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The political issues of today, namely the impeachment of a president, have caused me to reflect on how we have come to what some feel is a constitutional crisis in America. I do not wish to be political. But, I hope that you will take a few moments to understand better the foundation of the laws of this country. I am optimistic that, for the sake of posterity, you will do your duty to protect the Constitution and the laws of this country. That duty is to participate in our democracy. The most significant responsibility is the duty to vote.

Three Documents Formed Our Government

The American system of government was built, primarily, from three crucial documents; The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution of the United States of America. Those documents represent the foundation stones of our government. When there is a legal conflict relating to a principle of law, we always return to examining the Constitution to determine whether a particular code will stand or fall. It is the Constitution that defines what is right and wrong for us as a country.

The Supreme Court is A Living Body

We might even say that the primary reason that we have the Supreme Court is to have a living body. This body is there to interpret the law, make decisions about the law, and enforce laws that are, in fact, constitutional.  One of the most dreaded accusations one can make about a questionable act of a government agency is that the action is “unconstitutional.” That reflects the power of that document in American life, our definitions of “legal” and our culture. However, if the Court is unbalanced, that too will likely be reflected in its decisions.

A Legal Standard for 233 Years

This historical document was signed at the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia.  The City of Philadelphia was witness to numerous events of historical significance which reserved its place in the history of the country.  The framers of the Constitution were the most intelligent and well-educated men of their time.

The Constitution has lasted as a legal standard now for 233 years. There are no signs that the power of The Constitution will diminish for hundreds of years to come.  Our Constitution is the oldest document of its type in existence the world over. The original is on display in Washington, D.C. It is worth it to travel to D.C. to experience, through documents, the historicity of events that led to this countries founding.

An Incorporation of the Great Documents of Antiquity

Our Constitution is a reflection of the best of some of the oldest legal documents that had a similar intent. Those documents were of great antiquity going back hundreds of years.  The Constitution took ideas from the Magna Carta, the law of the Old Testament, The Code of Hammurabi, the French political philosopher Montesquieu, ancient Greek political ideology from writers such as Polybius, and the Common Law of England.

The central ideas of the Constitution came from some of the highest systems of government on earth and some of the most significant ideologies from history. These elements incorporated in the final document give us a unique, never before tried format for governing. This fact led it to be called “The Great American Experiment.”

Seven Articles of the Constitution

There are seven articles of the Constitution. Each of the sections discusses the several divisions of our government.  Articles One through Article Three discuss the three branches of government, including the legislative, executive, and judicial.  Article Four gets deeper into the rights and powers reserved to the states.  The Founding Fathers understood the importance of leaving significant power of governing at the local and state level. They knew that those rights needed to be preserved in the Constitution, the foundation document of our society.

The Constitution Is A Living Document

Other articles address the process of ratification and federal power.  However, the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution lies in Article Five, which outlines the process of amending the Constitution, which leaves room for additional work to keep the Constitution up to date. The framers, in their wisdom, made the Constitution a living document. I am optimistic that it will remain a living document for centuries to come.

However, we must continue to breathe life into it. We must protect and defend it. We do this by remaining to be actively involved in our democracy. We must hold our elected officials accountable. That means we must engage them, confront them, and make them aware of what we perceive is best for our communities. We must actively participate and communicate with our local representatives, our representatives at the state capitol, and in Washington. D.C.

However, we must resist the tendency to be more loyal to our political parties than we are to the country. Political parties have come and gone and evolved. But America has remained. How long America, as we know it will last, depends on whether you actively and objectively participate in our democracy. The most significant responsibility is to become informed and to vote.

J Thomas Smith is the host of “Sunday Morning Live” on “The People’s Station” KMJQ/Majic 102.1 (9-11 CST). Your comments are welcome at jtsmith@radio-one.com. Follow on Twitter @DrJThomasSmith on facebook.com/jthomas.smith.12 and instagram.com/drjtsmith102.

 

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