After 25 years, the old flagpole was leaning nearly 10 degrees from years of prevailing wind, storm and the pull of bearing the nation's standard 24x7. I had followed the simple directions that came with the pole. I put it in shortly after moving to this home and knew little about the long impact of wind and water. It had served well, but it was time. We dug it out, foundation and all. I cut the corroded base away from the original concrete base and we carried it to the backyard for renovation while I worked on the structure that would support it.
It occurs to me that, upon the growing evidence of failure of the Articles of Confederation, the founders designed the Constitution based upon the body of knowledge gained in a mere eight years of independence. I think the foundation they laid was a damned good one; and it has served well for 225 years. But it showing a bit of lean and fray.
I had pondered the problem for two months; how to create a new structure that would serve for years, withstand wind and storm and yet be easier to maintain. I knew what I wanted, so I researched new materials and technology and I recalled all the successful flagpoles I had seen in a career in the Navy. The plan came together and it was time. I dug out the single pylon of concrete and dug deeper into the earth. I placed two twelve inch forms side by side centered two 4x4 posts a predetermined distance apart. I spent nearly an hour with four foot level, custom built spacers and braces ensuring the property spacing and a perfectly plumb assembly. Satisfied that I could set it no better, my wife, Linda, and I and filled them with 450 pounds of new concrete. Then I rechecked plumb yet again.
The Founders set up the Constitution based upon the very best knowledge and philosophy of the time. They had at their hand some of the most brilliant minds of the day. They were aware of their environment; the economic base, educational level, population demographics, transportation model and communication technology of the time. Even the most creative mind could not have imagined the changes that two and a quarter centuries would bring.
I bought a new metal anodized ball to cap the pole and, since I fly my colors 24x7, a solar powered LED down-shining light fixture. I bought a new weather protected truck assembly and UV resistant halyard line. I sanded the pole and Linda painted it with two coats of rust proof exterior gloss white paint. As I allowed the concrete five days to cure, neighbors would pass by and either offer advice or try to divine what I was building in my yard. The most creative was a vertical launch platform to shoot down spy drones.
The Founders had the advantage of a friendly press and communications that were slow and apolitical, for the most part. The Constitution was designed in secrecy with few, if any, notes taken that recounted the, at times bitter, discussions, negotiations and compromises that would result in the final document. The ability to design in a closed session simply does not exists in the polarized and 'transparent' world of today.
Using leftover vinyl post sleeves, I set up the structure that would hold the hinge assembly and renovated pole base. I redesigned it two times before fabricating and dry-fitting all the parts. Finally, the pole, fully assembled, lay horizontally in the back yard and the new base structure awaited mating with the pole. I was still unsure that it would be vertical and functional despite my best efforts. But, again, beneath a bright sun and with no wind to speak of, it was time.
The Founders did their best to design in a method to modify the designed governmental processes they had written. They could only predict the future based upon their past and present. After all, America was primarily agrarian, Anglo-Saxon and protestant. Diversity of ethnicity, religion, gender, education and economics were far beyond the imagination of those well-educated, yet parachial men. They could only hope they had designed it to serve the country well.
Linda and I carried the pole out and nestled it into the base. I inserted the bolts and spacer assemblies (another last minute modification) and we stood it straight up. A final small change and the final bolts were secured. With some trepidation, I applied the level to the pole and breathed a sigh of relief; straight up and down.
Even at the last minute, the Founders faced a crisis. Conservative elements would not support ratification without additional guarantees that protected the very liberties they had fought a war for. Twelve amendments were designed and accompanied the document on the road to the people. When the ninth state ratified the new foundation document they had no level that could be applied to show a perfect execution. They could only hope.
Waiting no longer, I ran up the colors. I can't predict how long the pole will stand straight and carry the flag for another 25 years through storm, heat and snow. I did my best and I can only hope for the future. Long may it wave.
Ratified at last, the Founders could only stand back and let the nation learn how to keep it between the lines. They could no better predict radio, television or the Internet, jet aircraft, mass migrations from Europe and Asia, universal suffrage or the sexual revolution than they could predict steam locomotion, the telegraph or the westward expansion of the population to the Pacific Ocean. They did their best and could only hope for the future.
It is incumbent upon those of us who, to the Founders, live IN that future that they could not foresee, to continue to refine, repair and, if necessary, remove and renovate the foundation of our nation; fitting it to govern in the environment in which we live today, yet holding to the spirit and heart of the original. We owe that not only to the Founders, but to our children.