On Sunday, America celebrated one of the most important events in our nation’s history. The festivities were solemn and respectful; contemplative and engaging. For most of America, swilling beers and cheering for their favorite NFL team while calculating fantasy points, the importance of the day was lost.

Since 2004, September 17 has been known as Constitution Day — a federally recognized holiday. Prior to 2004 and the renaming of the day by a bit of legislative wrangling by Sen Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), the day had been called Citizenship Day. It commemorates the day in 1787 when the nation’s founders met for the final time to sign the United States Constitution.

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Signing the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Howard Chandler Christy

Independence Day, with its fireworks, parades, and marches, lends itself to a more festive holiday than Constitution Day. Thirty-nine colonial delegates gathering to sign a piece of paper does not necessarily conjure images of public merriment. In the annals of United States history, however, Constitution Day carries as much or more importance than Independence Day.

Independence came once at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Conversely, constitutional rights are still being interpreted, extended, and enforced 230 years after the Constitution was enacted. Debating which document carries more importance is akin to arguing whether it was the chicken or egg that arrived first. One cannot exist without the other.

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Click here to read the Constitution

Most Americans tend to take the Constitution and its inherent rights for granted. It is not until a time of crisis or controversy that many people take the time to delve into Constitutional law, history, or rights. Therefore, it is disappointing that, in 2017 and in the midst of the most dramatic constitutional crisis in recent history, that Constitution Day passed as such a demure affair.

The U.S. Constitution has never been so attacked by the people sworn to defend it as it is today. From Donald Trump to the lowest ranking Republican party member, every Americans’ fundamental rights are under siege by those in power. Trump’s errant and childish tweets reaffirm daily that we must be vigilant before our rights slip away like sand through an hourglass.

As a result of Trump’s “unconventional” approach to governing, the federal government is suffering a crisis of credibility and confidence — much the same as Trump himself. The drastic departure from rules, accepted practices, and protection of the Constitution is forcing some state governments to strengthen their position as federal protectorates.

On Friday, the California state legislature took a giant leap forward to close one existing gap in the federalist system as it relates to presidential elections. Lawmakers there passed a bill requiring presidential candidates to disclose personal tax returns or face exclusion from the state election ballots. The move is a small, but important step to correct a serious error in the constitution that allows any buffoon with money to purchase his way to the White House without consideration for education, experience, ability, or mental health and capacity for the office.

Other state leaders are moving in similar ways to limit the power of the federal government within their respective states. In Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation prohibiting state authorities from detaining people based solely on immigration status. The law strikes at the heart of federal immigration policies and snubs Trump’s own anti-immigration platform. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently barred state officials from participating in the creation of any federally imposed Muslim registry. As in Illinois, the Oregon policy removes power from the federal government and Trump’s attempt to create a nationwide travel ban.

Across the nation, the federal government is experiencing the backlash from Trump’s bigoted and rudimentary comprehension of the U.S. Constitution. Trump is responsible for unraveling the fabric of the republic and the delicate balance and interaction between state and national government.

On a day when America should be honoring the sanctity of the Constitution, Trump made good use of the First Amendment by retweeting his own tweets calling for travel bans, internet restrictions, and other rights violations for the rest of the country. He attacked Americans, denigrated his office, and suggested inciting violence against his personal enemies.

 

Americans of every age, sex, and race should celebrate the Constitution by marching in the streets and demanding restoration of all rights while Donald Trump continues chipping away at the nation’s most revered document. Unfortunately two-thirds of the country spent Constitution Day watching football as they do every weekend for 20 weeks of the year. Some Monday when America wakes up to troops in the streets and state-run television without the NFL, maybe Constitution Day will have a more important meaning.

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