We paid homage this past week to the Declaration of Independence. Time for a few words about our OTHER founding document, from Contributor and "Daily Show" writer Kevin Bleyer - who has written a new book on the Constitution:
Now that you're done looking up at a sky filled with fireworks, take a moment to look back down, and pity poor James Madison, the "Father of our Constitution."
Why? Well, for little Jimmy Madison, there were no fireworks.
Back in 1787, when the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia took a recess to celebrate Independence Day - with "illuminations from one end of this continent to the other" - Madison didn't go. He didn't feel he had earned them.
Because the REAL fireworks that summer? They were inside the Pennsylvania State House. The delegates had been stuck in the humid, unventilated Assembly Room for six weeks, trying to write a new constitution to save our beleaguered country, yet they had nothing to show for it.
Well, nothing except backstabbing, flared tempers and dramatic fits thrown by a bunch of overheated, oxygen-deprived men in tight britches and powdered wigs.
It's now known as the "Miracle of Philadelphia," but honestly the miracle was that they didn't strangle each other by August.
And come September, the "miracle" Constitution they signed? Well, Benjamin Franklin himself said, "I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best."
Not exactly a rousing endorsement! And a sentiment echoed just this year when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said if she were designing a democracy in 2012, she wouldn't use the American Constitution as a model. Et tu, Ruthe?
Yet, we still have it. We still revere what those men wrought in 1787.
And I can't help but think, if even in those circumstances, in that boiling cauldron of irrational thinking (did I mention they drank beer for breakfast?), somehow those men could still manage to come together to write a whole set of laws that now stands as the longest-surviving national constitution on Earth? Gosh, why can't WE get anything done?
We've got air-conditioning! So what's our excuse?
This may be the heatstroke talking, but I just had a revolutionary idea: Fife and drum roll, please ...
Our Congress should stay in session all summer - camp out in D.C., and turn off the AC. Put on their stuffiest powdered wigs and sweat it out, until they give in and put their John Hancocks (and their Nancy Pelosis and their John Boehners) on at least ONE meaningful law that no one wants to repeal.
For getting so little done the past few years, consider it a penalty - or, if you insist, a tax! Whatever floats your filibuster.
All I'm saying is: Earn those fireworks!
For more info:
- "Me the People: One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America by Kevin Bleyer (Random House)