The Constitution was missing. I work at two different desks, and in easy reach on both desks I keep a pocket-sized copy of our fundamental charter. I was at one of those desks participating by Zoom in a history book club discussion. Wanting to make a point, I reached for the ever-present Constitution, but it was not there. After the meeting, I searched unavailingly for it. I assumed that I had inadvertently mingled the little booklet together with other papers slated for disposal. This straighten-up-the-office routine does not happen often. A few weeks before, though, I had put sheets of paper into a cardboard box for recycling, but the box remained on the floor next to the desk. I went through it. The Constitution was still missing. I did not regard the missing Constitution as a metaphor for our recent politics, as I might have done—I considered it merely mystifying.
I felt out of sorts without my Constitution. I did find that the fundamental charter was printed in the back of one of my legal books. I knew that it was easy to find online. I know there are apps that provide the Constitution. But I knew that for me sought-for constitutional provisions were more easily found in the pocket-sized booklets than elsewhere. My local bookstore’s website said that the store had something akin to a pamphlet-sized copy, but I was going to have pay ten bucks for it, and I feel that the Constitution should be free. A friend who is teaching a college course in legal history had obtained a trove of Constitutions to hand out to his class and offered me one, but with the coronavirus, I was not seeing him except on Zoom and that would not get me a copy.
Then I remembered that some organizations online offered free, pocket-sized Constitutions. I went surfing and quickly found two sources. I don’t think you can really draw a statistical conclusion when the n is 2, but both were from conservative entities.
I ordered the document from each source. Both told me that my free Constitution—no requirement to pay even shipping and handling—would arrive in six weeks. There was no explanation from either as to why it would take so long, and they did not tell me how I was supposed to fight for freedom in the interim. Two months later, a copy from each has finally arrived. But, of course, emails from both organization started appearing within hours of my requests. And surprise, surprise—although the Constitution is free, each organization will be willing to take money from me; indeed, they regularly beseech me for donations. They do more than that, however. One sees itself as a fighter for religious freedom, and they send me articles about that topic. The other is Hillsdale College, a small, private liberal arts college in southern Michigan. Known for a curriculum that stresses the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions, Hillsdale got national attention several decades ago when it gave up all government moneys and therefore no longer had to comply with federal and state laws concerning racial and other discrimination. Hillsdale’s college president is Larry Arnn, best known nationally these days for chairing Trump’s 1776 Commission on “patriotic education,” which was formed in response to the New York Times “1619 Project,” detailing America’s racist history. (The executive director of the 1776 Commission was Matthew Spalding, a Hillsdale vice president.)
Hillsdale has kindly emailed me a copy of the 1776 report, but I have yet to read its forty-five pages. The college has also encouraged me if I visit their campus to tour, not their library or their biology labs, but their John A. Halter Shooting Sports Center, completed during Arnn’s tenure as president. The shooting center surprised me because I was not aware that rifle ranges were an essential component of the classical Greek or Roman world or that skeet traps were part of traditional Judaism. On the other hand, I did know that since the Reformation, guns have played a large part in helping believers in Christ impose their religion on native heathens around the globe; fight other Christians who believed in some different and therefore unholy doctrine; use them often in crimes; and of course, employ them in suicides.
Hillsdale also touted an array of free online courses. Many seemed of interest: “The Genesis Story: Reading Biblical Narratives”; “Winston Churchill and Statesmanship”; and “The Young Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey.” Since I came to Hillsdale to get a copy of the Constitution, I thought it only fitting that I take “Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution.” The course had accompanying texts, most of which I had read and did not read again, but I did watch the twelve lectures, which averaged about thirty minutes each. The presenters, sitting in a room with burning candles presumably to give a colonial feel, were good. I was never bored. At the end of each lecture, a multiple-choice quiz of about a dozen questions was offered. (You will be shocked, shocked I say, but I did not always get 100 percent.) I took another test at the course’s conclusion. I passed and got a certificate announcing my constitutional proficiency. I did print it out to show one and all (one and all in this case was the spouse), but I have not yet (?) had it framed for presentation.
(continued March 24)