ADA PILAR CRUZ
Personally, as I write I feel I am "arming myself" with knowledge of my rights as a person living in this country. Further, I find this quiet writing to be meditative. And, in this way, I also find the process relative to that of prayer. Perhaps I write as a prayer that the values on which this country was founded be upheld and that the rights promised to the people in this country be ensured. Since writing, I have found myself in conversations with others about our rights, those explicit in the constitution and those which are under fire everyday--- specifically, our freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom to a fair and speedy trial; and the system of checks and balances.
FILM EDITOR, ARTIST
It was a meditative experience. There was almost no talking. Participants were bent to their task - quietly handwriting a portion of their own choosing, working separately around the library tables, yet together. In these times when the Constitution seems in peril, it felt as if we were carrying out a gesture of rescue and preservation - and recommitment.
At first it may seem like time has slowed down and you might have to stay for hours just to finish copying the constitution on pieces of paper but over time as you are reading over what you wrote down you probably learned most of the Constitution because you wrote it down. Even if you have not finished writing it you should know it well.
Copying the first ten amendments, I was struck by the fact that these are my rights. As I wrote them out word by word, they became more personal, as if they were written for me. And then I realized - they were.
AMY BROOK SNIDER
EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT, PROFESSOR EMERITA
I began by copying the Amendments rather than the Constitution, a mistake which turned out to be very timely. As a red-diaper baby I have to admit once again that I am amazed at the prescience of our founding fathers, while at the same time, I found it extremely tiring handwriting such a long document now that I do most of my writing on the computer. Despite my fatigue, the experience of writing together in that great quiet room seemed to be a statement of affirmation in these troubling times.
"Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I may remember, Involve me and I learn." Benjamin Franklin
Handwriting the Constitution (our Constitution made it seem personal, real. For me, the weight of this act, this politics of self-awareness, arose from the choosing of ledger paper as a writing surface. It forced me to consider each letter as I formed it within the square and then each word that came form the accumulation of letters and then the meaning that arose as words connected.
It was a meditation for me, giving me a strong feeling of self confidence thanks to the knowledge I was getting out of it. I have been an American citizen for two years.
Writing each word out by hand allowed me to start to truly understand the document. Article 1, Section 2, 3: was disturbing to read about the terms "free persons"..."those bound to service"...:excluding Indians"...and :3/5th" ... This is the reality of an ugly part of this country. I will continue to copy the document on my own.
Several hours into handwriting the Amendments to the Constitution (dated 1789) and I have yet to reach the 19th Amendment - Women's Suffrage Rights. In 2017, it is painful to realize that the majority of elected officials at the higher branches of government are, and continue to be, men.
After watching a performance of political satire by the SF Mime Troupe, several us dove into the project of making a handwritten copy of the Constitution. It helped that we're active so share an interest in preserving our form of democracy. We were able to share one paper copy by having one person serve as a reader with the rest of us transcribing those words. Also I've asked the ACLU to send me 50 additional copies since I'd like to try it as a silent writing exercise as a group with discussion afterwards. Today's effort sparked a deep discussion about the mechanics of our government; a discussion that would not have happened for us without the inspiration of the Constitution writing project.
Handwriting the constitution was a pivotal event for me for several reasons. It was very healing to sit with others in The NY Public Library to quietly practice writing the constitution, among others working in the library. It felt like this is what democracy is. It was a quiet way to come to terms with what was happening in our country. It felt like a form of meditation on our democracy and what it means to be a citizen. As an artist, the writing felt like drawing. It was a way to contain the strong feelings of what we were experiencing. To be in a huge room, a library, among many people of various nationalities was calming and supporting. To study the constitution by writing it gave me a sense of the time and space that made it happen in the first place. I had an aha moment when I realized that women’s suffrage, the 18th Amendment / 1920 / came into being after prohibition. It was a shock.
I was especially struck by the phrase “insure domestic Tranquility.” For the first time I was able to feel more tranquil about the state of affairs by reaffirming the core values of our country through handwriting the Constitution. Copying the Constitution as a drawing, I felt in touch with the core values of our country and was able to shut out the noise of the current political crisis.
Currently in the midst of reading Ron Chernow's fantastic biography of Hamilton, it has been quite interesting studying the concepts Hamilton lent to the authors of the Constitution - mostly Madison and Jefferson - ideas Hamilton went on to support in ratification of the new Constitution.
There is nothing like drawing in order to see. Likewise, there is nothing like writing in order to understand. Writing the Constitution made me realize that it is vast and thorough, full of specifics. If we could simply abide by the law, we have the potential to un-do the wrong, take steps to correct mistakes that have been made.
We the people
in order to form a more perfect union
promote general welfare
secure the blessings of liberty.
I was surprised by the tension in the text. The sense of reconciling difference was more obvious to me while inscribing the words by hand as opposed to reading them. I felt a transmission of labor from a group of people trying to come to an agreement.
I wanted to be a part of the project for three reasons:
1. I am a form of poet and love repetition; 2. I believe the basic tenets of our government should be felt through with the mind and body; 3. I find that reminders of being part of a collective are sacred and awe-inspiring.
PAT DE MARCO
I didn't get too far in the writing. It became more and more about the words and their meaning than the process of copying. It was a meditative experience as I wrote and stopped to reflect on just what those words mean and their impact on me and my country.
As I copied line by line, the words really sunk in, and I imagined myself 240 years ago. The ideas behind the words truly struck me as I understood how the founding fathers tried to prevent corruption, tried to anticipate every potential act of mutiny or treason. - and I felt powerful taking these words and ideas into my consciousness - and at the same time devastated, understanding that even with all the precautions in the world, it is still possible to uproot everything that is just and fair.
We sat in the beautiful reading room for a couple of hours, light pouring in from the upper windows, quietly working together, looking up periodically at each other, copying, drawing, looking, thinking. It was peaceful, but also a statement of action and rebellion. Perfect.
Handwriting the Constitution calms me down. It is difficult to remain calm in the face of the constant flow of information and disinformation flooding us through the news, social media and conversation, the harsh realities of current politics with such regular doses of outrageous words and situations. Handwriting the Constitution calms me down, takes me back to essentials, hopeful thinking, positive vision. Passing the legal document through my hands and mind word for word has a surprisingly grounding effect on me.
As I re-penned “We the People,” I felt calm. My 7th grade teacher made my class memorize the preamble in the 1980s. I imagined her low voice meld each syllable into a poem. Now I sensed “the Blessings of Liberty” as a fierce, fragile organism. Warmth moved into my hands and feet. My breath deepened.