When It’s Time to Demand a Do-Over

Earlier this week I stumbled upon a Washington Post article about Maryland’s constitution being eligible for a voter-requested rewrite.  These paragraphs from the article caught my attention:

Maryland is one of 14 states with a constitutional requirement designed to make voters decide at least once a generation whether to start over. The protection goes back to the Founding Fathers and the thinking that, every now and then in a healthy democracy, the People probably have to shake things up.

The question that Free State voters will face — whether to seat a constitutional convention next year in the State House, where George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army — is a direct challenge from the grave of Thomas Jefferson. In an era of much shorter life expectancy, Jefferson pegged the shelf life of a democratic charter at no more than 20 years.

“The earth belongs always to the living generation,” Jefferson wrote to James Madison, pondering the forces behind the French Revolution. “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”

Can you imagine all the work involved in rewriting the Old Line State‘s constitution? The article discusses the arduous process and says it’s not just about getting Maryland voters to read through an archaic, sometimes confusing, document. It’s also about addressing hot topics such as abortion and the death penalty in a new constitution. I can’t even fathom how long it would take to reach a consensus on how to handle these issues.

The concept of rewriting a fundamental document got me thinking about my own fundamental beliefs. If I were to write down everything I’ve believed in since I was born, how many of those beliefs would still apply to my life? I used to believe some pretty ridiculous things related to socioeconomic class. For example, I determined that dark chocolate was for the upper class, while white chocolate was for poor people. (Milk chocolate was for middle class folk, in case you were wondering.)

Other beliefs have stood up to rigorous personal testing. Even though I’ve tried peas in various dishes and cuisines, I still hate them. In my view, peas are tiny orbs of pure evil. And I have yet to be convinced otherwise.

Over the last ten years I’ve come to adopt beliefs others consider to be controversial or questionable. Having been raised in a religious community, I had a lot of beliefs drilled into me about God, faith and prayer that didn’t always fit with my own personal experience. Once I gave myself permission to investigate those beliefs, I finally found the peace of mind that had eluded me for many years. Finding that peace has lead me to proselytize on many occasions. In some instances, my preaching dissolved relationships or caused hurt feelings. I’m still learning to not make others wrong for not agreeing with my personal belief system.

I do think it’s a good idea, however, to present people with new concepts and challenge them to test their own theories – and we don’t need to wait 19 years to do it. By sharing our truths clearly and succinctly, and allowing others to do the same without fear of judgment, we all get the chance to be heard. We get the opportunity to expand our understanding of the world and how it works. We can check to see if our personal laws have, in fact, expired, and if so, create new ones.

Come November, I’ll be very interested to see if Maryland voters demand a do-over on their constitution. As for more individual, personal do-overs, well, you’ll just have to keep me posted.

What beliefs of yours have expired?

Do those expired beliefs need to be reinforced, retired or replaced?