HOLIDAYS

Constitution Day 2021: quotes, texts, activities and ideas

Today is Constitution Day in the US, a new holiday that is widely politicized by many politicians and leaders to serve their political and social agenda.

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Constitution Day 2021: quotes, texts, activities and ideas
HANDOUT via REUTERS

Since 2004, the United States has dedicated one day a year to the celebration of one of its most important founding documents: the Constitution.

An imperfect document which formed the basis for the American project in Democracy has guided the country for more than two hundred years. Each generation has attempted to enact laws and changes that move the country closer to living up to its founding creed 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,"

What has the White House in relation to Constitution Day?

The White House released a proclamation today, in which rather than calling the holiday Consitution Day, they refer to it as Citizenship Day.  To commemorate the holiday President Biden wrote that "American democracy requires our constant care, vigilance, and full participation to determine the course and conscience of our Union." The President continued by saying that he "swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that we uphold and strengthen this remarkable system of self-government for future generations ready to put their own shoulders to the wheel."

These words were also intended to encourage the public to take an active role in their democracy. One of the greatest threats to a democratic society is apathy. When apathy is allowed to take hold of the population, those interested in manipulating the populous to secure their own interests have a much easier time. This can also lead large swaths of the population to believe that their voice or vote does not matter. While more people voted in the 2020 Election since any that had taken place since 1960, the rate was only 62%. This means that more than a third of the population either felt that the election did not matter, or that neither candidate represented thier views or vision for the country.

There is an additional portion of the population who was unable to vote because their rights had been trampled, normally by right-wing attempts to suppress voters of color. The White House spoke to the issue of voter suppression saying that it was un-American as the US Constitution has enshrined the right to vote for more than a century. President Biden called on the public to "rebuff these threats to ensure that American democracy remains healthy and strong."

Republicans and Conservatives speak out on Constitution Day

Many Republican figures including Franklin Graham the evangelical pastor tweeted his support for the constitution by quoting Presidnet Ford who in 1974 said "Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws & not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy."

While equal justice advocates could argue that Ford and Graham's assessment is incorrect, evidenced by systematic inequalities that continue to plague American society, this comment and others he made, are perfectly within his rights protected by the Constitution. The founders believed in the rights of individuals and protected the freedom of religion by stating that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

However, Graham and many of his followers often ignore the parts of this quote that do not suit them. In the past, Graham has been quoted saying "We have taken God out of our education system. We have taken Him out of government. You have lawyers that sue you every time you mention the name of Jesus Christ in any public forum."

Republicans on Capitol Hill

The statements by Republicans on Capitol Hill on this holiday have varied widely. Representative Liz Cheney had made herself one of the leading opponents for former President Donald Trump and today tweeted "On Constitution Day, Donald Trump’s statement about Rep. Anthony Gonzalez reminds us all, once again, that Trump is at war with the Constitution."

However, other leaders like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted steered away from politics saying, echoing a sentiment close to President Biden in a press release saying, "For 234 years, our Constitution has served as the bedrock of American democracy, while also inspiring the pursuit of freedom and justice across the globe."