What is a constitution? What kind of thing is it? What made America?
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles which establish and define an organization or country. The United States Constitution is what the American people establish among themselves to determine the basis for how we will rule ourselves.
The word “constitution” has the same etymology as the words “statue” and “statute.” A statute is a law, ordained and established by a government as a practice that is mandatory among a people. But though the similarities may be less obvious, I suggest we can better understand our Constitution by comparing it to a statue — for both are works of art. In fact, I contend that by asking “What makes a work of art?” we can answer the question, “What are the causes of America?” Let’s look at Michelangelo’s David as our example.
The David was made out of beautiful pure white marble, which is a defining feature of the end result. Likewise, the people of America are a defining feature of the country which our Constitution governs. Our majority European, Christian, common-law background played a major role in shaping our law, politics, and expectations for justice and public debate.
The David was made by the hands of Michelangelo, just as our country was made by our Founding Fathers. As with any work of art, the creator(s) matters — the United States appear very different if Charles I, Adolf Hitler, or Woodrow Wilson sculpted the Constitution.
And while Michelangelo’s David is designed to capture the essence of the biblical hero, our nation was designed to capture an idea — liberty for all. Abraham Lincoln explained it well:
The assertion of that principle [Liberty to all], at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it.
Lastly, why did Michelangelo create this statue? He spent four years hammering away at the marble because he admired the virtue and story of David. The Founding Fathers were moved by a set of political truths: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And they took it upon themselves to pledge against the strongest nation on the planet, their lives, honors and sacred fortunes to secure these noble truths for all Americans.
You see, America is a work of art, with a cause, artist, essence, a motive just like any work of art.
Also like any work of art, it decays if it is not given proper care. If the people become ill-informed and ignorant, our nation will be blanketed in a shroud of ignorance. If our leaders lose their courage to pursue justice our nations constitutional fabric will tear. If the image of America and the “apple of gold” becomes rotted with false rights to health care, and leisure, then the “picture of silver” will be reduced to a mere parchment barrier. If the motive of America is fueled by utopian dreams of perfect equality then our nation will forever be asleep, living in a deceitful dream of a golden age of perfect wisdom and tranquility.
If we do not secure and preserve our nation then tyranny will be established on the ruins of our Liberty and become abused to the licentiousness of our rulers. So please, study your Constitutions, engage in persuasion, and lead your fellow countryman.
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