Pardon me as I brag on our country and the ingenious minds of our founders for the duration of this article. Sometimes, I can’t help myself.
The U.S. Government is so remarkably unique, it never ceases to amaze me. The framers of the Constitution built into the government itself a plethora of chinks and roadblocks and hindrances. So many in fact, that most countries around the world look at our government and consider it to be cumbersome, slow, inept, ineffective and inconvenient.
And yet, we boast the longest living written Constitution in the world, one of the world’s biggest economies, and consistent peaceful transitions of power between governments.
Americans are reeling right now after a litany of Supreme Court cases dramatically reigned in the power of the federal government, something that fewer and fewer American’s seem to want reigned in. And yet, even after the emotionally charged overturning of Roe vs. Wade was announced that Friday, the country has not imploded and the expected riots and protests have been relatively tame. That’s what’s so unique about this country, something many other countries could only hope to have.
What do I mean by that’s?
We have, in America, a very strong love of the law or virtue as Montesquieu called it. This means that, even if many Americans can’t explain it or articulate it, we respect the authority of the Constitution and we respect the authority and legitimacy of our government.
If we didn’t, believe me, we’d know. Numerous countries have experienced consequences of no virtue in their citizenry. Without a love or respect of the law, if government does something the citizenry, or a subset of the citizenry does not like, or if someone is elected whom the citizenry does not respect, the citizenry responds with violence, riots and eventual overthrow. Read through South American history if you want a some examples of this.
And yet here, in the U.S., we’ve just had the Supreme Court, a branch of government over-bloated with power just like the other branches, rattling off a number of opinions, controversial opinions, that greatly weaken the Court and federal government’s power, with little to no violent insurrections to show for the decisions.
In other words, many Americans (and apparently people from other countries too?) are huffing and puffing in anger at the Court’s opinions, declaring the end of democracy or the end of the Constitution…but notice, public complaining is about as far as it goes. I read this tweet today,
“The Supreme Court has gone rogue. We are in a full-blown Constitutional crisis. Congress must act. And we must pressure Congress to act, while it still can.”Twitter
While this tweet may be a shade overdramatic, I would agree that we’re are experiencing a Constitutional crisis and have been for a while. I disagree with her that the Supreme Court has recently worsened the crisis, but that’s neither here nor there. The reason I show this tweet is because I want to point out what most of us may miss. Notice her solution to what she claims is a dire “crisis”?
It’s not pitchforks and knives, it’s not throwing off the current government, it’s not rioting and looting, it’s not calls for anarchy.
No, she calls on citizens who agree with her to pressure the legislative branch to flex its muscles in the game of ambition counteraction ambition. While she may not recognize it, this kind of response is so precious and rare. We have a problem with our government, we still respond by staying within the rule of law to correct the wrong.
And notice, she’s apparently concerned about the preservation of the Constitution.
The Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade, then it established that public schools cannot prevent a coach from praying on a football field, followed by shrinking the power of the EPA in favor of more power for Congress, and finally a strengthening of executive power vs state power regarding illegal immigration.
These are no small changes in our Constitutional Republic and yet, most likely, no violent revolution will occur and most states, federal agencies and schools will change their behaviors accordingly. Does this mean that there won’t be attempts to pass a new Constitutional amendment, or to pass new laws at the state or local level or pressure for new policy initiatives won’t occur? Of course not. This type of political activism is expected in a country like ours.
But how unique that is? We can’t take this granted. How rare that we, Americans, for the most part, have an inner, perhaps even unrecognized, respect of the law and legitimacy of our system. So much so that we stay within those confines to push for change we want.
And how many people having been crying about the Constitution and Constitutional rights over the past week–as if the Constitution matters?
No one would care about what the Court says if the Constitution didn’t matter. No one would say that we’re in a Constitutional crisis if people in the U.S. whole heartedly didn’t care about the Constitution as many people may claim. Many may say they don’t because they’ve never been given a reason to care, but many still have a gut feeling that it should be followed. A rare thing indeed.
America is unique. See, on one hand, we’ve been conditioned and taught to love our Constitution, love the law, and respect the government we’ve been given. Hamilton would be proud. The citizens’ irrational fires of emotion that fueled the Revolutionary War and threatened to destroy the young nation at its birth became a rational and controlled burning in time. The citizenry learned to control its unhealthy revolutionary urges and respect the Constitution and system the citizenry had created. Without this deep reverence for the Constitution and the rule of law, who knows how many governments, insurrections, revolutions and Constitutions we could have cycled through by now.
This kind of stability and longevity is something to be proud of and to hold onto dearly because it’s truly a rare thing. One of my students from France once told me that she and her fellow citizens in France always looked at America with confusion and even disapproval, never understanding why we were so obsessed with our Constitution and founding. Perhaps we don’t even really understand this inherent and deep rooted virtue but it is unique in world politics and has allowed us to maintain the same government for almost 250 years while a country like France is on its Fifth Republic since the late 1700s.
I will clarify. Liberty teeters along a fine tight rope. Madison and Jefferson would agree that this respect and love of the law is critical. That citizens should follow their government and the government should follow the Constitution. However, such willing reverence and respect should never devolve into blind compliance at the expense of liberty.
We must always keep that revolutionary spark, that fiery love of liberty burning, just as a controlled fire, with rationality and the rule of law.
When the Court, Congress, the President or the states do something that clearly violates the Constitution to the extent that irreparable damage may be done and true oppression likely, Locke and the founders would condone true civil disobedience. This is not irrational and emotional revolution but rational, careful civil rebellion through the Constitution itself.
See, we’re so free here still, so well off, so blessed, even with all the complaining and fuming that many are engaging in in response to the Court (much of the emotions built on a lack of knowledge, mind you), there is no real need for more than simple complaint.
But, imagine, for a moment, what would happen should our government decide to round up all women of a certain age and race and sterilize them? Or imagine if our government were to pass a law that established that everyone can only have one male child? Further, the government enforces this law by sending law enforcement into each home for weekly inspections and terminations should a female child or extra male child be discovered? (I hope you recognize that governments in other countries have engaged in these specific atrocities.)
A less compliant response should be in order. The police and military better know the Constitution and engage in some major civil disobedience, as should the states, local governments and citizenry all large. Compliance in this scenario means true unadulterated oppression.
See, that’s what so unique about our government and citizenry. Right now, we’re not oppressed, which is why it’s a rare and beautiful gift that even those who think they’re being oppressed are attempting to make a change through the proper legal channels rather than engaging in a full on revolution. They get to use the freedom they have to speak out against our government to speak out against our government.
What a unique and precious gift we have here. Order in the middle of chaos. Ordered chaos. Allow for the citizenry to freely express their beliefs and frustrations while still maintaining stability and order.
Our country has just experienced some major shifts in its political landscape.
Thanks to the genius of our founders, we haven’t fallen into anarchy and chaos as a result.
The Liberty Belle