I was raised on a steady diet of old-school, flag waving, star spangled patriotism. Ronald Reagan was the president of my childhood. I didn’t know a thing about his politics. I only knew that he had a kind face, an impressive air of dignity when his speeches interrupted our evening TV shows, and that he and his wife wanted me to just say no to drugs.
I know a bit more about politics now. I understand that presidents are not demigods to be worshiped, as I thought when I was a child. They are human beings who succeed and fail just like the rest of us, with the same equal capacity for good and evil.
I understand that to be motivated to be leader of the free world you must have a decent sized ego and a taste for power. This is true for all presidential candidates, regardless of party affiliation or political point of view.
I also understand that the Constitution is nothing more or less than the foundation of our democracy, written not by gods, but human beings. It is not a holy document, but the men who wrote it were enlightened in a way that we couldn’t possibly be in modern America.
These men risked their lives, crossed an ocean to a new world, and fought and won an unwinnable war against an empire. They were educated in both science and poetry, and didn’t see the two as mutually exclusive.
They were extraordinary men in many ways – a breed of man that no longer exists. But they were still men, and they were far from perfect.
They wrote a document about freedom while actively participating in the slave trade of human beings. They declared a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while refusing their wives the right to vote or own land. They failed to acknowledge that the land they fought so hard to keep was already happily inhabited by native peoples.
The great words they wrote – and they were and still are great – were applied conditionally, based on the cultural norms in which they lived.
On some level, these great men must have been aware of this. The true genius of the Constitution is that it is still just as relevant today as it was 240 plus years ago. It is a living document that somehow evolves to meet the needs of each new generation, even as the words remain exactly the same as they were originally written.
The Constitution has been put to the test many times throughout history. And it has always prevailed. It is beautiful and awe inspiring that although this document was written by flawed men, when challenged the mighty Constitution has always fallen on the right side of history.
There is no greater example of a man’s heart being in the right place than the authors of our great Constitution. They may not have always lived the words, but they certainly were headed in the right direction.
From these men we learn that we don’t have to agree with every choice someone else makes to appreciate their contribution to the world.
It seems our Founders recognized their own fallibility. The Constitution is full of grace, full of room to grow.
The Founders knew they were merely men who would be succeeded by other mere mortals. They knew they had to write something that would stand the test of time.
We are at yet another juncture, a cultural turning point that will put our presiding document to the test yet again. I believe in our great Constitution. I believe that once again it will come down on the right side of history.
I believe this because I believe in the people it represents. Americans have made some pretty big mistakes throughout our history. But we are blessed with a foundation of good intentions that with each passing generation are made manifest by great people with the power to protest, to educate, to worship, to publish, to vote.
It might not feel like it right now, but we’re going to be fine, America. We the People of the United States are still in charge, and we are remarkable.
Published July 3, 2018