To The French On Bastille Day! We Are All The People

 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

When our new president swore on two bibles he would “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” a revolution stirred in my heart.

As a New York City Democrat who loves her conservative Hoosier family, I wanted to hold him to his promise without breaking ties. First, I needed to hear my thoughts.

On Inauguration Day, I visited the New York Public Library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue. Desperate to quell anxiety exacerbated by fake news and social media, I entered the great hush of the Rose Main Reading Room, known to many for its role in Ghostbusters.

By chance, I discovered artist Morgan O’Hara and a few of her companions vigorously scribbling at a long table. Their sign announced they would stay until closing time to handcopy the U.S. Constitution, the oldest written and continuously used governing constitution in the world that is more than 229 years old.

Smiling, I accepted the offer of paper and a marker from O’Hara’s stash of supplies. This was exactly what I needed, a patriotic reminder of a common set of values. I settled into a heavy wooden chair, feeling goosebumps creep up my neck.

As I re-penned “We the People,” I felt calm. My 7th grade teacher made my class memorize the Preamble in the 1980s. I imagined her low voice meld each syllable into a poem. Now I sensed “the Blessings of Liberty” as a fierce, fragile organism. Warmth moved into my hands and feet. My breath deepened.

When I checked my phone, verbal warfare invaded my cell phone. I watched in horror as a New England acquaintance started a Facebook pile-on. “Wash out your uneducated hick mouth and go back to Arkansas,” he typed to the stranger. Fans lobbed onto the post, forgetting that an actual human being was being torn apart. But the Constitution grounded me with its inclination toward fairness. Without thinking, I switched from print to cursive, surprised I still knew how to form the letters. To my relief, I found no mention of political parties, so toxic during the 2016 campaign.

The next day at the New York Women’s March, fear of crowds made me a pathetic protester. I emailed O’Hara, the conceptual artist I met at the library, to understand why I preferred her impromptu gathering to a mass demonstration. “Don’t make me out to be some hero,” said O’Hara, 76, who saw her event as a visual project, a way to return to basics and protest in silence. While she did not finish after six hours—predicting 14 for the whole task—the physical effort allowed her to sense how much tension went into making our laws.

Most of the Framers were wealthy. Many owned slaves. All were white men. Yet nearly everyone played a role in the Revolutionary War with more to lose than many of us with our smartphones and double lattes. Despite privileges, they were prepared to sacrifice everything to form a republic.

Centuries later, I imagined Founding Fathers could embrace feminists like my pal Liz, a civil rights and peace activist since the 1960s. Liz reminded me that the First Amendment grants five freedoms, including “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” But she went a step further. “We have to respect our enemies,” said Liz, an admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. “Otherwise, it’s just a mob.”

Respect requires empathy. To cultivate gentleness, I copied passages before bed, moving the language through my bloodstream like a prayer. Article I, Section 8 granted powers to Congress and shared similarities to the book of Genesis. Each line was a creation: post offices, a standard of weights and measures, the production of money and the ability to declare war and to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

My jaw tightened as I thought of my new president’s executive orders. But as I spent more time with the Constitution, I thought its language modeled a level head for civil discourse. I was moved particularly by the 19th Amendment stating no one should be denied voting rights “on account of sex.” Ratified in 1920, the amendment and its gender-inclusive wording felt especially fresh.

“Copying the Constitution is different from reading it,” said my library buddy, Ana, an American citizen originally from Romania. “When you see a road from the plane, you don’t see the pebbles.”

Curious about the details, I traveled to Washington, D.C., specifically to visit founding documents at the National Archives. “Take a close look at the first page,” a guard told me as I approached the Constitution. “Can you see a mistake?” To my amazement, I found an omission, a line that had been scraped and possibly covered with candlewax. Then he pointed out a childish error on the fourth and final signature page—“Pensylvania” spelled with one “n”—scrawled out by Alexander Hamilton, the man whose name would launch a smash Broadway musical. I was in love.  

So was my father as I described my studies. Instead of arguing about Trump—an endless activity—we met up for a family vacation in Philadelphia, birthplace of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Infused with the Spirit of ‘76, we strolled through museums and chatted with costumed actors portraying Betsy Ross and Thomas Jefferson. At the National Constitution Center, we paused at a video of a naturalization ceremony. Like couples taking marriage vows, these brave new citizens pledged the Oath of Allegiance, swearing to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, “foreign and domestic.” When the camera zoomed in on individual faces, Dad and I stifled tears.

As a natural-born American, I took my freedoms for granted. But by copying my blessings each night with my right hand, I drew a pact with God—binding me to country, family and fellow patriots, however they voted.

Forty-five days into the Trump administration, I finished the last sentence of the 27th Amendment, the final law regarding congressional pay cycles. I was now a re-Framer with my own 43-page document. When stapled together end to end, the yellow legal paper trailed from my front door to my bed.

Then I started all over again with a fresh piece of paper, beginning with “We the People.”

[This article first appeared in the New York Observer.]

Trump and Bikram Are Like Chocolate And Peanut Butter

Bikram-Choudhury-Details1

I was cleaning my apartment Tuesday night when I imagined Bikram’s balls.

Don’t judge. I don’t have a choice on these mixed-nut flashbacks. Neither do you ever since Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram Yoga, described his heuvos as “atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each.” Thanks to his megalomania, the master and his Speedos are forever stored in my hippocampus, just as they are stamped in your brain along with other inconvenient images, including dirty feet and fish eyes.

In this particular sack attack, I was wiping down my kitchen sink when I was slapped in the head with a frank and beans epiphany: Bikram Choudhury and Donald Trump should be friends — possibly running mates.

donald-trump-outrageous-quotes

Here’s my reasoning. Bikram, as stated above, responds positively to weapons of mass destruction as symbols of power. Fat Man and Little Boy live in his trousers in a permanent state of detonation. The Donald believes Japan, which adopted a pacifist constitution after surviving these atomic bombs, should man up and get nukes.

Practically twins!

Additionally, Mr. Trump has an orange complexion, almost as if he were locked in a 105-degree room all the time. Mr. Choudhury believes his hot yoga routine is the only way to enlightenment. “Everything else is shit,” he has said.

Drumpf enjoys baseball caps on bad hair days, which are indistinguishable from his good hair days. Panty Man also likes billed hats, although it’s impossible to muss his flowing locks, brushed by attendants/slaves in his inner circle.

Obviously, these boys are groin-centered. And creepy. Who could forget the recent GOP debate when the Comb-Over King said this: “Look at those hands, are they small hands? If they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

For more evidence of a potential GOP bro-mance ticket, I will provide ridiculous quotes. See if you can guess which pearl came from which guy:

  1. “I give every staff member of mine a car, something like a Jeep Cherokee.”
  2. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”
  3. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
  4. “I should be the most honored man in your country.”
  5. “Why are your legs spread? Women should not spread their legs any time, anywhere! Only in emergencies.”
  6. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”
  7. “Why do you want to pay money to go to a hot room and torture yourself?”
  8. “I’m bullet proof, waterproof, wind proof, money proof, sex proof, emotion proof, stress proof, strength proof.”
  9. “I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
  10. “Don’t throw up on the carpet. It’s new.”

Answers: 1. Bikram 2. Trump 3. Trump 4. Bikram 5. Bikram 6. Trump 7. Bikram 8. Bikram 9. Trump 10. Bikram