Please Read the Instructions Before Use
Originally published February 5, 2020
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who read instructions and those who operate by instinct.
People who measure out all the ingredients before they start cooking, inventory the parts against the list before putting Slot A in opening B, and who won’t power on a television, computer, or appliance without reading the user’s guide from “warnings” to “troubleshooting.”
Then those who toss out the instructions with the cardboard box, Styrofoam packing, and bubble wrap. They rely on experience and intuition and operate by trial and error.
Success isn’t guaranteed if you follow the written word. Operations can go astray by a misprint, misunderstanding, or an explanation that requires an advanced degree in engineering to understand. And failure isn’t destined for the assembly adventurer. Many a roadblock is overcome by a Google or YouTube search.
This theory applies mostly to appliances, toys, casseroles, and furniture. When it comes to putting together our democracy, I think most of us are flying blind and haven’t bothered to crack the cover on the instruction manual.
In 1787 some men got together in Philadelphia and drafted the Constitution of the United States – the owner’s manual for our country. In the two hundred and thirty-three years since the instructions were expanded and clarified only twenty-seven times. Unfortunately, outside of a high school or college history class, too many of us never bothered to read it. Let alone re-read it. At 7,591 words, it certainly requires more attention than a 280-character tweet, a cat meme, or a video of Colbert’s monologue. It takes more time to read than a 4000-word magazine article, but significantly less than the 190,637 in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or the hours necessary to consume the latest Scorcese or Tarantino picture.
This doesn’t stop people from offering their interpretation of the document. Too many of them schooled by a link shared on Facebook most likely written by a teenager in Kazakhstan or the barroom interpretation of a drunken bowling partner.
I’m not confident the people we’ve selected to operate the country have read it either. How many of us would step on board a passenger jet if the pilot learned how to fly by watching Top Gun or Snakes on a Plane? Yet every day, we turn the steering wheel of our country over to people whose constitutional studies I firmly believe are limited to a viewing of School House Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.”
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2020 is the year of the rat. It's not an exaggeration to think the foundations of our democracy are weakened by the sharp teeth of the rats of ignorance and ego. What if we consider the remainder of 2020 the year of the Constitution and commit to reading it? And holding those accountable in government for reading it also. We owe it to the men who gathered in Philadelphia to make an effort to stop the shredding of their hard work.
Here’s a link. It’s free. Just like the Super Bowl halftime show and the impeachment hearings. After reading it, you might be able to tell the difference between people shaking their asses, and others showing theirs.