Since I wrote last week’s column opposing a congressional amendment
to the Constitution outlawing burning the flag, I’ve been accused of
everything from being a pinko to being an anarchist. And that’s just
what my friends are saying.
Oh yeah, a few people appreciated my central point: That it is the
Constitution, not the flag, that Americans should revere and protect —
not just from physical desecration, but from the kind of distortion
America’s guiding charter has endured at the hands of lawyer-politicians
over the last 60 years. But many other readers told me I just didn’t get
it — I was out to lunch, clueless, one fry short of a happy meal.
Why? Because I value the Constitution over an admittedly beautiful
flag — but, nonetheless, a piece of cloth.
Which symbol is really worth dying for? The flag is not my pick.
After all, it is just a symbol. Symbols, of course, are important. But
the Constitution is more. It is both symbol and substance. And its
substance is being desecrated by some of those so piously concerned
about the symbolic desecration of the flag.
It’s rare to even hear the Constitution discussed in polite company
these days. About the only time it comes up is when some American Civil
Liberties Union lawyer with a political ax to grind waxes eloquent about
how we need to follow the First Amendment to the letter of the law, but
interpret the Second Amendment with a completely different standard.
Maybe that kind of mixed message, combined with the intentional
dumbing down of American students, has confused the populace about the
importance, the beauty, the genius and the majesty of the U.S.
There must be some explanation. A Portrait of America telephone
survey found that less than half of American adults would vote for the
Constitution if it were on the ballot today. To that, I say, thank God
there is no requirement for a referendum on the Constitution.
Further scrutiny of the poll results shows that 23 percent of the
respondents actually said they would vote against the Constitution if
they had the chance. Another 27 percent just were not sure. Now it’s
easy to understand what the “not sure” votes mean — they’ve never read
the Constitution so they don’t know what’s in it. But what about the
other 23 percent? What is it about the Constitution to which they
object? Freedom? Rights? Liberty? Limited government?
It’s scary to think about it. But Scott Rasmussen of Rasmussen
Research had a different analysis.
“The lack of support for the Constitution probably stems from the
high levels of public disgust with government and politics today,” he
said. “Recent surveys have found that 72 percent of Americans now view
the federal government as a special interest group that looks out
primarily for its own interests. Only one-out-of-four Americans believe
their own representative in Congress is the best person for the job.
Less than 40 percent think the government today reflects the will of the
In addition, just 34 percent say that government currently operates
under the Constitution. Half say it does not and that the government
violates its charter on a regular basis.
Well, all that’s encouraging, of course, because those people are
exactly right. Except distrust of government should only lead people to
believe more in the Constitution, not less. Still, there must be a
fundamental misunderstanding of what the Constitution says and
represents for it to engender so little passionate support. Also,
there’s more bad news for the Constitution in the numbers game.
Only 54 percent believe the Constitution is the best way to run the
country today. Those who say it needs updating to reflect the massive
changes that have taken place in society over the past 200 years
represent 38 percent — with much higher numbers of young people, women
believing it is seriously flawed.
So there you see it. The Constitution is being desecrated before our
eyes. Here in one document are the guiding principles of our nation
succinctly and clearly stated. The Constitution, coupled with the
Declaration of Independence, represents more of a national creed than a
simple founding document for the nation.
But skeptics are winning the day. Not even the Constitution holds us
together as a people any longer. Maybe, instead of saying the Pledge of
Allegiance to the flag in school, that time could be better spent
actually reading the Constitution.