Editor's Note: Most Americans are frustrated by events out of Washington these past two weeks. I've asked one local resident, Delbert Beyer, to share his thoughts with readers this morning. Beyer and I have been communicating and his historical observations interested me, and I thought they might interest you as well.
I remember when we had safety and trust and how it felt. We were proud. We believed. We were unique. We knew that if we followed our map all problems could and would be solved. Yet today, we seem to be losing that map piece by piece. We are also losing our national sense of direction and purpose.
"We" is repeated and repeated here because "We" is followed by "the People" in our constitution. We are those people! This makes the events we view in today's Washington even more frightening. The recent words and images on display in Washington present us as a country reduced to a war of words, name calling, labeling, posturing, clear ignorance of the Constitution and even lies by the President. These images provide the "We the people" a front and center slide show of a very rapidly changing constitutional map with a bleak future.
"We the People of the United States, 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." (September 17 1787).
To these historic words we added The Bill of Rights.(December 15, 1791) The Bill of Rights extended the people's confidence in the created government and were created "in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers".
The "Then" and "Now" comparisons used below paint two different pictures of "We the People". The words above remain the same today but their meaning and their promise is changing.
Then: Our Framers specifically chose a limited executive, legislative and judiciary government. The creation of the Bill of Rights made it complete with specific checks and balances and limitations for each branch and very specific rights granted to people and states.
Now: Our government grows larger and larger with each passing day. "We the People" are increasingly being taken care of much as a good farmer tends to his livestock and we demand more. States now have no choice except to bow to ever demanding "government can do it better" and "you are wrong" rules and mandates.
Then: Our Founders were either Federalist or Non Federalist. The Non Federalists feared a centralized and powerful government. To reduce Non Federalists' fears, our first senators, were elected by state legislatures rather than by a direct citizen vote. Those senators served at the pleasure of the state and not the government and were expected to faithfully represent state desires and not his own or the desires of others. Centralized power was, indeed, limited with specific checks.
Now: The 17th Amendment was passed by Congress on May 13, 1912 and Ratified on April 8, 1913. We destroyed the Framers intent. Some senators clearly do not even try to protect the state from the government and they all seek continued status in its chambers. States' rights are clearly being limited and, our government has now grown to those levels feared and rejected by the Non Federalists.
Then: The focus of the Supreme Court was specifically limited to "all Cases in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution". The Court's Justices had identified limited responsibilities.
Now: Today, these judges experience lifelong appointments and function well beyond their intended purposes. The court's judges have chosen not to be limited to decisions to "support" and "protect" the Constitution and contribute to the expanding federal influence. I must admit I simply do not understand why five to four votes are as good and as permanent as nine to zero votes.
The "Then" and "Now " guide above also shows increased citizens, elected leaders and Supreme Court Judges claiming our Constitution and Bill of Rights are quaint and antiquated and are not representative or workable today. We call them Progressives and/or Liberals. They propose the adoption of different beliefs. Since the 17th Amendment became law in 1913, we can clearly trace the progress of these beliefs which change the purpose for and application of beliefs in the Framers Constitution. Read about their goals and the claimed benchmark achievements from President Woodrow Wilson through the 100 years to Barack Obama and you will reveal a planned piece by piece Constitutional Republic versus Utopia value struggle. Unlike our Framers secure and clear path the Utopian path is very steep, slippery and dangerous and has always failed.
It is possible, of course, to experience the emergence of a Founder's type leader and the return to what "we" once believed a life time ago. In this spirit, I close with the words of Walt Kelly's cartoon character, "Pogo."
"Sir, we have met the enemy and he is us."
Delbert Beyer was and remains an educator. He came to Alpena in 1969 and retired in 1995. His education journey included teaching at Alpena High and various administrative assignments including Thunder Bay Junior High, Central Junior High, Besser Junior High (now an elementary building), and Green, Long Rapids, Wilson and Sunset elementary buildings. To work with other educators and parents was fulfilling but his special joy was to grow with the children.