Over the last two decades that I’ve paid attention I have heard many people describe what is wrong with our country. Some of them I agree with, others I don’t, but I believe all of them have missed the point. I believe all of them to one extent or another have described symptoms of our problems and proposed solutions; some are reasonable and some are just plain strange, but I haven’t heard of one that goes to the root of the problem.
So, do you want to know what I think the root of the problems of this country are? It’s pretty simple to see. Find yourself a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say “I am!” No, you are not solely responsible, none of us individually are responsible, but let’s face it, we haven’t been doing our jobs.
This country was founded on two documents, the Declaration of Independence, which described our right to self government, and the Constitution of the United States of America, which outlined the responsibilities, structures, and most importantly, the limits of the federal government. (Each state is also required to have a constitution describing the responsibilities, structures, and limitations of each of the states as well.) This Constitution, the document that establishes and bounds our federal government, starts with three simple words. While these words are simple, their importance is tremendous, so much so that they were printed largely and boldly to make it plainly obvious. These words are “We The People”. These three words mean the people have established the Constitution, and through it, the federal government. Yet we have abdicated our responsibilities and let the government take over tasks and responsibilities we are entitled to. We have complained about those who represent us in congress or the presidency, yet we continue to re-elect them. We complain about the federal judiciary, yet we don’t hold those whose responsibility to oversee said judiciary (except for the Supreme Court), specifically Congress, accountable. Why do we complain about judicial activism yet not complain about those in Congress who don’t rein in those judges, which is their responsibility under the Constitution they have sworn an oath to uphold and defend? Why are outrageous actions by Supreme Court Justices not reviewed for impeachment? (I don’t mean decisions we may disagree with, but those which blatantly violate the Constitution.) Why do we complain about the actions of the President, yet keep electing those Presidents and members of Congress who violate their oath of office. They not only do things that are unconstitutional, but admit in public that most of what they do it not constitutional.
Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature.
President James A. Garfield
Centennial of the Declaration of Independence
President Garfield was right, we the people are responsible for the character of our Congress. If you want to know why it is ignorant of what the Constitution says, reckless with domestic, foreign, and fiscal policy, and generally corrupt, it is because we tolerate it.
The bad news is we each need to look at ourselves and realize that we are the root of the problem. The good news is that we can fix it, but as with so many personal failures, we first need to admit we are part of the problem, and are in fact ultimately responsible. If we want to fix our country we need to find people of intelligence, especially about what the Constitution actually says, the bravery to do what is right even if it is not politically expedient, and pure enough to do what is right and honorable, even to their own detriment. We need to look for those properties in all our elected officials: federal, state, and local.
Are you ready to start taking responsibility for those who you elect to represent you?