Thursday, September 17, 2015

It's Sept. 17, E-Plebnista Day. Celebrate ye

So, time for the annual collection of links and videos celebrating that remarkable document:

First, for the Trekies... er..Trekers, a dramatic reading of the preamble by one named "Kirk" from Star Trek, the Original Series' episode "The Omega Glory." Captain Kirk schools Cloud William. "THESE WORDS AND THE WORDS THAT FOLLOW ... MUST APPLY TO EVERYONE OR THEY MEAN NOTHING! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

Exit question for 'one named Kirk': Here Me! Here This! What exactly is "domestic TRONquility" anyway?

And HERE we have James Lileks asking a very pertinent question. If Cloud William takes Kirk's advice, and extends constitutional protections to the Coms, isn't it at least possible that the Coms may indulge their proclivities, using the constitutional route, or rather those very protections, to a take over of the reigns of government after which they would send all the smelly Yangs off to vacation at various gulags? Hey that's probably a good thing for olfactory trOnquility, but is it right Jim? What the hell was this war all about in the first place? Just asking.

Omega Glory. This was one of the first scripts Roddenberry wrote for Trek, so you can’t blame the old “third season” curse. The Enterprise finds an empty starship around the usual Backlot Planet, where two groups compete for power: the Yangs, and the Coms. After some falderal Kirk finds himself in the presence of the tribal elder, He Who Speaks Without Contractions, and the sacred founding documents of the tribe is produced. Well, whadaya know: it’s the U.S. Constitution.

Kirk: “Spock, what are the odds that another planet’s evolutionary process would not only yield bipeds who speak English, but wrote a complex assertion of individual rights on parchment?”

Spock: “Theoretically, it is possible, Captain.”

Kirk: “Well, that settles it; I’d best reorder their society with some overemoting.”

Kirk upends their entire worldview by pronouncing the Constitution correctly, and sweatily insists that the words are not just for Yangs, but for the Coms as well, or else they mean nothing. Do you understand?

“We will try, Ham Who Rants,” the Chief says, and that’s that. But really: If there’s one thing we know about Coms, it’s that they use the freedoms guaranteed by E Plebnista to take power and put the Yangs against the wall. Of course, in this episode, the Yangs and the Coms had forgotten the ideas that had led to their all-consuming war. (No one in Trek ever had regional wars; everything came down to great planet-wide Manichean conflicts.) It would have been nice if Kirk had asked the tribes what they stood for.

“Free exchange of goods and ideas,” the Yangs might have said.

“Subordination of the individual to the will of the collective duty,” the Coms might have responded.

But no: This was one of those high-minded episodes in which the presence of conflict damned each side alike.

And some Old Time Radio:

 Cavalcade of America, 1937 "The Constitution of the United States"

You Are There, 1947 "The Ratification of the U.S. Constitution"

For those that prefer to read the documents, the National Archives "Charters of Freedom" website. At that site, you can supply the names of these individuals, from the Constitution Mural at the Rotunda:

You know, I'm not seeing any smelly Yangs. Where the heck is Cloud William?

Last, Take a Constitution Day QUIZ

Happy E Plebnista day one and all! Be thankful you Americans that you live in a society that lives by this incredible document.