The Missing Pieces of the Preamble

If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire, please allow me to suggest that you enter your childhood address into the website and enjoy the ride back in time. The results as you will soon discover will vary depending on the availability of Google Streetview in your area, but given its prevalence in this day and age I’m certain you’ll find someplace in space and time to revisit.

What I appreciate most about the video is its ability to transport me to the street lights that I used to play under as a child, running back home as quickly as possible before they were fully lit. It’s a particular memory to be sure, but the music and the experience — along with the surprise ending which I won’t spoil — evoke a particular view of the city where I grew up. I can see myself not only as an individual but as an angst-ridden teenager surrounded by constant change.

This is important when looking at the missing pieces of the Constitution in today’s conversations which focus on freedom and liberty. While one or the other is clearly the objective of the United States and the Ohio State Constitutions, what exists equally in both is the promotion of our general welfare. We the people of the State of Ohio and these United States, in order to secure the blessings of liberty and promote the general welfare, do establish this Constitution.

When we focus solely on our individual blessings, we lose sight of our general welfare, and increasingly skip ahead to the line or the Amendment which enabled us to protect our communities, and instead serve our own personal interests. I’m referring of course to guns, not out of fear or contempt, but out of concern that we view the protection of our rights as ultimately dependent on them. To turn an old phrase, when you look at every problem down the barrel of a gun, every solution looks like a target.

To make matters worse, the Constitution which established the government is frequently found at the end of the barrel, being seen not as the framework of society but ultimately as it’s enemy. This narrative of the gun standing against the injustice of a corrupt and unholy system has eroded our faith in public education, made a monster of public healthcare, and turned the very notion of general welfare into a word: Unconstitutional.

What is missing in my mind is the image of America. Not as a soaring eagle dressed in red, white and blue but a place that I call home. A home I share with friends and family, with neighbors and policemen, doctors and shopkeepers. It’s a complicated and ever-changing place to be sure, one that requires the tool created by our Founders in order to function properly for all of us. That tool is the Government. To defend our rights and promote the general welfare we must learn how to use it.

Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, that it’s not working well for many of us.