The Constitution vs. throwaway culture

Published 5:02 pm Saturday, March 12, 2016

I remember when the TV repairman used to come to our house. Daddy would answer the door, greet him by name and escort him to the family room, where the wooden-encased television sat.

Wire clippers and screw drivers in hand, the repair man would spend what felt like hours to a young boy surgically adjusting the back of our old black-and-white set. And, when the repairman had finally finished, Daddy would let me pull out the knob that turned the TV on and rotate the dial through the three network channels, hoping to find a western.

In my parents’ generation, if you built or acquired something — a piece of furniture or an appliance or a tool — there was an expectation that it would last.

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This was partly because products were made with quality materials and painstaking attention to detail. But it was mostly because of a strong sense of responsibility: my parents’ generation spent a great deal of time making sure their things would last.

My parents believed that to own a product was to care for it. They cleaned and polished daily. They scheduled regular tune-ups. They reused and repurposed old items. And when something broke, they called a repairman to come fix it.

They wanted to steward what they had worked hard to earn. They also wanted to pass their most valuable pieces down to family. And so they cared with fervency. What a contrast that is to the throwaway culture of today.

America is a bit like a very valuable heirloom. We want to be able to pass this country on to our children with its character and core principles intact. We also want to pass down opportunities that extend beyond what we have available to ourselves today.

But like the products of my parents’ generation, such durability requires attention and care. I believe a big reason so many people are concerned about their children’s future is because they can almost feel our country’s core principles shaking beneath their feet.

We can’t let that happen. We can’t let Washington keep trading the time-tested tenets of our Constitution for whatever is new or shiny, appealing or expedient.

If we want our children to enjoy the same liberties and opportunities that we have, then we must protect the Constitutional principles that got us here.

That is why, with the recent vacancy on the Supreme Court after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, I introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives urging the Senate to only consider a nominee to the Supreme Court with a history of upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States, free from political bias or ideology.

The Senate has a Constitutional duty to vet and approve any nominee to the Supreme Court put forward by the President, but it also has a duty to only approve a nominee with a proven record of adhering to the restraints placed on the federal judiciary by the Constitution.

Recent decisions by the Supreme Court have cast doubt as to how closely today’s Court is adhering to the Constitution.

In light of this, and particularly at a time when many feel as if their country is slipping through their fingers, it is critical that we have staunch defender of the Constitution to take Justice Scalia’s place. Why? Because the American people must have the confidence that our Supreme Court Justices are bound — not by politics or an administration’s agenda — but by the Supreme Law of the Land.

The character of our country is valuable. Our core Constitutional principles are valuable. And as I learned from my parents, if we acquire something of such value, it deserves our utmost responsibility and attention. I want to pass down excellence in our Constitutional republic and, like an old family heirloom, polish and protect it so we can pass it on for generations to come.

Congressman J. Randy Forbes represents Virginia’s Fourth District, which includes Suffolk, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Visit his website at