Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem
them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They
ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and
suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I
belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It
was very like the present, but without the experience of the present;
and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of
book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from
the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried
changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had
better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves
to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I
know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the
progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more
enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and
manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances,
institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might
as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a
boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their
America is about taking risks- and making mistakes and doing the right thing... eventually. I'm old enough now to look back and realize the United States is capable of acts of both stunning inspiration and jaw-dropping stupidity, often simultaneously.
But the one thing about America and being an American is knowing that, like a huge pendulum, eventually things swing back from the extreme. Not without effort and debate and cost and lost lives. But sooner or later, things always do get better. And then we'll swing to the other extreme and repeat the process.
Norman Mailer once said the true religion of America has always been
America. He's right. I believe in America. And there are enough
believers to insure that despite its disturbing oscillations, we'll
always find our way.
-KGB (July 3, 2003), during the depths of the Bush presidency.