The Constitution, by Heart

Our first-grader recently came home excited to enter the school talent show. She surprised us by announcing, “I am going to sing the Preamble of the Constitution.” Against the percussive sounds of her siblings playing with blocks and the back beat of family meal preparation, she practices her a capella Schoolhouse Rock melody. “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It’s been a good soundtrack for the Jasmine Revolution and the U.S. budget battles. “We the People” of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and neighbors are seeking a “more perfect union” than provided by their corrupt kleptocrats. It is a return to their post-colonial hopes for a more just social order, hopes stolen decades ago by autocrats, who obstruct justice, tranquility, welfare, liberty and concerns for posterity. The outcomes of their struggles are uncertain, as these “Jurassic Park” leaders rage against their own extinction. But the glaring disparities in age and wage, greed and need, opportunities and dignity between the autocrats and the governed will continue to generate resistance. And the revolution’s tipping point of high food prices will continue (thanks to global climate change, rising demand and vulnerable supply).


In a too-rare moment of bipartisan agreement, voices across the U.S. political spectrum urge support for democracy abroad, while ironically doing much to damage democracy at home. Our new Congress made quite a show of starting the session by reading the Constitution aloud. But I wonder if they listened to the words. Forming “a more perfect union” is not an optional commitment. Placed first among government’s core purposes, it is democracy’s key challenge. It is not easy and not for the faint of heart. Like our faith’s challenge to seek “communion,” it requires us to seek greater union among people with whom we fervently disagree, people who do not share our viewpoint, class, demographic or ethnic group.

The budget battles reveal a lack of commitment to union, even as a goal. Disunion is seen as a “badge of honor;” seeking union and domestic tranquility are decried as selling out. Justice and promotion of the general welfare are spurned as “Nanny-state socialism.” Securing the blessings of liberty is touted as incompatible with a distorted view of the “requirements” of defense. Posterity is given short shrift by all. Faux fiscal conservatives rightly decry excessive budget deficits while hypocritically leaving military spending, the largest part of the discretionary budget, untamed.

The United States spends more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined. No politician dares suggest a return to anything near spending levels prior to Sept. 11, 2001 (“merely” $277 billion). This spending benefits politicians of both parties and military contractors, while servicemen and servicewomen who serve in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle for their veterans’ benefits and food to the poor is cut. This is entrenched corporate welfare, not promotion of the general welfare. As Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany said, “It is morally unacceptable to balance the budget on the backs of the poor.”

This sort of wealth-shifting, while neglecting the economic pain of the unemployed and working classes, is creating revolutions abroad. Our leaders decry extremist ideologues abroad while sanctioning them at home. We denounce the murder of the moderate Pakastani minister Shahbaz Bhatti while easily evading any troubling societal responsibilities for the Arizona murders, which politicians of both parties conveniently dismiss as merely the crime of an isolated madman. How long did the vaunted post-Arizona enhanced civility last in these budget wars? We urge moderation abroad, while we fail to practice it at home. Cheering democracy on from a distance is easy. Building it with political opponents at home is hard.

Upon hearing our daughter singing the preamble, a neighborhood kid said, “Cool. Do you actually know what all those words mean?”

“I’m learning,” she replied. That is something we all need to do.

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Margie Lachman
7 years 10 months ago
This article clearly defines what is wrong in our country today. One political party, pretending to be fiscally and socially conservative, proposes a budget that cuts funds to social services upon which so many of our poorest citizens depend. At the same time they want to continue to cut taxes paid by corporations and the richest Americans. The other political party wrings its hands, doing little about this draconian budget, as if it did not have the power or the will of the bulk of our citizens backing it. 
Our constitution clearly states that our goals are to be a people united in establishing  justice, domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare and liberty for everyone, including our posterity. We are so divided and there seems to be no end to that divisiveness. 
Theologian Jim Wallace sent an open letter to House speaker Boehner asking the Speaker to invite Christian leaders to discuss the federal budget. In it he reminds Mr. Boehner of how the budget is a moral document and that a society is judged by how it treats the least and most vulnerable among us.
We must stand up for the poor, the elderly, the children among us or we are not living by our constitution or by God's law to treat others as we want to be treated. 
Tom Maher
7 years 10 months ago

Well I hope Professor Love isn't becoming a tea party member, it would tranish her sterling liberal credentials.  I though the U.S. Constitution was so out of favor with liberals.  Recently an {NS interviewer said of the tea partyu use of the words"consitutional government" might be some kind of racial code word.  You had better be careful {rofessor Love involking th eConsitution might casue some to accuse you of hate speech as they do when the tea party people involke the Constituion. 

It is however very advanced to reference the Preamble of the Contitution as a basis of dicussion of national priorities.  It a great public service to remind citizens of these words and that we do operate as a nation under the rule of the Constitution.

But ciming out of the gate you misinterprete these important words.  The Preable is not a sacred religious text commanding certain behaviors of people.  Rather it affirms that "We the people" decide what the goverenment will do or not do at any moment.  We can be at war today or peace tommarrow as decide by the people .  The Consistution has the people as its root, not the government iitself.  Never forget that the Constitution itself can be changed by people at any time.

John Grant
7 years 10 months ago
Thank you for your thoughtful words. It is not often that I find a fellow Catholic that shares my view of human interaction and the role we all play in "We the People" - Thank you
seoer chen
7 years 4 months ago

She went to see Air Max Shoes a well respected Buddhist monk to ask for advice. The monk told her to take a large clay jug from his kitchen, fill it with water, and stand outside on the sidewalk in front of his house. “It’s hot outside, and that’s a busy sidewalk with lots of pedestrians,” the monk told her as he pointed out the front window of his house. “When a pedestrian passes, you must offer them a glass of water. Do this until Cheap Air Max there is no rage left inside you.

So she Retro Jordan Space Jams stood outside with a water jug and served water to pedestrians every day for the next several weeks. And every morning she asked herself if rage still pulsed through her veins. And every morning the answer was, “yes.” So she continued serving water. Until this afternoon when a burly man walked up, snatched the water jug out of her hand, drank directly out of it, and then tossed the jug on the ground as he continued on his way.

The moral of the story is that we simply don’t know. We want to believe that if we completely rid ourselves of our inner darkness then we will always make the right choices, and be of service to ourselves and those around us. But life isn’t Jordan 13 so linear and predicable. Sometimes our darkness inadvertently leads us to do things that impact the world in a positive way, just as our unconditional love sometimes forces us to overlook the criminal standing before us.


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