Perspectiva Obscura: Civics 101.0

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

There is a lot of rhetoric going around from red, blue, purple, green, pink, cyan, magenta and even yellow polka dot. So, it’s time for a refresher course on the United States Constitution especially after we just celebrated the 4th of July. This will be a multi-part series beginning next week with Article I, then Article II, Article III, Articles IV though VII, the Bill of Rights, and then the Amendments.

I recently read a story on the current “Red Flag Bill” controversy in Colorado. It reminded me that there are three parts to the Constitution – the Preamble (“We the People...”) the Articles (parts two, three and four of the series) and the Bill of Rights (part five of the series). The final two parts of the series will be on the Amendments.

It’s always good to review what the laws of the land are based on because if a law is found to be “unconstitutional” by the Judicial Branch, it’s because it violates what our Founding Fathers wrote almost 250 years ago. Just because one section of a law is deemed unconstitutional, does not mean the entire law is unconstitutional, however.

I generally try to read the constitution every couple of years — just because. I have also read the Federalist Papers, which is another fascinating piece of history.

My research took me to such sites as the National Archives in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the website, among others.

According to the Supreme Court website, “The Constitution of the United States is a carefully balanced document. It is designed to provide for a national government sufficiently strong and flexible to meet the needs of the republic, yet sufficiently limited and just to protect the guaranteed rights of citizens; it permits a balance between society’s need for order and the individual’s right to freedom. To assure these ends, the Framers of the Constitution created three independent and coequal branches of government. That this Constitution has provided continuous democratic government through the periodic stresses of more than two centuries illustrates the genius of the American system of government.”

The Constitution designed the government so there are three equal branches — the legislative, the executive and the judicial branches: one branch is not more important than the other two. The Founding Fathers also designed the U.S. so that the legislative branch oversees the executive branch and the judicial branch is a check on the legislative and executive. And when necessary, the legislative can act in response to a decision by the judicial branch.

To top that off, they wrote into the First Amendment of the Constitution the Fourth Estate — a Free Press.

The concept of a free press is something that sets the United States apart from authoritarian dictatorships that shuts down the public’s right to know what its government is doing. This becomes the fourth check on the three branches of government.