I did not celebrate Constitution Day on September 17, primarily because I did not know how to do so. The federal government requires colleges to do something on that day to qualify for Title IV grant money. But, if people really read the Constitution, they would find that the federal government has no authority to issue the grants.
Some years back, I was asked to give suggestions for a meaningful program. The assigned administrator and I pondered several options, none of which seemed fitting or particularly meaningful. Still, we should do something because ignorance on this document is appalling and patriotism among those under 25 is virtually dead. Now athletes, making millions because the Constitution made it possible for their talent to flourish under freedom established by this document, refuse to stand when our national anthem is played. Many do not deserve the much-reduced freedom that is still left to us from this document.
Where do we start? Virtually no one reads this document anymore, and neither major political party feels particularly harnessed by it as the Founders intended. Few college courses require it being read in full and few universities have a class specifically dedicated to it -- not even law schools. I know no one in my profession that actually had to read the entire document to earn a PhD.
Should I talk about the total disregard of the list in Article I, Section 8, which limits the federal government in making laws? The Founders created the list so that government could not rule in whatever it pleases as in other countries. Or, perhaps the 10th Amendment, which strengthens the argument that all powers not specifically mentioned in the Constitution remain with the states and with the people -- which is flagrantly violated almost daily by a renegade, Constitutionally-inept or ignorant Congress.
Should I talk about the separation of powers created by the Founders in which one branch made the law, another enforced the law and yet a third adjudicated the law -- a separation that we used to honor? If I did, I would also have to talk about the present corruptness of the separation.
Over the last 60 years, an unelected bureaucracy made most federal laws because Congress got lazy and allowed other organizations to fill in the details for it. They are now called rules and regulations instead of laws, but they still exact a punishment if a business or individual is out of harmony. The Federal Register, wherein they are housed, adds a half-inch thick record of new ones daily.
Also, I would have to mention that presidents make law by executive orders, most with no actual legislative authorization. Signing statements, popularized by the Bush administration, distorts laws passed by Congress by removing portions with which presidents disagreed. The Obama administration created a new level of administrators called "Czars" (purposely skirting Senate confirmation) to manage areas where no Constitutional authority exists -- last count was 34. To all of this Congress remains silent to the abduction of its power.
The Supreme Court also makes law by ruling in such a way as to give existing law new meaning never envisioned at its origin; or by giving its approval to law having no Constitutional base -- for example, national healthcare. Justice Clarence Thomas admitted that some justices attempt to ascertain what the Founders had in mind before ruling; others, he admitted, "just make it up." This certainly would be an interesting presentation. But would enough listen or even care?
The notion of federalism -- that the states handle domestic issues and the federal government primarily foreign issues, and that they are coequal (like a marriage), neither being master or slave to the other -- is gone; as is the Constitutional mandate that federal empowerment requires the consent of 3/4ths of the states, as stipulated in Article V. This might be a good topic; but it would take at least an hour to explain such, and some quick student assemblage to fulfill the government-mandated requirement would never do. Besides, this notion of shared and equal was abandoned in the '50s and '60s and, as a result, the federal government clearly rules the states, which now bow in near total obedience, their palms extended and their tongues hanging out to receive federal government grants in areas where the federal government has no Constitutional authority to give.
States, like individuals, are addicted to the "free" money. Try telling a student body that the "free" college tuition advocated by beloved socialist guru Bernie Sanders and "me too" Hillary Clinton is totally unconstitutional without an amendment to the Constitution and see if you are allowed to finish your required presentation.
There are so many other topics one might cover. The distortion of the Second Amendment of the Constitution from an intended individual right to have a weapon, whether government approved or not, to only a collective right through a militia, now interpreted as the National Guard, which organization did not then exist. Or, the mutilation of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments under the National Defense Authorization Act legislation passed by Congress in December of 2012.
My point! The Constitution is a foreign language to most, and this ignorance has resulted in our being out of harmony so long. Where do I start? The perversions are almost numberless. Colleges undoubtedly did something to qualify for the Title IV grant on Sept. 17, but were the things they did meaningful? I very much doubt that any of the aforementioned objections were mentioned.
Harold Pease, PhD, is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for more that 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.Editorial on 10/05/2016
Print Headline: Constitution Day: What could we celebrate?