If We Can Keep It: Maintaining Constitutional Relevancy in Modern America
Sweat rolled from their faces. The air was stale, for the windows were nailed shut to keep away all prying ears and eyes. For months, they struggled “to form a more perfect union.” As Benjamin Franklin emerged from Independence Hall, an anxious crowd greeted him. They inquired, “What have you wrought?” Franklin sighed, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Today, as if to echo Franklin’s doubts, Americans debate the relevancy of our country’s bylaws. Some claim that our constitution is too old and outdated. However, digging deeper into the controversy shows the Constitution is relevant. In spite of the complex problems facing our world today, I believe our Constitution is still relevant because of its purpose, provision, and performance.
The Constitution is still relevant because of its purpose: to establish a solid foundation that protects the rights and upholds the truths listed in the Declaration of Independence. “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
A quality foundation creates a strong, lasting structure. These truths serve as our stable foundation that cannot be shaken or replaced. The Seven Articles of the Constitution protect these rights by enumerating the powers of all three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. It provides checks and balances so that no one branch can gain too much power and become tyrannical. Thus, the Constitution continues to provide the essential foundation for the balanced governing of our nation.
Our Constitution is still relevant because of its provisions. The Founders knew they could not foresee every future issue with the Constitution, so they provided an amending process to deal with such situations. One modern example of the success of the amending process is the change in voting laws. Originally, the Constitution only granted the right to vote to free, white males over the age of 21 who owned property. Today, any American citizen over the age of 18 may vote. Through the amending and building processes, we have added new laws, modified old laws, and removed laws. The Constitution provides an avenue to manage societal needs as our country grows and changes over time.
The Constitution is still relevant because of its performance even in the digital age. On August 16, 2012, a marine veteran in Virginia named Brandon Raub, was handcuffed in his home and taken into custody without being shown an arrest warrant or being told his Miranda rights. “[He] was arrested without warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government” on his Facebook page. However, the case was dismissed; the court held that Brandon was exercising his freedom of speech protected by the Constitution. This was a great victory for the First Amendment and the rule of law.
Also, our Constitution has served us well in countless other ways. For over 200 years, it supported our nation’s leaders in making the important decision to levy wars, such as the Civil War, two World Wars, and wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And unlike the elections in Iraq and Libya, our Constitution has allowed the peaceful transition of power through over 50 elections. Finally, for an unprecedented length of time, our Constitution has preserved individual liberties such as freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and the right to assemble.
Yes, our Constitution continues to be relevant because of its purpose, provision, and performance. We should not ignore or discredit the Constitution when making political decisions. But despite the document’s relevancy, some Americans continue to lobby to rewrite our Constitution. America is deeply divided into party politics. Rewriting our Constitution could give biased politicians dangerous power through which to further personal and political agendas. If our Constitution is rewritten, then the freedoms that so many have died for most assuredly will be eroded. We must protect and treasure our nation’s founding document at all costs.
Observe the diversity of voters on November 8th. Will police officers hold any of them back? Listen to the men and women, like Brandon Raub, who freely share their opposing opinions. Will they go to jail? Watch with pride the wounded soldier stand from his wheelchair to salute the flag. Was he forced to stand? I stand with my fellow Americans who proudly hold that our Constitution is still relevant. We have the world’s greatest constitution, if we can keep it.
By Lydia Grace