Our Constitution has no Teeth

Upper portion of U.S. Constitution on wooden desk

It is entirely possible that our Constitution is no longer up to the task of keeping American governance on the track our forefathers set it on. There do not seem to be any teeth in our documents. As I listened to our “ersatz” President stand next to Putin in Russia and say to our competitor, a man who manipulates and controls everyone and everything in his own country, a man who we were just told tried to interfere in an American election, that he, Trump, is sorry that we have treated this absolute dictator so badly.

As these events unfolded I had to listen to commentators use adjectives that were not nearly powerful enough to describe the calumny that had just occurred – and as these events unfolded I had to admit that I was astounded that Trump is allowed to fly back to Washington, that he could blithely take his seat in the oval office as if he just made a great speech full of wisdom, a speech that proves he deserves to share a seat in the place where FDR once sat (or any other of the best Presidents we have put in that seat.) Even I who have no faith in this man, was shocked by the content of Trump’s address.

I have been a staunch fan of our founding documents since my first American History class. The Declaration of Independence was drawn up by brave men on a new continent, far from their homes, who made a new home in America and decided to go it alone without England. England was an overbearing parent, stealing the fruits of American labors in taxes and fees and tariffs. They brazenly asserted their ownership over the colonies by forcing families to give rooms to British soldiers in their own homes. The King of England did not expect our American forefathers to have the boldness to declare their independence, fight a war to back up their declaration, and then to win the right to make their own nation

When the American Constitution was revealed and read in Europe it was so powerful and such a great blueprint for governing that it spelled the end of the most powerful monarchies. I was deeply impressed by what our forefathers had done and the architecture of our democracy. I realize that we are admonished these days to call our government a republic. I realize that it is actually a republic because it is based on a constitution. But at the heart of our Constitution is a plan for a democracy, with checks and balances to forestall power grabs by people whose egos can lead them astray.

Until recently our Constitution has been respected enough by both politicians and citizens that any loopholes that were apparent were either passed by, or others curtailed their use by those without scruples. Our checks and balances seemed up to anything the very flawed human animal could dish up. That our Constitution made it through the Civil War intact is a plain miracle. Hatreds ran so high, opinions were so divided, that only the killing fields would stop the fever. That the entire controversy happened to be over whether it was legal or not to make some humans slaves, to make them less than other people, is something modern minds have difficulty grappling with. And humanitarian values won, although bitterness has remained all these years later. Our Constitution, our documents, held up,

Lately, though, I despair that there are American people who have decided to use the flaws and loopholes that always existed in our documents to hold onto power, to block the system of checks and balances that keeps our democratic practices on a somewhat even keel. America is obviously still bifurcated, and bitterness still abides in many American hearts. America has new challenges to deal with also, given that the chaos around the world is making old hostilities seem far less frightening than some of the terrorism that is arising from rapid political and cultural change around the globe.

Chaos causes migrations which threaten to change lives on a planet that once had far fewer boundaries and was far less crowded (although mass migrations have never been easily accommodated). And our country is being ravished by people who have decided to use what they consider their superior intellect to exploit the vagaries and loopholes in our documents. This time I think our Constitution might not be up to the task. Our republic/democracy, our grand experiment in equality, in the rights of man, may be dismantled by money of all things. And power and hubris.

It is difficult to believe that the bar for the rules that protect our government has been placed so high that those very protections are neutralized, cannot be used against anyone and especially against a President. When did we write the laws that put our President above the law? When did impeachment become a safeguard we can never use except frivolously? When were the rules for calling treason made so narrow that someone could commit treason and the definitions in the law would not allow us to name it.

If we keep letting our President slide when he tramples American mores our Constitution will be destroyed in the process and so will our republic/democracy. What will we be left with? I have seen many options in dystopian literature, but I still cannot imagine how we might be governed. We are far more likely to lose freedoms than to gain them. Since our lives go along pretty smoothly right now day to day comments like this are seen as the overreactions of someone drowning in negativity. If that turns out to be true I will be happy to be wrong.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Washington Monthly

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