Grandpa and Jim
A New Form of Government
In many ways talking with his Grandfather things became a little clearer for Jim, in other ways he was probably more confused than he was before. At the same time he was becoming more and more curious about the way things were before the Unification had occurred, especially about what the place called the United States of America was.
Jim and his family lived in District 21-544 of the Unified State of America. According to Grandpa this used to be called Jamestown in the State of Virginia which was one of the States in the United States of America. In fact it seemed like it all started here for the most part, at least for what Grandpa had called the British Colonies which eventually wrote this document called the Declaration of Independence and renamed themselves the Unites States of America. It was this Declaration that Jim had been studying and had talked to Grandpa about a week or so ago. Since then he had re-read it numerous times and more of it made sense, at the same time more of it created questions that Jim was unable to get answers for.
One of the first things that Jim was able to clear up for himself was why the Declaration said the United States and the Committee called it the Unified States, they sound similar. When Jim had a few minutes at Educational Training he looked up the definition of the two words were, wow was he surprised at the difference in their meanings. To be unified basically meant one unit, consolidated, to be a union meant an alliance of people or even political parties for mutual beliefs and / or mutual benefit. For two words that sounds so similar it was amazing how different the meanings. Jim started understanding some of the things Grandpa had said about the whole change happened slowly and that today those in power gained land through slick talk and dirty tricks, this was slick talk.
Jim was also intrigued with the opening words of the Declaration, especially the part about the Creator, Laws of Nature and Natures God. He was going to try and look these up on his e-tablet but as soon as he typed in “The Creator” his tablet locked him out and one of the facilitators of Educational Training was instantly at his station. Jim was able to talk his way out by claiming he meant to search for the Creator of the e-tablet since he was interested in computers but he hit the enter key by mistake. The facilitator accepted this explanation but seemed to keep an extra close eye on Jim for the rest of the day. Jim realized then that he would not be able to use his e-tablet for researching anything him and Grandpa talked about. Even though paper was not used anymore Educational Training still taught everyone how to write since you could take notes on an e-tablet, only Jim was afraid to put any notes on the tablet since it seemed that everything he did on it was or could be monitored. Part of the scrap book that Grandpa gave him were blank pages and there were a couple of ancient writing instruments stuck in the book as well. Grandpa showed Jim how to use these so he started to write questions on the blank paper that he would ask Grandpa later. Jim had decided he wanted to continue with the talk about the pocketbook and then ask all the questions at once, maybe he would get the answers without having to ask.
Today was one day 14 of the Educational schedule which meant Jim did not have to attend training today. Educational Training was on a 14 day schedule, 13 days of training with one day off, this day off was actually used to update the computerized training that was constantly changing. Nobody minded since it gave them a day to other things such as visit virtual museums or participate in the one of the virtual sports, actual sports were outlawed to prevent any injuries to the participants. Jim enjoyed virtual baseball, he only wished the bats and balls were real and not just balls of light and small light wands you swung at them. At least with virtual baseball you still had to run, even though it was only running in place, to move the virtual player around the bases. Today was different though, instead of going to the Virtual Sports Emporium, the VSE, Jim decided to spend the day with Grandpa.
When Jim walked into the main room of their living quarters Grandpa was there as he expected. Today Grandpa was wearing some old dark blue sweater that had the initials USN on it over some funny looking fish like things. Jim had seen it before but never really paid that much attention to it, today for some reason he was real curious about what it all meant and where Grandpa had gotten it, seemed like Jim was getting more and more curious about things since Grandpa had given him the scrapbook.
“What’s with the sweater Grandpa?” Jim asked.
“This? This was part of my uniform when I was in the Navy.”
“The Navy? What is The Navy?” Jim asked with a puzzled look.
Grandpa chuckled. “I tend to forget that all the branches of the military have been combined and are now called the Unified Peace Keeping Force. As you know there is a branch of the UPKF that operates on the oceans of the world, in my day this was called the Navy.”
“So what are the fish things and what does USN mean?”
“USN stood for United States Navy and...”
Jim interrupted excitedly “That makes sense to me now!”
Grandpa smiled broadly and continued “and the funny fish are an insignia that was called Dolphins, it was a symbol that I was a qualified member of the United States Submarine Service.”
Again excited Jim exclaimed “I know what Submarines are. In Educational Training they told us that they are used for not only Peace Keeping missions but they also have ones that are used for scientific purposes only, something about exploring the oceans to see if we can set up communities on the ocean floor to alleviate the overcrowding.”
