Is that a Constitution in your pocket?
Sen. Charles Grassley was carrying a copy of the Constitution in his pocket before it was cool. He's been toting the document for more than a decade. It wasn't until the last few years - at town-hall meetings - when Iowans started asking him if he had a copy. He sees the interest from constituents as a good thing, because it's such an important document.
Carrying a small copy of the Constitution is the new thing in Washington, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.
It may well be a response to tea party accusations that Congress has forgotten about the document. A bulge in a pocket may replace the flag lapel pin. It's a symbol of, well, we're not sure what. Maybe it's a recognition of the Founding Fathers' brilliance. Or allegiance to one's country rather than a party or political movement.
So the editorial-page staff queried some members of Iowa's delegation. keeps two copies of the Constitution on his desk. One was given to him by the chief of the National Guard Bureau. "always has a copy of the Constitution close by," according to his staff.
They might also consider carrying a pocket-size version. Apparently constituents are checking to see if lawmakers can quickly produce one, like a spot check or pop quiz. House GOP leaders included these small copies in packets distributed to freshman lawmakers. Required under oath to support the document, lawmakers likely feel especially close to it.
But all of us should revere the document. In fact, it might be good for average Americans to carry one, sporting a rectangular bulge. People could also consider writing down and adding some words from James Madison.
"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government," he said.
The Constitution is more than 4,618 words plus 27 amendments. The original document - which endorsed slavery - cannot be read without the amendments. It also can't be understood without knowledge of the 220 years of Supreme Court interpretations of the document. Those interpretations maintain the integrity of the Constitution while reflecting the evolution of our people.
So carry it. Read it. Value it. But do not separate it from the history that shapes it.