I have never been able to get
overly excited about the U.S. Constitution, for the simple reason that it was
ratified 169 years before I was even born, and things change over time, in this
U.S. population expanded from
two million to 143 million in those 169 years, and continues to expand now from
a base of over 312 million souls (if I can believe figures I find at reputable websites).
It is also no secret that the industrial revolution permanently altered the
course of history and human life during this time. Automobiles replaced horse
and buggies, so much so that we now have over 250 million passenger vehicles
rolling around the land, polluting it, along with the air and water, and doing so
on roads that have decimated landscapes and ecosystems. The sewing machine,
steamboat, telegraph, telephone, phonograph, diesel engine, airplane, and
transatlantic cable hardly scratch the surface of inventions of the 1800's or
early 1900's--inventions which have since morphed into a world that our Founding
Fathers would be hard pressed to recognize as part of the same planet. Dare I
even mention the awareness of our place in space that astronomers have given us
since 1778? Or the awareness that science has brought us in so many millions of
ways since the Constitution was ratified? To say the least, the world today is
radically different today than it was 233 years ago, as is our awareness of it.
Thus I ask why anyone in
their right mind might turn cartwheels, figurative or otherwise, about our Founding
Fathers and the supposed sanctity of the Constitution, anymore than they might wish
to toss out the amenities that are now part and parcel of our daily lives?
I wonder how many people realize that the wealthiest man in our foundling country also happened to be our first president? George owned over 300 slaves and 250,000 square miles of land (according to Yahoo Answers, and Answers.com, respectively). I am not aware of anyone with such comparative wealth even today.
While reading The People's History of the United States
by the late Howard Zinn, twentieth edition, HarperCollins, 1999, my gut
feelings on these matters expanded as if I ate a few too many burritos. One
example may suffice to convey why: According to Zinn and Wikipedia, a fellow
named Charles Beard wrote An Economic Interpretation of
the Constitution of the United States in 1913, arguing that the structure of the Constitution was
motivated primarily by personal financial interests of the Founding Fathers .
Zinn writes (page 90 ): "In short, Beard said, the rich must, in their
own interest, either control the government directly or control the laws by
which government operates.
Beard applied this general idea to the Constitution, by
studying the economic backgrounds and political ideas of the fifty-five men who
gathered in Philadelphia
in 1787 to draw up the Constitution. He found that a majority of them were
lawyers by profession, that most of them were men of wealth, in land, slaves,
manufacturing, or shipping, that half of them had money loaned out at interest,
and that forty of the fifty-five held government bonds, according to the
records of the Treasury Department.
Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution
had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government:
the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop
the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection
as they invaded Indian lands; slaveowners needed federal security against slave
revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by
nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds.
Four groups, Beard noted, were not represented in the
Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women, men without
property. And so the Constitution did not reflect the interests of those
This of course was after and
during the genocide of untold millions of Native Americans, whose land was
taken by force and who also were not represented by the Constitution, or by the
300+ treaties the U.S. Government made and then broke with them.
I sincerely hope that OWS
continues gathering support, momentum, and strength, and that its ideas spread
far and wide, growing tall and stout as redwoods in the fertile manure so
generously provided by Wall Street et.al. Better late than never for a leveling
of the playing field, and for an evolution of the consciousness our species must
have if it is to continue.