Reading it takes no longer than cooking an omelet, yet this short document lends credence to the saying that dynamite comes in small packages, and it truly made the American War for Independence revolutionary. It is not simply a rule book that we are supposed to follow for governance; it is the very pinnacle of western political thought.
It has been paid for with the blood of countless generations, spread over millennia, who have suffered under oppression and dreamt of freedom; its evolution can be followed through such events as Moses being summoned to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments from God himself, the declaration of Cleisthenes that granted the vote to all free men of Athens, the establishment of the Roman and other republics, and the forcing of Magna Carta on King John; it’s intellectual path can be traced through philosophers from Socrates to Edmond Burke with many stops in between; and that path of intellectual development was enabled through such victories as in the Persian Wars where the Greeks defeated the armies of Darius and Xerxes, and the battle of Poitiers where the Franks under Martel defeated the Islamic army.
It is the culmination of ideas nurtured and defended through time, and brought forth by one of the most talented group of politicians ever to exist; a unique group of learned men of the enlightenment who understood power and its effects on people. They understood that if you were to live truly free and maintain your liberty, that you must break that power into many pieces and have those pieces compete against each other. They designed the best system ever known because they allowed for the whole spectrum of human behavior, negative as well as its grandest and most eloquent ideals as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
The claim from its detractors who attempt to diminish its importance, that it was made by a group of old slave owning white guys because they did not want to pay their taxes, is absurd. They were indeed men of honor who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for principle, not personal gain, as the most likely outcome of their actions was to be swinging from the end of a rope. As far as slavery goes, it was a world wide institution that has existed throughout recorded history (the first sovereign nation to outlaw it permanently was Mexico in 1814) and still exists today. They were taking on the preeminent military power of the day, they could not wave a magic wand and right every wrong.
The idea that makes the Constitution singular and stand out from all that came before, is that the people are the sovereign, and not only can they rule themselves, but that they are endowed with that right through their creator. This was the metaphorical shot heard round the world that gave the meaning to the one at Lexington.
It is an idea that is worth defending, and one that if we continue to allow it to disappear into the abyss of ignorance, us and our progeny will suffer dearly.
The WaterCooler is an open thread, so sidle on up to the bar, wet your whistle, and speak your piece.