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Hanging By a Thread

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Throughout American history, much has been said about the US Constitution and the other founding documents of our nation. A few of my favorites include these words of praise by French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville:
"The principles on which the American constitutions rest-those principles of order, of the balance of powers, of true liberty, of deep and sincere respect for right-are indispensable to all republics; they ought to be common to all" (1).

Sir Henry Maine, an English jurist and government historian said: "The Constitution of the United States of America is much the most important political instrument of modern times" (2).

English historian Lord Acton stated that: "It was from America that the plain ideas that men ought to mind their own business, and that the nation is responsible to Heaven for the acts of State-ideas long locked in the breasts of solitary thinkers, and hidden among Latin folios,-burst forth like a conqueror upon the world they were destined to transform, under the title of the Rights of Man" (3).

I couldn't agree more. I love the US Constitution and everything it represents, despite its imperfections. Even for those who don't share Lord Acton's belief in a "Heaven" that nations are responsible to, common sense dictates a nation is responsible not only to its own citizens, but to the entirety of humanity. The rights in our nation's founding documents truly should be "common to all;" ideally, the US would transform the world by standing as an example. Imagine what a positive influence our nation could have on the rest of the world if we were united in the protection of human rights and dignity; if we worked to ensure that every citizen, without exception, had access to all of life's necessities, including excellent health care and the highest quality of education at all levels; if we really were free to speak our minds without fear of being tossed into some secret prison; if affairs of church and state actually were kept separate; if our government in no way infringed on a citizen's right to privacy; worked to establish peace in the world and provide relief from poverty in nations that are suffering; and if "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" really were guaranteed to all. True leaders never use force, intimidation and violence to influence people; history's great leaders set the example by standing for correct principles, by doing good works, and by earning the trust of those who would be their followers. That is what our nation should be doing.

It's deeply sad and disturbing to see how far we've strayed from the ideals that our nation was founded upon. Today our so-called "leaders" violate the Constitution in both word and deed. One only has to look at the "Patriot" Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the "Spying on Americans" bill to see their blatant disregard for the freedoms that our nation should hold sacred. And as if that's not bad enough, they mock and insult the Constitution and everything it stands for.

According to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the "Constitution is an outdated document" (4). How shameful. Yes, I suppose freedom and human rights have become outdated, at least as far as the fascist Bush regime is concerned. Even worse is what the President himself, who has sworn to uphold this important document, has "allegedly" said (but can there really be any doubt?) about the Constitution being just a "piece of paper." Many of us are probably familiar with an article by Doug Thompson, describing one of Bush's puerile outbursts during a meeting. Thompson writes:

""Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."
"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
I've talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution "a goddamned piece of paper."
And, to the Bush Administration, the Constitution of the United States is little more than toilet paper stained from all the sh*t that this group of power-mad despots have dumped on the freedoms that "goddamned piece of paper" used to guarantee" (4).

Imagining that scene makes me sick. Bush and the rest of his criminal administration obviously "hate our freedoms" as much or more than the "terrorists" supposedly do. In word and deed, Bush et al have proven that they're cut from the same cloth as Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet and the rest of history's dictators. This administration just might be a greater threat to America's freedom than anything else in our nation's history. What Al Gore said is true: The US Constitution is in grave danger" (5).

Here in Utah, we have sort of an interesting oral tradition surrounding a remark made by Joseph Smith, the first president of the LDS (Mormon) Church. To paraphrase, he said that the time would come when the Constitution will "hang by a thread" and it will be up to this people to save it (6). Whatever your opinion may be about Smith and the LDS Church (and believe me, I've heard it all), it's my opinion that "hanging by a thread" perfectly describes the current situation in our country.

However, I also sincerely believe it's not too late to turn things around.

To me, "this people" means anyone and everyone who loves this country, honors the principles it was founded on, and wants to see true freedom restored here. I have faith that this still describes the majority of Americans, especially progressives. Most people in this country are good, even if many have been distracted or been in denial about just how bad things have gotten. People are waking up. Polls show that Americans are becoming increasingly impatient with the pointless slaughter in Iraq; they are sick of all the corruption and non-stop scandals in the GOP; they're no longer buying into all of the lies, and are finally realizing that this government is NOT acting in their best interest. They want change for the better, and like me, they haven't given up hope.

Even if the unthinkable happens, and the GOP uses their rigged voting machines and whatever else they're hiding in their arsenal of evil to steal this election; I have faith that Americans will no longer sit back and ignore the glaringly obvious corruption. They'll demand an investigation. Sooner or later, the truth will start to come out. Some of it already has. Call me naive, but I still have faith that goodness and truth can overcome at least some of the wretchedness and corruption in the world.

It will require vigilance. We must keep an eye on key states, such as Ohio, and sound the alarm at the slightest evidence of fraud. We have to keep speaking out to our representatives, keep writing letters to the editor, talking to other progressives and educating anyone we can about the criminal actions of this administration. Numerous articles on this site list other ways to be part of the solution, such as volunteering as an election worker; and for those who have HBO, inviting people over to watch the "Hacking Democracy" documentary on November 2.

With hope, faith and hard work, we can put this country back on the right track. Don't prove me wrong, America...


1. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols., Boston: John Allyn, 1876, 1:xviii.
2. Popular Government, Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Classics, 1976, p. 199.
3. F. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty, Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1960, p. 176.
4. Bush on the Constitution: "Just a goddamned piece of paper," Doug Thompson, Dec 9, 2005.
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Just an ordinary citizen, looking for a way to make a difference in a world gone mad.
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