Since Jan. 2, an armed militia calling themselves the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom have "occupied" federal lands and buildings in Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Led by two of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, more than a hundred militants justify the action as a protest of federal overreach and intend to stay, in the words of Ammon Bundy, "indefinitely."
The question now remains: Why let irate, cattle-ranching tea party figureheads have all the fun? If you're interested in holding fast to a document that's been edited more times than a controversial blog post, you don't need to occupy federal land and bring guns to emergency town meetings in public high schools in order to enjoy the source of all government powers. Here's a short list of ways you, the armchair historian, can enrich your experience of this crazy listicle we like to call The Constitution of the United States of America.
1. Wave it around a bunch! Many Constitutions come in convenient pamphlets, and if your Chamber of Commerce does not have such badass portables readily on display alongside brochures for local restaurants and attractions, as soon as you're done raising a big stink you can print out a PDF complete with instructions for folding and stapling. The added bonus of building one's own pocket-sized transcript of the Most Important Thing Ever Written After The Bible is that virtually any copy shop can walk you through coordinating the paper document to your hunting vest or the bones of your enemies. The only question then is one of aesthetics: Buff or Canary? What about Re-entry Red or Fireball Fuchsia to broadcast your deep, abiding passion for extradition and vicinage? Perhaps a parchment stock, in an elegant nod to the original bad boy. Nothing classes up a photocopy like dignified parchment paper, perfect for everyday gripping and run-of-the-mill gesticulating. Travel-sized preambles can be tucked into the brim of a face-obscuring hat which means more room in the SUV for automatic weapons and binoculars. Regular Constitutions are far too heavy to hold up with one hand, as it is important to keep at least a few fingers free to wipe away tears of patriotism.
2. Customize it! I touched on this a bit already by suggesting that you jazz up your homemade Constitution, but once you get your new buddy back to the bunker that you're illegally squatting in, that's when it's time to really cut loose. Make your own amendments and bedazzlings! Glue images of your wife and child to the cover to remind you of what you're simultaneously fighting for and neglecting while ripping up fences in a bird sanctuary located several states away from your actual home. You don't even have to include pages that contradict your views. Try framing it in your own special way, to suit your immediate concerns, maybe in uncooked spaghetti, teak, stainless steel, or some other brittle and inflexible material.
3. Play pretend! Speaking of framing, ever take something so personally it is as if you created it in the first place? Luckily, Constitutional Convention attendee William Pierce of Georgia left behind profiles of the perspiring slaveholders who created our three branches of government. Why not spend an afternoon shopping for pizza online as if you were the "very corpulant [sic]" Gunning Bedford? Order your latte in the style of Alexander Hamilton, whose "manners are tinctured with stiffness, and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreeable." I'd love to see that on the side of a red cup! Try not to laugh and break character when the barista says "ALEXANDER HAMILTON" and pushes your Holiday Spice Flat White exasperatedly across the counter, because "there is something too feeble in his voice to be equal to the strains of oratory" and he probably didn't have a sense of humor either. Want to live a day in the life of South Carolina's Charles Pinckney? All you have to do is speak "with great neatness and perspicuity, and [treat] every subject as fully, without running into prolixity, as it requires." As long as that subject is humans as property. You have to own slaves and spend your time in the Convention making sure that the Constitution includes a passage in which human beings attempting to claim their own sovereign freedom are returned to servitude, and defend your position "with ability and eclat."
4. Do not read! Why bother with that can of worms? How can one piece of writing both expand and limit the power of the federal government? What relevance does it have in today's America? The answer? Who cares! Don't stress your head with letter-of-the-law nitpickers who may point out that according to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15, only Congress can "provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions" or that, technically, overtaking a building by force of arms is an invasion and therefore another militia should be called by Congress to wipe you out. To whom does the Constitution ascribe the power to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress"? Congress. Congress was supposed to call you on their old-timey princess phone and, with the slightest shade of an English accent, let you know they needed you. Or, at the very least, fire off a text. What with reproductive rights hanging in the balance, I can definitely say that Congress is ghosting me lately, so maybe I'm just feeling a little left out. But you talked to them, right?