I was reading an article last night where the author described the American political and legal systems as undergoing what he called "constitutional rot" or, as he described it, the slow decay of America's constitutional, democratic system of government. He stated that most Americans are so constitutionally illiterate they don't see the rot occurring--a lot like gangrene where the decay progresses imperceptibly until irreparable damage is done. For decades now, we've allowed politicians in Washington to have their way with us until today the U.S. Constitution is but a vestige of its former archetype. We've become so dependent on "Big Brother" and big government, and we are so politically and socially narcissistic, that we now look to "They the Leaders," "They the Power Brokers" or "They the Providers" rather than "We the People." Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution do we read the words "executive order," "government handout," "Presidential infallibility," "Congressional privilege," "situational ethics," or "media politics"; nevertheless, we've allowed these unfortunate notions to creep into our political system to such an extent that they have severely polluted the deep well of our constitutional idealism. And like so many forms of pollution, the prospect of remediation seems dubious at best.
Of course, many Americans don't see the pollution. Indeed, they see the well as issuing forth pristine, pure water, and they drink of it every day, wide-toothed and unaware of the cancer that slowly eats them alive. And I'm not speaking of any particular political affiliate. Americans of all ilk--be they Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, right-leaning or left-leaning--are guilty of this ignorance that pervades our country. The U.S. Constitution has become simply an historical document with little more than symbolic import--something to which most pay lip service without percipient knowledge of its content or implications. Every day politicians thumb their noses at it as they sign their executive orders, vote themselves pay raises and robust benefits packages, disregard basic principles of human rights, ignore public clamor for term limits, labor to curb free speech, and take up residence with media giants in order to choreograph public opinion. And We the People are both pawns and victims, ignorantly and blissfully along for the ride.
But we need not give up hope. For one, those of us who believe in Christ Jesus should hold loosely to secular government. Our eternal home and primus minister are not of this world. We have hope in something better, brighter, and surer than anything American government can provide. Secondly, however, there is a cure for illiteracy and ignorance, namely, education. We can grab a copy of the U.S. Constitution and read it. We can take an online class or read a book on constitutional law. We can join discussion groups or blogs related to constitutional government and American politics. There are a myriad of ways to enhance our knowledge of and appreciation for the Constitution; in today's information age, we have virtually no excuses for unenlightenment. We have at our fingertips all the resources we need to embrace the ideals that made our nation so great and its freedoms so coveted. What is more, each of us can contact our elected representatives and demand change. We can attend town-hall meetings, get involved in local politics, teach our children about the Constitution, vote, and many, many other things. But it all starts with personal responsibility...it starts with you and me. If we are to secure our constitutional democracy, we will not do so by taking a backseat or watching the parade go by. We must take action...today! We must once again become the People!