Energized by the initial optimism that came with President Obama's administration and the equally fierce partisanship in Congress, Christopher Philips saw the need to write the constitution cafe where he discussed his opinion regarding the constitution using his idea and supported by the late president Jefferson's personal experiences. In his book, Philips set out to engage Americans in a discussion regarding their constitution which comprised of their most fundamental rights and freedoms. Philips wanted to know the opinion of the Americans regarding the effectiveness of their constitution. This is because the constitution was made a long time ago when America was a young democracy, unlike now when America has undergone massive social, political and economic changes. In his argument, the constitution of American had long seized to be effective.
Therefore, he embarked on experimenting with America to justify his claim. Philips went around the U.S and taking note of the distinguished American opinions regarding their constitution. He also took note of the various experiences people went through because of their constitution. These included the incidence in which the constitution was helpful and those that constitution was limited and compared the two. He then combined his answers and analyzed the discussions based on Jefferson's belief. During his leadership, Thomas Jefferson proposed that the constitution should be revised periodically not only to keep up with the changing times but also to revive and perpetuate our original revolutionary spirit. Therefore, Philip questions whether our current constitution is the reason our county's democracy is struggling and our governed gone entirely out of control. Therefore, after reading the book, it changed my opinion on both our constitution and the government in various perspectives.
Today the constitution is highly respected as the book costing the laws governing the land. Everything in the country is performed as stipulated in the constitution. Even the citizens live their lives following the constitution just because it is the law of the land and not abiding by it is accompanied by severe legal consequences. "Americans venerate the Constitution, even if many of us don't seem to know what's in it."(Philips, 2). For most Americans, the constitution is out of reach and untouchable. Jefferson criticized the constitution claiming that "like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched" (Philips, 2). However, in my opinion, this should not be the case. Currently, Americans have no say about their constitution. The fact that most of them did not even know what constitutes of the constitution makes it lose its meaning. In perspective, the constitution is the dictator in America. No one can oppose it even when they know things should be done differently. Therefore, to change this, Americans should be permitted to voice their opinions regarding their constitution. Some of the laws of the constitution are not favorable to all Americans. Therefore, Americans should be given a chance to read and understand the constitution as well as discuss it. This means that they will be guaranteed that the constitution is for their benefit.
In the same context, the constitution should be regularly changed to accommodate the changes in the new America. The fact that the constitution is rigid makes it limited to some of the aspects affecting America and its citizens today. Therefore, to ensure its credibility, the constitution should be regularly changed like suggested by Thomas Jefferson. Currently, the constitution is only useful in making Americans believe that the system it begets can never be altered. This is even though the constitution contributes highly to the cases of political apathy and anger (Philips, 2). Jefferson further said that "We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors" (Philips, 3). This depicted just how pathetic he thought it was for the constitution to remain unchanged. In my opinion, the current unchanged constitution is totally infective but only used to follow protocol.
Also, I changed my perspective towards the functioning of the American government. The American governed is considered to be the one governing the country and is expected to guarantee successful growth in the country. However, in my opinion, it is not the American government that rules America but the constitution. The entire American government works following the constitution to govern the country. "From the president on down, they give their solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend it" (Philips, 3). This means that when the governed is blamed for wrongly governing the country, then basically, it is not the government that is wrong but the constitution. Therefore, to guarantee good governance, what America must do to change their constitution to match their preferred governance also make sure that the constitution is periodically changed as Jefferson proposed.
In the same context, the American government is considered to govern the country as the democratic republic it is. In my opinion, this is not the case. The American government operates solely by the constitution, the same constitution which is considered to be untouchable. Moreover, many Americans remain clueless regarding the laws which govern them, but still, they have to abide by the constitution lest they face the consequences. Sara, one of the participants in the discussions in the constitution cafe, claims that since the beginning of America the people themselves have never been given the right or opportunity to make laws (Philips, 3). Therefore, America has the worst democracy; if at all the country is democratic. In a real democratic scenario, the claws would be made by the majority of citizens, since they are the ones who are directly affected by them (Philips, 3).
Another aspect that intrigued my mind about the constitution was the fact that the constitution is supposed to be made for the people by the people. This is not the case. If you asked me before, I would say that that was the case, but as of now, I know that such is not the case. The constitution was formulated by framers who used their thoughts and perspectives of life to make the laws. The citizens were never consulted. Thus, even with the constitution stating "we the people" (Philips, 37), to portray that it is what the people want that is not the case. For the constitution to represent the wish of the people, the framers must consult these people and know their perspectives. Even the framers should be selected by the people (Philips, 38). This will guarantee that the constitution as per the will of the Americans.
In conclusion, the constitution cafe focuses on the American constitution and government. According to Philip, the writer, the constitution of U.S is not useful to the people since the people did not participate in its making. He claims that most Americans are not aware of its contents yet they still abide by it. From his argument supported by his experiment and Thomas Jefferson's case. Indeed it is true, that the American constitution is not practical. Therefore, the American government should ensure that the constitution is regularly changed to guarantee its effectiveness of changes in time. The people must also be involved in making the laws to assure they are living in a democratic America.
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