BY ALEX MADAJIAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Did you know that Sept. 17–23 is Constitution Week? On September 17, 1787 our founding fathers bequeathed us the greatest legal writing ever penned to paper. But why does it matter now? That was over 200 years ago! What on earth does the Constitution do to make America a better country than others today, or even back then?
The United States Constitution has done more to help you than you may realize — and that even includes the international STEM student with no interest in American politics. Let me explain.
It has been said that America’s most important export is the U.S. Constitution. This is because the principles laid out in the text have been replicated by every major (and many minor) democratic countries. Without the principles of the Constitution, the principles of a free society would be impossible. Few governments bother to separate powers, and fewer still give the most dangerous powers — the power of the purse and the military — to the law-making part of government rather than the executive. The authors of the Constitution understood it would be impossible to rein in a corrupt human being, so they simply constructed a government which pitted corruptible human beings against each other.
It also has done more to protect minorities than any other document in history. Prior to the Constitution, the rights of a minority were at the whim of despots. Rights came and went with the culture and leaders, not the law. Our Constitution gave our country a groundwork for destroying the institutions of slavery and conserving the sanctity of the individual.
In the words of Fredrick Douglas, “Take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.” I encourage you to read the whole “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech.
By no means is the Constitution perfect. We must also thank anti-federalist champions such as Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and our very own George Mason who, through their scathing rhetoric, exposed the shortcomings of the Constitution. In the opening words of a letter from George Mason, he wrote the of gravest flaw in the Constitution: “There is no Declaration of Rights.”
A part of the Constitution which does not receive as much honor and attention as it should is the Bill of Rights, which came in 1791, several years after the Constitution’s creation. Although only 10 of the 27 current amendments were given then, it is important to note the magnitude of debt we owe those first 10. As much as I would love to share with you my love for each, it would be a better way to celebrate Constitution Week by reading them for yourself and reflecting on their purpose.
Without our Constitution, America would be far worse than mediocre. The Constitution is the only force in America that stands in the way of a despotic autocracy. To my skeptical readers, I challenge you to find me a freer country which provides a protection of rights better than the U.S. Find me a country that protects its citizens from its own government better. Find me a country that lets its citizens do the most important thing we can do as human beings — pursue truth.
Let us never forget the fact that there is but one piece of paper protecting us from tyranny. May that fire of freedom never go out.