“It may need a little work, but it has good bones.”
If you ever bought or sold an older house, you may have heard that statement. The house may need some updating, like a new coat of paint on the walls. There may be carpet that needs to be replaced. (Shag carpet is not quite in style these days.) The kitchen and the bathrooms may need updating with new cabinets and fixtures. But the “bones” of the house are in good shape.
What are the “bones” of the house? It’s mainly the stuff you don’t see. The foundation, the framework, the wiring, plumbing, etc. You don’t see those bones, but they are important. Those home improvement programs on TV often show that. The carpenter, electrician, or plumber comes to the owner of the house with a “we’ve got a problem here.” Thousands of dollars later to repair, and the beleaguered owner now knows that bones of their house are really important.
It may need a little work, but it has good bones. Well, it may need a lot of work. I’m talking about the United States. We watch the news every day and our country often doesn’t look so good. But it has been here for almost 250 years, and is still the most powerful country on earth. Why? Our country was built with good bones.
The architects built a strong foundation for the United States. Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and the other founding fathers crafted documents that have guided this country through prosperity and peril. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are solid bones on which our country was built.
The Constitution is the supreme law of our country. According to History.com, “The U.S. Constitution established America’s national government and fundamental laws, and guaranteed certain basic rights for its citizens. It was signed on September 17, 1787, by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, presided over by George Washington. Under America’s first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, the national government was weak and states operated like independent countries. At the 1787 convention, delegates devised a plan for a stronger federal government with three branches–executive, legislative and judicial–along with a system of checks and balances to ensure no single branch would have too much power.” The Bill of Rights was ratified to the Constitution in 1791 due to concerns the states had over personal freedoms and rights, limitations on the power of government, and other issues not addressed by the Constitution.
An old house may have strong bones. But those strong bones can be weakened and damaged, threatening the structure of the whole house. Termites and water can cause damage and threaten even the most well-built structure. A responsible homeowner must be on guard for any possible threat that would weaken the bones on his house. Likewise, we must be on the guard against any threats against the foundation of our country.
The threat may be subtle. You hear someone state that the Constitution is a “living and breathing document.” Often that means that the person wants to change the original meaning of the Constitution to fit the current culture. That’s how the Constitution has been interpreted over the years, saying that there is a right to privacy, which somehow included the right to an abortion.
But the threat may be obvious. During War World II, the U.S. government rounded up and interred thousands of Japanese-American citizens, clearly against the Constitution. When asked about the legality, John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, stated, “If it is a question of the safety of the country, or the Constitution of the United States, why the Constitution is just a scrap of paper to me.”
September 17 is Constitution Day. It was on that day in 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document that became the foundation for our government and its laws. The Daughters of the American Revolution organization is urging local churches to ring their church bells at 4 PM on that date in order to honor those who crafted the document and to highlight its significance to our country. Because, if we treat it as “just a scrap of paper,” we might end up not enjoying the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from the Preamble of the Constitution that we memorized back during our school years.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]