as the United States Constitution like any strong foundation the constitution supports the structure built on top of it but also like any foundation the Constitution is susceptible to the forces of time nature and man himself. Thus, like the responsible owners of a home it is our job as citizens of the United States to protect and maintain the Constitution the very foundation for the country we call home. Yet maintaining the Constitution is difficult no impossible without a firm appreciation of what it does. Those who claim that the Constitution is no longer relevant to the United States today are those who don't truly understand because like the foundation of a house we don't see it on a daily basis but its structures our daily lives.
For example, the hard work and ingenuity of American artists and scientists are envied across the world and their efforts are protected by the Constitution which grants Congress the power to secure for authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. Millions of Americans from California to New Jersey from Minnesota to Louisiana who are facing the worst of natural disasters are aided by the National Guard can thank the Constitution which provides for organizing arming and disciplining the militia to be employed in the service of the United States and every citizen who relies on the strength and integrity of the American dollars should know those famous words that the government may coin money and regulate the value thereof. These three examples from Article 1 Section 8 barely scratched the surface of the Constitution. This document written so long ago shapes our daily lives as Senator Henry Clay so eloquently put it the Constitution of the 13 states was made not merely for the generation that then existed but for posterity unlimited undefined permanent and perpetual. Our founding fathers built the constitution to meet the needs of a changing America. But even they in all their wisdom could not foresee the transition from 13 disjointed colonies to 50 strong states that together form the most powerful nation on earth. And as we continue to build upon and expand this great house, we must also strengthen the base that supports it. But why you may ask does this responsibility fall on us. Why can't our government so carefully and intricately have formed by the words in the Constitution. Handle this task on its own. True. Those in power sometimes unselfishly advance the principles of our nation's founding document. From the president who limited his own power by serving only two terms to the Congress that extended suffrage to all Americans. However, at times such as the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two, the abuse of authority does not yield to separation of powers checks and balances or any other constitutional safeguard.
In February of 1942, following the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor the executive branch issued order 9066 calling for military areas from which any or all people may be detained. The legislative branch joined a month later with Public Law 503 making it a crime to violate the executive order and to complete this trifecta. The judicial branch ruled in the hereby Ashley and Korematsu cases that this forced internment was in fact constitutional. Without a trial without due process of law all three branches of government incarcerated over one hundred and twenty-two thousand people most of whom were American citizens.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I know no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves.” Yet our responsibilities as citizens aren't some arbitrary obligations on a piece of paper. They are goals we strive to reach. The reason our Constitution still stands today is because we live not in constant fear of laws but in constant pursuit of ideals. We vote to maintain democracy. We serve on a jury. So, there is justice for all. And we respect the rights of others because we value individual freedom. As history has shown time and time again that constitutional ideals, we fight to defend transcend any words on paper. When millions of Americans joined the progressive movement in the early 20th century it is the principle of direct representation leading them to support the 17th amendment requiring the direct election of senators where the women's suffrage movement peaked just a few years later. It is the mantle of voting freedom they carry to pass the 19th Amendment granting the right to ballot regardless of gender. And of course, just 50 years ago when Americans of all cultures and backgrounds joined together to march for civil rights it is the fundamental axiom of equality, they bring to light that extends impartial treatment and fairness for all. From the day the Declaration of Independence was signed the United States of America has always been backed by principle and the citizens who defend.
Health care to immigration gun control to taxation. These are the issues we face today. It may seem like conflict is a sign of weakness of erosion and decay in this aging Foundation. But the opposite is true because conflict is the fuel of change and change is the engine of the Constitution. Conflict led to the formation of this country.
Conflict drives us every year to select representatives in government and conflict underlies every policy every court case every decision that determines the course of our future. The right amount of tension holds together the foundation of our great house too much and it begins to break. As one Abraham Lincoln warned before our tumultuous civil war that a house divided against itself cannot stand too little tension and it becomes weak as was the case during Gilded Age America. When one party rule was destabilized by a powerless presidency and a corrupt Congress.
And who better to maintain this delicate balance than the American citizen. For the job of a citizen is not a passive but an active one. It isn't enough that we merely know the Constitution that we can memorize and recite some words in every article. We must understand them apply them defend them.
The oldest surviving constitution in the world is matched only by the most engaged citizens of any country and it is for this reason that the American nation will always remain of the people, by the people, for the people.
Albert Einstein once said, “the strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure.”
As citizens of the United States as the proud owners and builders of this great house it is our responsibility to protect and maintain the Constitution for ourselves for each other and for all posterity.
Millions of Americans from California to New Jersey from Minnesota to Louisiana who are facing the worst of natural disasters are aided by the National Guard can thank the Constitution which provides for organizing arming and disciplining the militia to be employed in the service of the United States and every citizen who relies on the strength and integrity of the American dollars should know those famous words that the government may coin money and regulate the value thereof.