As part of my desire to encourage a little more civility in American politics, I have decided to give a gift to someone whose politics I disagree with. Specifically, I’m sending a handbound copy of the Constitution to President George W. Bush.
I was going to be sarcastic about it, and say something about the rules of good gift-giving. After all, you’re supposed to give people something that they might find useful, for instance at work, and something that they don’t appear to own already.
But really, that sort of commentary is pretty nasty and counterproductive. And I think this is a matter more for sincerity than nastiness. So here’s the text of the letter I’m sending along with the binding. The language is a little stiff and florid, but the feeling behind it is sincere.
Dear Mr President,
I am an American citizen, although I have been living in the United Kingdom for almost eleven years. Living abroad has given me an interesting perspective on our shared identity as Americans, particularly with regard to our Constitution. It really is a unique and valuable document, one that has made our country what it is today.
I am concerned, therefore, by the ways in which your current policies do not reflect the values enshrined in this foundation of our nation’s law. I know that, as President, you must find a balance between the security of our fellow citizens and the culture of liberty that America values. I am sure you are sincere in the choices you have made. Unfortunately, I cannot agree with those choices, which seem to me to undermine many of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
I am particularly worried by the lack of trials for some citizens suspected of terrorism, the chilling effect that use of “free speech zones” has on the First Amendment rights of people who disagree with you, and the drive to use the Constitution to limit peoples’ freedoms and the states’ rights to legislate with regard to marriage. I am also concerned by our frequent disregard of the Geneva conventions, either by the reclassification of prisoners or by a simple failure to follow its rules.
If we are to be the beacon of liberty to the world that we hope we are, then America must take the lead in defending peoples’ freedoms, both inside and outside of our borders. Peaceful, secure people do not as a rule join terrorist organizations; people who feel that their culture and religion are under attack may very well do so. By working in isolation and appearing to target Islam as a whole, we are the terrorists’ best recruiting incentive.
As a token of my regard for the Constitution and the ideals it expresses, I am sending you the enclosed leatherbound copy of this most important document. I created it myself, using traditional fine binding techniques. If you prefer not to keep it, I would appreciate its donation to an educational institution, where it can inform and educate another generation of Americans.
Very Truly Yours,
I plan to post the book and letter on Tuesday (post offices are closed tomorrow). Normally, I wouldn’t post pictures and binding notes on a gift before the recipient has seen it. But I doubt that President Bush reads this blog, so I’m unlikely to spoil the surprise. (If I have, I’m sorry, George!)