Shouldn’t somebody besides the lawyers understand the Constitution?

Yesterday I had the misfortune to witness a town meeting in Pennsylvania where Arlen Specter attempted to offer a forum for citizens who had questions or concerns about the current health care proposals swirling around Washington.   I applaud his willingness to meet in person with his constituents and hear them, irrespective of their often disrespectful tone.   But that isn’t the reason I’m writing this blog.

One woman at the town meeting stood up and very emotionally pleaded for Mr. Specter and all of those in Washington to return this country to “what the original founders had intended” and made some reference to those founders rolling over in their graves.  My initial urge was to reach into the TV and shake her and say “haven’t you taken a history class?  Don’t you know that we have far progressed from what the founding father’s intended or wrote?  Don’t you know that the founding fathers DIDN’T EVEN LET YOU VOTE!?”

The woman was partially right.  I can envision ol’ George, Ben, and Tom rolling over in their graves if they knew women could vote, that slavery had been abolished, and that a black man had been elected President of the United States.  Let’s not kid ourselves.  As much as we admire our founding fathers, they didn’t know everything and they got some things wrong or incomplete.  I’d like to think that we as a country continue to progress and grow and learn things.  No disrespect to George, Ben, and Tom – they did an incredible job in creating a new form of government that, in its basic structure, has remained unchanged for well over 200 years.

Unfortunately, we have a populace that is largely uneducated and ignorant about the Constitution and all of the legal progressions of our country since then.  They don’t understand that their everyday lives are influenced by legal decisions that have been made by courts over time.  And what one does not understand, one cannot competently argue.

Every licensed attorney (and public official) in this country swears to “uphold the Constitution.”  Maybe those who have actually studied the Constitution and swear to uphold it ought to take a more active effort to educate those who “wave around” the Constitution without understanding its meaning.  Perhaps education can begin bridging the gaps that keep Americans from disagreeing without hating each other.