Monday, June 7, 2010

My weekend with the Constitution and other historical documents . . .

Last week I had lunch with a young man who is deeply involved with the Tea Party Patriots. He was smart, well-stocked with information, had done a lot of thinking about important political issues, and was passionate about this country; in short, except for the issues he  focused on and the conclusions he drew, he could have been me at the same age --- back when I was deeply involved in the politics swirling around the Vietnam War.

This experience reinforced my belief that underneath our current American discord  is a shared love of America (which is not to be confused with approval of everything our government has done or is doing). And also, a shared love and respect for the U.S. Constitution, a document to which I frequently refer, but, until this past weekend, hadn't read in 30 years. Whether we agree with everything it says and sets up, that document is our American system of government.

If the Tea Party Patriots have done nothing else for me, they've made me realize it's time for each of us who engage in political discourse not just to think we know what we're talking about when we talk about the Constitution, but to know we know what we're talking about. After all, when it comes to arguing about what the Constitutions means, it's hardly legitimate to say that those who disagree with us haven't studied it, when we're not really all that familiar with it either.

Now please, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying we have to become Constitutional scholars to be responsible citizens; we just have to read the document every decade or so. And think about it. And, perhaps, take a stroll through James Madison's head, its "Father," by reading some of his writings and some of  his friends' writings. And since we live close by, perhaps we could take a day and travel to Montpelier, James and Dolley Madison's newly restored home, and stand in the second floor study where Mr. Madison wrote much of our Constitution, and beam ourselves back to those equally partisan days.

That America was not this America, of course; its issues were very different. But I would argue its passions were not all that dissimilar from ours; just as I'd argue my passions are, perhaps, not all that dissimilar from my young Tea Party Patriot friend. Underneath all the anger and fear and yelling that fills our fractured discourse, both then and now, I would cautiously submit, we share a deep love of our country and worry about its future.

I do love my job. It got me invited to Montpelier's Center for the Constitution for the weekend, to attend a new seminar they're offering to re-introduce the general public to the U.S. constitution. It is a perfect situation in which to reconnect with Mr. Madison and his friends; both their world and their work.

I learned some, thought and read a lot. And plan to blog about it over the next couple of days.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful post! How I respect anyone who is willing to listen and engage another who holds a different point of view. I applaud you, Martha, and your Tea Party friend for engaging in conversation. Everyone from the President to the Tea Party patriots needs to follow your lead.