“Very good Jim. Is that what you wanted to talk about today, my sweater?” Grandpa said teasingly.
Jim didn’t really blush but he did kind of flush a little from embarrassment at being so easy to read. “Actually I was hoping we could talk some more about the pocketbook you gave me.”
“Are you wanting to talk about the Declaration of Independence some more?”
“No, I do have more questions about that but I thought I’d wait until we got through it all before I asked them. Actually I’d like to talk about the Constitution of the United States of America.”
“OK” Grandpa said looking at Jim, “what about the Constitution of the United States of America?”
“First off what is the Constitution?” Jim asked.
“Well, the Constitution was the document that established the Government of the newly established United States of America.”
“OK, so why, if I remember correctly, the Declaration actually established the United States of America in 1776, some…. 262 years ago but the Constitution wasn’t written until 1787, so 251 years ago? Was there no Government for that 11 years?”
“Good question. Actually the Constitution was not the first time the newly formed United States tried to establish guidelines for how the Government was going to operate. Right after the Declaration of Independence was written and signed establishing the United States as a sovereign Nation the Continental Congress met and wrote the Articles of Confederation. While the Articles of Confederation did provide for some unity among the States of the newly formed United States they were very weak overall. It was realized early on that the Articles of Confederation were not sufficient for all the needs of this up and coming Nation. The Articles of Confederation got them through the Revolutionary War…”
“The what war?” Jim asked puzzled.
“The Revolutionary War” Grandpa said laughing. “Throughout history most major wars have been named, the one that the new United States of America fought against the King of Great Britain to secure their independence was called the Revolutionary War. Understand?”
“Got it” replied Jim with a grin.
“OK, now, after the war was over many believed that there needed to be a central Government with more power, but that power had to have checks and balances to keep it from becoming a tyrannical Government, to keep from becoming another Great Britain. Not everyone felt this way, some felt the Articles of Confederation were good but just needed some adjusting. With this in mind they called for what was called a Federal Convention in 1787 presumably to propose changes to the Articles of Confederation. Those that wanted a stronger central Government had a different plan, they proposed a completely different style of Government. These men, we called them either the Founding Fathers or the Framers of the Constitution, looked back at history and put together a plan for a Government using the knowledge they had gained. They called it a Republic with indirect Democracy. A Republic is a form of Government where all affairs of State are a public matter, not a private matter for the ruler. Indirect Democracy is where the People elect officials that will represent them in the affairs of State.”
“If the People are represented how does that make for a stronger central Government?” Jim asked. “Seems to me it would be chaos with all the People having different ideas.”
“I’m impressed” Grandpa replied. “The Founders knew they had to have representation for not only the People but also for all the individual State Governments. Remember I told you that at that time State meant the same as Country and each of the States had their own Governments, and their own Constitutions I might add. To do this they had what was called the Congress, the Congress was split into two houses as they called them. One was the House of Representatives. This was the side that represented the People. The number of Representatives for each States was determined by the population of that State. These were the ones that were the voice of the People. The idea was that they would spend time in the districts that elected them, talk to the People and use that knowledge to represent them within the Central Government. On the other hand the State Governments would elect two individuals that would represent them in the Congress, this was the second house in Congress, and it was called the Senate. Since citizens are the ones that worked and earned the money the House of Representatives were given the power of writing the laws that would raise the revenue that would be needed to keep the Central Government operating. To ensure that neither house could write a law that would hurt the other once a law was written it had to go to the other house to be approved. Laws had to be approved by a majority of each house. This was not always an easy task since the citizens of the individual States and the Governments of the States each had their own ideas about how things should be done.”
Jim looked thoughtful, “so the Central Government was this Congress that could write laws that went back and forth between the two houses until enough members agreed to get a majority before anything got done?”
“It does sound like that doesn’t it?” mused Grandpa. “While that may seem like the way it would work it actually worked out quite well, for the most part. But that wasn’t all that had to happen. The Founders knew there had to be checks and balances in place. Congress was called the Legislative Branch, where there is one branch there has to be more. The next branch was called the Executive Branch. The Executive Branch was one person, really it was more but I’ll explain that later. After much deliberation this person was to be called the President, meaning this person was to preside over the Nation. All of the laws that were written in Congress were not actually laws until they were signed by the President, up to that point they were actually called Bills. The President was to look over each Bill that arrived in his office to ensure it was the best thing for the Nation, if it was he would sign it and make it a law. If he didn’t like it he could outright turn it down, called a veto, or he could suggest changes to it and send it back down to whichever of the two houses originally wrote it. It would then go through the entire process again.”
