Muftic: Violating constitutional principles is like riding the tiger
December 3, 2015
Our founding fathers were wise men. They established the Constitution that is as relevant today as it was in the late 18th century. It is being attacked by those who advocate ignoring the basic principles of that document because they are fearful. Fear and hate are also powerful tools for those seeking power. We need to support the principles of the Constitution. To do otherwise is like riding the back of a tiger. It will eventually devour us as it has others.
It was not that our nation's founders foresaw a nation or a world that would have the internet, a widespread bully pulpit of cable TV, weapons of mass destruction or firearms that would require little skill to be used as killing machines, but they drew on experiences of governance failures and the tendencies of human nature.
Those writers of the Constitution carefully constructed a representative democracy, not a direct one that immediately reflected an ever fickle, easily spooked, public opinion. They believed that extreme views and their proponents needed to be tempered. They had seen it all: religious wars in England and Europe. They had experienced public opinion influenced by pamphlets and rabble rousers and saw some hanging fellow colonialists who did not subscribe to the official religion of that particular colony.
They had also witnessed the repression by kings governing by divine right, exercising power over their subjects' lives. So they wrote a document that made it less likely that there would ever be a king, yet left a government with enough powers to be effective. They divided the power of federal government among three branches. Even within the legislative branch, a more contemplative Senate put the brakes on a House more sensitive to the tides of public sentiment. They also retained some rights for the states. When branches conflicted, they let the courts decide which act the closest to the intent of the Constitution, as they are doing now. They amended the Constitution to protect individual citizens from being trampled by an overbearing, unfair government.
There are destructive forces today that undermine the principles upon which the Constitution was founded. For example, Donald Trump proposes registering all Muslims, forcing them to wear monitoring devices (violating more than one of the rights protected by the first Ten Amendments), and the use of torture. Others, such as John Kasich, want to set up a government agency to promote Judeo Christian values and thus de facto establishing a state religion in a nation that is multi- and non- religious. The glue that holds such a diverse nation together is the Constitution, not allegiance to a religion's particular interpretation of values.
Our forefathers formulated the Constitution to temper human nature's instincts to embrace safety within the fold of like- minded groups. It is that very human tendency to seek the leadership that is willing to throw under the bus the basic rights of individuals and the constraints of government power in the name of national security. It is only human to seek a strong man for protection, regardless of where he/she leads us. We saw it in Germany and Spain in the 1930's and in Argentina under populist Peron in the 1950's.
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