Our Opinion: The great blueprint

So free and, in general, prosperous are we Americans that we sometimes take our blessings as a nation for granted. We should not. They are based on something of a miracle — our Constitution.

Each year on Sept. 17, we celebrate Constitution Day. It is both a time for us to marvel at what our nation’s Founders did for us and to recognize the Constitution requires defending.

When 39 men signed the document on Sept. 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, they understood it was not perfect. Its sanction of slavery was an enormous flaw, to say the very least.

But the Founders understood they had created a blueprint for liberty and prosperity, not to mention a self-correcting form of government.

The Constitution’s very existence has helped us to improve as a people and to check abuses by government.

Reveling in the existence of our Constitution is not enough, however. In a way, it is a great danger to our freedom and well-being.

Assuming that, somehow, we are due those blessings merely because we call ourselves Americans is not enough. That leads to apathy and that, in turn, opens the door to abuse.

It comes in two ways:

First, the very nature of many in government is to crave more authority. The Constitution, with its separation of powers, was crafted to use each of the three branches of government as checks on the others.

But each has, from time to time, twisted the plain language of the Constitution in attempts to gain more control over the other branches — and over the people. We see it today in activist judges, congresses that cede authority to executive branch agencies, and presidents who rule by edict.

Unless we as a nation are alert to such abuses and rein them in, the self-government our Founders gave us will disappear.

A second major threat to the Constitution is we, the people.

Unable to amend it formally whenever some new whim or fad strikes our fancy, we encourage presidents, congresses and the courts to twist the Constitution’s plain language so that we can justify government activity the Founders knew was dangerous to a free people.

Make no mistake about it: When we allow fundamental freedoms to be watered down or eliminated, to deal with some relatively minor or even manufactured threat, we make ourselves less secure.

When we insist that new “rights” be granted, we threaten existing, more critical ones.

And often, we play right into the hands of power-hungry politicians.

Let us indeed celebrate the Constitution — perhaps the best foundation for government ever created.

But let us also remember that unless we vow to preserve, protect and defend it, it will become no more than a relic, pointed to by future historians as an example of greatness forfeited.