Dialogue on the Constitution

political analysis by Dr. Robert Willougby, chair of the political science department at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

Editor's note: This commentary is part of a collaboration between the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and The City Wire to deliver an ongoing series of political-based essays and reports. Dr. Robert Willoughby, who first came to UAFS in 2006, has been head of the department since 2010. He has a doctorate in American history and government from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Willoughby has a wide range of teaching experiences, ranging from public middle and high school to small, private colleges and state universities. He has also published articles and books and has delivered numerous papers at history conferences.

Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.

Hey, neighbor, how are you doing?

Hi, neighbor, I’m doing fine. Well, as long as the warm weather holds.

Yeah, it’s been an awful winter.

Said that right, brother. What have you been up to while you’ve been hibernating?

Not much. Still go to work every day they don’t shut down business because of the roads, then come home, watch a little TV, do some reading and help the kids with homework if they have any. How about you?

Been watching a lot of basketball, and just waiting to get out in the yard. Say, you’ve got some nasty looking brown spots there. You may need to put down some manganese.

I don’t know what manganese does, but if you say so. You know, last night I did something I hadn’t done for a long time and it was really interesting.

Oh yeah, you and the misses ...

No, no, no. You have been in the house too long.

Okay, what was so interesting?

I read the U. S. Constitution.

And why would you do that?

One of the kids had a school question about government that I could not answer, so I decided to look it up. I realized I had not looked at the thing since I was in eighth grade.

You read the whole five thousand pages?

No, you have it confused with the state constitution. The U.S. Constitution is not that long. You can read the thing cover to cover in 30 minutes.

I remember some of that from school. Let’s see, four score and seven years ago ...

No, no, I think you are confused. That’s the Gettysburg Address.

Then, we are all entitled to life, liberty, and the happiness.

No, still don’t have it right. That’s the Declaration of Independence.

Okay, what about freedom of speech?

Yes, now you have something from the Constitution. That’s in the First Amendment.

Say, you seem to have become quite an authority. Thinking of running for the public office are you?

Don’t think so, but after reading the actual Constitution I think I’m way ahead of most of the people in Washington. I was shocked after reading just the first three articles.

How so?

It seems that the powers and duties outlined in the Constitution are all messed up now.  Congress doesn’t do half of what it is supposed to do, the President does tons of stuff that aren’t listed or originally assigned to someone else, and the federal courts seem to think they can rewrite the thing whenever it suits them.

Yeah, but what can anybody do about that? Nobody listens to the common man anymore.

We can hold the people we elect accountable. It’s like the pastor was talking one day about the good steward. The people in government are not supposed to be our masters. They serve us, like a good steward, of our rights, our trust, and our money. Good stewards should be rewarded and bad stewards cast out.

Yeah, that’s a nice sermon, but you don’t really think anybody in Washington actually believes that? Heck, most people don’t vote, so how are they going to cast anybody out?

I don’t know. Something else I saw it the kid’s book was interesting. It called the Constitution a living document.

Living. Well then it’s pretty darn old.

Yeah, it’s living alright because it changes — changes with the time for better or worse I guess.

Well, I don’t believe it. If it’s alive then it’s on life support in intensive care.

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I agree. It seems to me that the people who are supposed to take care of it, just beat it mercilessly for their own benefit. The Constitution is like a mugging victim that no one comes to help. The muggers, the Congress, the President, the courts, take what they want and kick the victim and the citizen bystanders don’t do anything.

And why is that?

Because they don’t know what the Constitution really is, they don’t know what’s in it, so how can they hold anyone accountable. Turning out bad stewards is our responsibility, but if we don’t know what the rules are, how can we know if they are bad or good. It seems to me that if voters actually read and studied the Constitution they would be smarter. We could choose more wisely, and demand the political parties put up better people to run. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of going to the polls and voting for the lesser of the evils. Too many people vote for candidates knowing very little or nothing about how they intend to serve the people and the Constitution. Voting for someone because you like their hair, or their promises, or the color of their skin just isn’t being a responsible citizen in my opinion.

Well, neighbor, you have converted me. I’m joining the choir. I’ll read the sheet music and the next time we sing — err, go vote, I’ll know if who I’m voting for passes muster.

Good luck with that neighbor.

Sure, and do something about those brown spots. Could be you’ve got an infestation of chinch bugs.

I thought you said I needed manganese?

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Comments

Beautiful Comment Dr. Willougby

Loved your comment and hopefully some of our elected will read it and follow the original law of the land. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dumbing-Down should be unconstitutional

A little amusing but this article seems to target a middle school audience which is probably the last place most people read the Bill of Rights and various Amendments. Perhaps Dr."W" should give TCW readers more credit....at least to those who are not brain dead with regard to the U.S. Constitution as a promulgation of a work in progress for freedom and liberty. That would be a progressive perspective. But then, Fort Smithians are not known for progress lately. http://www.ushistory.org/documents/amendments.htm#amend14