Those who attended public schools during the 1950s will remember having to memorize the Preamble to our Constitution. Written in 1787, this opening paragraph expressed the framers' intentions in establishing the Constitution, while expressing expectations for how the United States should function as a democratic republic.
Few young Americans today, I suspect, are asked to memorize this passage, or study the Constitution generations of Americans have lived by. It reads: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
David Smith, a retired Methodist minister and member of the morning coffee group, reminded us the other day how very far we have strayed from this noble message. He'd spent the previous evening reflecting on what a unique nation we've held together for nearly 250 years, largely through allegiance to what the founders envisioned.
We've regularly sworn oaths before God to protect, preserve and defend the intentions behind those words. Times sadly have changed in such a relatively brief period, to where the pledges fail miserably at reflecting the truths in many hearts.
Our feeble efforts at forming a "more perfect union" have left us more divided in a political, and increasingly social, sense than at any time since the Civil War.
Some today prefer to interpret the Constitution as a living document subject to repeated interpretation for political convenience rather than a fixed set of bedrock principles designed to preserve the nation. The allegiance to ego and political parties over national welfare (a destructive condition George Washington warned about) has come to pass.
I'd challenge any rational adult to explain how in any effective way we've strived to "establish a more perfect union" or "insure domestic tranquility," rather than advancing the interests of a political party and placing its pursuit of power over us. Exhibit 1: A $20 trillion debt.
As for establishing justice, I only shake my head at the revelations of justice overlooked and denied, largely due to those same corruptive political influences. Anyone else seen much "justice" being administered nowadays to those who clearly deserve it?
I suspect one reason lies in the resulting paralysis that steadily has come to permeate the nation's Capitol to where everyone has collected incriminating files on everyone else. Who remains to enforce accountability?
I can't find a sentence in the Preamble about the intent to establish justice by extortion and/or blackmail.
With forming a more perfect union, establishing justice and insuring domestic tranquility scratched off, we're left with providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare (remember that debt) and securing the blessing of liberty.
Last I looked we've spent years cutting deeply into military readiness while allowing a constant flow of other country's citizens to swarm cross our dangerously porous sovereign borders. Many here illegally admit they haven't sneaked in to assimilate. In other words, they couldn't care less about our Constitution or the incredible sacrifices made to build the nation. I'd have to give us another fail at preserving this line from the Preamble.
Does anyone believe we have done a fine job at promoting the general welfare? I see one of the planet's most mediocre public school systems in term of measurable performance (17th) and now student safety. Our infant mortality rate is shameful and swelling obesity rates are ravaging overall public health. Rampant public assistance programs have left once-thriving cities in spoil. Trading crippling assistance checks for votes is not what the founders meant by promoting the general welfare.
More Americans than ever have earned concealed-carry permits for self-protection and even our police departments have been particularly under fire in the past eight years. Race relations sadly have retreated from gains made in the wake of the Rev. Martin Luther King's nonviolence efforts and the civil rights movement.
Needless, self-destructive anger, hatred and intolerance (much politically generated by demagoguery and a specific intent to divide us) have inflicted great damage to promoting our nation's general welfare.
When it comes to securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity under the crushing burdens of runaway debt, promoting political self-interests and resulting widespread public rage, I'd say we children of the Greatest Generation in particular have failed to adequately preserve, protect and defend the noble intentions of our sacred preamble.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at email@example.com.
Editorial on 02/20/2018
Print Headline: Failing the Preamble