A blueprint starts the process of embedding our values into external reality. What activities do we prioritize? How sustainable will the structure be? How safe and resistant to disaster? The decisions that underpin a blueprint have lasting ramifications, since remodels and additions largely work within the constraints laid down by the original design.
Every manmade structure has a useful lifetime, ranging from a few years to several hundred and in rare cases, a few thousand. At some point, the ravages of time take their toll or the design proves inadequate for current requirements. It becomes unsafe, outdated, or unwieldy. A new design cycle is then required, beginning with a time of deep reflection and visioning that aims towards a new blueprint to serve the practical and aesthetic needs of occupants.
The reason I bring this analogy up is that I believe we are reaching the point of needing a new blueprint for both the United States and the world, one that adequately meets the environmental, political, social, and global challenges of today. The old paradigms and blueprints are failing in the face of current needs. What used to be slight cracks in our systems are threatening to create dangerous collapses.
The Constitution of the United States has served as the political blueprint for our country for 219 years. However, it was not the first blueprint. It was version two of our American blueprint, created in response to the inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation that preceded it. The main problem of version one was that the central government was too weak there was no central executive to enforce legislation and no power to raise taxes, create currencies, or enforce treaties. After an era of too much power centered in England, the states erred on the side of keeping more power local. The result was an ineffective new nation because it lacked sufficient power at the national level to address national problems.
The Framers thus embarked upon the task of creating something more thoughtful and enduring a better blueprint that could more adequately balance power between different levels and branches of government. The Constitution emerged from intense debate and long working sessions spread over years. It drew from many lineages of thought and study of the shortcomings previous forms of government. The resulting Constitution, with the amendments that followed almost immediately, has been so wonderfully successful that it has inspired similar blueprints the world over. It is treated with great reverence, almost like a sacred text, creating a strong foundation on which to build a nation.
The Framers, though, did not necessarily intend that this document would serve as the permanent blueprint for our country. They had seen that mistakes were made with the Articles of Confederation and assumed that the Constitution itself would always remain imperfect. They thus built in mechanisms to amend the Constitution and to eventually supplant it with a new Constitution if required. Thomas Jefferson even remarked that every generation should write its own Constitution.
The main problem faced by the Articles of the Confederation was that they did not give enough power to a centralized government to solve shared problems. The problems with version two, the Constitution, have arisen more slowly since the blueprint was more thoughtfully designed. However, we now face deep, systemic threats to the foundation of American democracy. We also live in a time when some of our primary challenges are now global challenges, while the current Constitution affords almost no power to global governing structures. There are distinct parallels between the uncoordinated thirteen states in the 1780s and the uncoordinated network of nations in 2006.
As the most powerful nation on Earth, America has an increasingly essential role to play in empowering the world 's nations to act together to solve global problems. But we are saddled with an increasingly corrupt federal government, unchecked military power, and the manipulation of legislation by elites with narrow agendas.
All of that leads to my conclusion that we 're nearing the end of the useful lifespan of our current Constitution. What I believe is required is to take that wondrous document and the learnings from 219 years and forge a new blueprint that thoughtfully addresses current power dynamics, the requirement for new checks and balances, and our relationship to trans-national challenges and global structures of governance.
What if we were to convene a convention of the brightest lights of today to frame a new blueprint, one that honors what has gone before while drawing from centuries of experience and diverse sources of wisdom and insight? Perhaps such a blueprint could help guide our entire world into the next level of its evolution.
Sacred America Series #15
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