By Allan Stevo
Some people are not sophisticated enough to know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The editorial board of the New York Times has proven itself to be among them, as they chose last weekend to insist upon their love for the wrong founding document - the US Constitution.
Constitution Day is September 17. Independence Day is July 4. The difference in meaning between the two are vast - one based on the decentralization of power, the other based on the concentration of power.
Nor is July 4 a day to celebrate the American flag (June 14); it is practically the opposite of a day devoted t
o central governments and the flags that represent those governments. In fact, based on the revolutionary principles at the heart of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 is the least logical day of the year to fly an American flag. Nor is it a day to celebrate war or those who fought and died in them, for that we have the official bank holidays of Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Veterans Day (November 11), and the less officially celebrated Armed Forces Day (third Saturday in May) VE Day (May 8), VJ Day (September 2), A Date Which Will Live In Infamy (December 7), and D Day (June 6).
As much as some people like to confound distinct concepts, July 4 is not about some amorphous blend of Americana, it is about the Declaration of Independence, decentralized power, and ultimately the individual freedom at the root of the American experiment.
In a "print-only section" issued the weekend before July 4, in which its editors proudly stated that the dramatic four page double-fold-out with hand drawn images of George Washington and Donald Trump and specially selected neo-colonial typography is only "the fourth special section published by the New York Times Magazine," a magazine started in 1896, are contained a lot of ideas about the Constitution that are a far cry from the Declaration of Independence. Contrary to the spirit of the holiday, bigger government and centralized power is what the editors chose to focus on.
The annotated special section depicts the Constitution of 1787 as a blueprint intended to bring about exactly the kind of government America had until the January 20, 2017 inauguration.
It is a partisan reading of the Constitution that can even make a goose-stepping New York Times reader proud of the crusty old thing. We learn in this special section that the Second Amendment wasn't intended to allow people to keep and bear arms. We learn that the founding fathers would have praised attempts by the executive branch to legislate internationally on global warming (yes, these self-proclaimed defenders of science actually make this twisted argument, going so far as invoking the rebellious, decentralizing author of the Declaration of Independence - Thomas Jefferson in what appears to be support of the Paris Climate Accord). We are even presented the wisdom of a partisan hack who oversaw the failure of Detroit for 52 years as a congressman - John Conyers is shockingly presented as an authority on the foreign emoluments clause.
The special section's dramatic form is a beautiful homage to the US Constitution - a document that deserves more homage than it gets, but the details of the presentation are out of line with Independence Day.
While the Declaration of Independence is written in the spirit of devolution of power, the Constitution is a document of enslavement under central authority. Yes, following the Constitution today would bring us a government far better than the one we have. Trump heads a government that daily violates the Constitution. Some, including me, hope presidential attention will be paid to constitutional issues that have long gone ignored. The tyrannical federal courts already are giving greater heed to it, but government remains a far cry from perfection.
It was in the spirit of centralization that the Constitution was written. The un-amended version - without the Bill of Rights, added three years after its ratification - is an especially tyrannical document.
In the spirit of centralization, King George III pursued a bloody campaign instead of letting the colonists secede. In the spirit of centralization, the tax protest remembered as the Whiskey Rebellion was put down by some of the founding fathers shortly after taking power.
In the spirit of centralization, the Union pursued the bloody war between the north and the south. It was in the spirit of 1776, the spirit of decentralization, the spirit of July 4, that the rebel states seceded from the Union in 1860.
In the spirit of centralization there is a Federal Reserve Bank. In the spirit of centralization there is an income tax. In the spirit of centralization the war to end all wars was fought. And then another. A Cold War too. A more decentralized land would have never troubled itself with such nonsense.
Constitution Day in the United States is September 17. It remembers a document that brought greater tyranny to our land.
Independence Day is July 4.
The political climate of one is far different than the other. The political climate of the Declaration of 1776 is far different than the Constitution of 1787.
It is true to the climate of 1776 that America remains so free. It is over-reliance on the climate of 1787 by which America has become so unfree.
Allan Stevo writes about politics and culture at 52 Weeks in Slovakia (www.52inSk.com). He is the author of the recently released book The Bitcoin Manifesto (http://amzn.to/2uULXjk).