Who's In Charge Here?

America, in case you haven't noticed, is lost in the throes of celebrating the writing of its Constitution, which is now two centuries old. The somewhat labored efforts to fix public attention on the historic document are largely the work of former Chief Justice Warren Burger and his own private bureaucracy in the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the legal profession, the mass media, and the usual contingent of do-gooding schoolteachers who have temporarily suspended their instruction in the intricacies of sexuality and collective guilt over what we did to the Indians, blacks, women, and buffaloes and are now passionately handing out trivia quizzes on the color of James Madison's socks.

But the national rapture over our fundamental law does not match the fevers manufactured a few years ago when we observed the centennials of the War Between the States and the American War for Independence. War, wrote Thomas Hardy, makes ripping good history, but it also makes for historic rip-offs every hundred years or so, when we pine for the return of bloodshed fraught with moral import. Somehow the sober deliberations of the Framers in the Philadelphia Convention just don't stir the glands like Gettysburg and Bunker Hill, and the attempts of public officials to instruct us in the minutiae of the Framers' debates come off rather like the efforts of earnest mothers who insist on reading their children...

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