“So we now have the Congress that sits around thinking of Bills to write and the President that either approves them or disapproves them, sorry, veto’s them. Have I got all that right?” asked Jim.
“So far, maybe not in the most accurate terms but you have the idea” Grandpa replied with a grin. “There is more though. So far we have two branches, there is one more. To ensure the other branches were staying within the, shall we use the word rules for now, of the Constitution the Judicial Branch was established. The Judicial Branch consists of nine Judges that are selected by the President and approved by Congress, remember, checks and balances. These Judges, called the Supreme Court, are there to review Laws to ensure they are constitutionally correct, they have other duties but you can read about that in the Constitution.”
“So if I understand right now, the People elect the House of Representatives which gives the People a voice and they also write the ummm, Bills that control the money.”
“Right so far.”
“The individual State Governments select the Senate which gives the State Governments a voice.”
“Again, right so far.”
“All Bills, possibly to become a law, are written in one or the other House of the Congress but the other house must approve it.”
“The Bills then go to the President to become a Law or to be vetoed.”
“Very good.” Grandpa was impressed.
“OK” Jim began again. “Then we have the Judicial Branch that is selected by the President and approved by the Congress but makes sure that the other Branches are staying within the rules of the Constitution.”
“Right again, you are doing great, wait, why the puzzled look Jim?”
“Well you said that the Executive Branch was one person, well actually more but you never said how many more or who. You also never said how the President was chosen.”
“Guess I have to stay on my toes around you now, you are learning quickly. The Executive Branch was for all intents and purposes two people, one was the President and the other was the Vice President. The Vice President presided over the Senate and would act as a tie breaker if the voting was 50 50, remember there were two Senators for each State so the Senate had an even number of members. The Vice President was also the person that would take the place of the President if the President should not be able to perform the duties of his office for any reason. The way the President and the Vice President was selected was by a vote. Originally this vote was done by a group, called electors, chosen from each State. The groups in the individual States would select the best possible candidates they believed to be President and Vice President, the number of selectees was up to the States. They would then take their lists to a convention of all the States electors, called the Electoral College, and compare them. The two individuals with the most votes from all the States were selected to be the President and the Vice President. As times changed and the population grew it became harder and harder to do it this way because the numbers of potential candidates grew also, therefore the selection came down to voting by all citizens in the individual States with the candidate for President selecting who he wanted to be his Vice President before the voting began. Most of the time the Presidential candidate was the only one that mattered. The States would tally the votes within their State and again, their selected electors would go to the Electoral College for the final vote. The number of Electors per State was determined by the population of each State, just like the House of Representatives, so some States had more votes than others. With me so far?”
“Actually I think I am” Jim replied. “What about the other things in the Constitution, like this Article 5 thing?”
“Well the Founders knew they could not predict what would happen in the future, how the Nation would grow, what its needs would be or how technology would change so they included a way to change the Constitution in such a way that the majority of the States, in fact at least 2/3s of the States would have to agree with. The other parts of the Constitution actually laid out the areas that the Central Government would have control over, in fact there are only 18 things the Central Government has control over and most of these have to do with the Defense of the Nation. Then there are the rules, for a lack of a better term, which the individual States would have to agree to in order to become one of the United States. There are a lot of words in the Constitution that are not legally binding, they are there for clarification of the reasons for writing the Constitution more than anything else, things like providing for the General Welfare and the Common Defense. These were the goals of the Constitution, not rules in themselves. Does that make sense to you?”
Jim looked at his Grandfather for a few seconds and then replied “I think so. I remember reading those things, only the words they used were different, they sounded almost foreign, but the way you tell it it makes sense.”
“Remember I told you that the way of speaking and language has changed over time, it continues to change with each new generation. The problem has been that people no longer understand the original language of this Nation, oops, of the United States of America.”
With this last statement Grandpa had a sad look in his eyes. Jim thought this might be a good point for them to stop for today.
“Would you like to stop for today Grandpa? Maybe we can discuss other things later. For now I think I want to study the Constitution some more, sorry, the Constitution of the United States.”
“Thanks Jim, you are a fast learner” replied Grandpa with a glint of pride in his eyes.