‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In praise of the American Constitution

On The Great Depression Of 2006 recently the talk has turned, inevitably, to rich vs. poor. When societies are under stress, the people turn on each other. I think they are forgetting what holds them together.

I hold no brief for American foreign policy (perhaps nations and religions should be evaluated according to how they treat "the others"), but I wish we in the UK had something that guaranteed our international independence and defined and limited the powers of our government. My comment on Jim's piece is as follows:

Would we have to be talking like this if the banks hadn't exploded the money supply?

After much heart-searching (and encouragement from me), my brother recently became an American citizen. He sent me the crib book ("The Citizen's Almanac"). Page 5 ("Responsibilities Of A Citizen"), item one: "Support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." The explanatory paragraph ends, "When the Constitution and its ideals are challenged, citizens must defend these principles against all adversaries."

Please don't bridle if I quote the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 10: "No State shall [...] emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts..."

It's not just about money, but allowing the bankers and politicians to corrupt the money system threatens liberty. We in the UK had a constitution based on civilised understandings that have been thrown out by mad revolutionaries, but you have a clearly expressed founding document more precious than any wretched paper dollars you may have. Lincoln said that the American nation was conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality; "... Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

Then as now, you may be the last major nation to hold up that flame. It is not gold and silver that made America admirable, but the principles that bind her citizens. Perhaps excessive material wealth has proved a distraction and a subversion.

After the crash, there will still be Americans, and the American nation. May I humbly suggest that Denninger is right, and the miscreants who have threatened the community with their greed and irresponsibility, should be held to account?


hatfield girl said...

You speak for Angels here, S.

James Higham said...

Ah, they should but they won't, will they? It's the American way.

[Use the nourishing email, Sackers - it works.]

Anonymous said...

Sentimental tosh, Sackers. The Constitution is much worshipped, but ignored whenever it suits. The two defining events in US history were unconstitutional - the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War - and Lincoln was talking tripe "..conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality"; bah, conceived on slave plantations and dedicated to taking the Indians'land. There's a great deal to commend in the USA, but the drivel they tell each other about their history, and especially their Constitution, isn't part of that.

Wolfie said...

Dearieme's right on the money, they'll hang a few suckers and the criminals will scatter and re-group.

Sackerson said...

DM, Wofie: thanks for your comments. We can only hope that the cynics are not always correct. DM, slaves and Indians came under the category of "the others", didn't they? Though in the early yeaqrs of the Republic, more than one State technically permitted the franchise to both black people and women - qualification to vote in New Jersey turned on the meaning of "householder", I seem to recall.

And I shouldn't underestimate the role of myth (and mythunderthtanding) in shaping future events.

I hope this lets me off a few of your lashes.

Anonymous said...

Janet Daly referred in this morning's Telegraph to Obama's not "having had an American childhood with its self-consciously patriotic schooling...". Think of the stuff we learnt at primary school - Alfred burning the cakes, Canute humiliating his courtiers on the beach, Robert the Bruce learning persistence from the spider in the cave. Then realise that Americans get much, much more indoctrination in patriotic twaddle than those comforting yarns, and continue to repeat it into adult life. We would surely think that anyone who took literally those Alfred/Canute/Bruce stories was not quite right in the head. But many Americans appear to believe all the equivalent rubbish about the, gasp of awe, Founding Fathers.

Sackerson said...

And what myths and models do primary-age British children learn now? Other than everything about 50 Cent, Tupac Shakur, WWE wrestling, firearms, drugs, sex etc.

I'm Not POTUS said...

I wouldn't call any of that myths and models. They are simply revenue streams. Old fashioned notions like myths and models don't apply.

British children and all the rest are raised like veal. Boxed into consumption of things some corporation can make money from. Multi level marketing campaigns rule the day.

American children don't receive any patriotic schooling...citizenship is defined as perfect attendance so the school can redeem 100% of the funding alloted per child.

History is a marginal part of No Child left behind. Public schools only teach to the test, nothing else is relevant.

Parents of means or willpower still send their kids to private/religious schools that teach versions of patriotism that correspond to their beliefs, but the vast herds of public school children are plugged into a dreary machine riddled with corporate marketing.

Kids today would confuse the Louisiana Purchase with some sort of marketing campaign from a fast food chicken chain.

If you want to see flag wrapping uber-patriot schooling go see Putins' new Russia.

Sackerson said...

Hi, INP: some sharp observations. My brother teaches maths in an American university and his views on education are also pretty trenchant, although in his case the issue is the USA's desperate need to value, reward and promote the STEM subjects. I suppose the question is, should education also be about the transmission of cultural values? Insofar as it's a kind of surrogate parenting, I think the answer is yes. The hero-vacuum is being filled by millionaire (sometimes deceased) thugs. Here in Central England, kids can't wait to recreate South Central Los Angeles.

Anonymous said...

Note that I rather like the tales about Alfred, Canute and The Bruce. Add Boadiccea and King Arthur too. For children they're just the ticket. For children.

Sackerson said...

Hi, DM: hands off King Arthur, I believe he existed. I think his territory included the area around Bodmin and controlled the overland passage between the upper reaches of the river Camel and the start of the river Fowey; a valuable checkpoint for the export of gold and copper from Ireland to Brittany. The strange, drum-like shape of the Padstow 'oss is, I think, a memento of either the coracles used to cross the Irish Sea, or the panniers on the horses that would have conveyed the goods between the rivers.

However, I will concede that King Arthur's Car Park in Tintagel is clearly a later invention.

Anonymous said...

Oh come off it, Sackers: Arthur was a Kelso man; everyone knows that.

Sackerson said...

Kelso? Stop it, I only have so many ribs, Noel Coward, as Rik Mayall said. I'd have thought sixth century Keslo would be more likely infested by the likes of Sawney Bean than graced by a wealthy court. But maybe my judgment is clouded by seeing how the Scots have laid England waste in less than a dozen years.