: Buffy belongs to Joss. West Wing belongs to Aaron Sorkin and Warner Brothers. No infringement intended.National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC
July 4, 2003
Dawn Summers was tired of being dragged around. Ever since Sunnydale had collapsed into a sinkhole, over a month ago, the Scoobies had been on the road. And for the last bit, they hadn't even been heading toward Cleveland, where the next strongest Hellmouth was, or Scotland, where the most Council-owned land was. They were in Washington, DC. "And not even outside finding a good place to watch fireworks," she grumbled. They had been looking at museums.
Buffy pulled Dawn into a small, well-lit room, and turned her so that they faced each other. "We might watch fireworks, tonight, Dawn. But right now, we're going to do what we changed our plans last week to be able to do - look at the papers that are the basis of our nation on the anniversary of it's birth." She gestured to the other side of the room. "The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are both right over there."
"But Buffy, we went over these in school." Dawn whined.
Xander turned. "I'm sure that they did, Dawnie. But what they teach you in school is mostly what the words on paper say. What they don't teach you are the stories of these two documents - yes, I can use big words - and the people behind them that changed the world." He swallowed. "Less than a hundred people, over just about eleven years, changed the world, and changed it radically."
Buffy nodded. "First came the Declaration. For centuries - with a couple of exceptions, for millenia - the belief was that might made right. That whoever had the shock troops to control an area was sanctified by God to keep controlling it, and that their family was automatically the best qualified to run things. And then the King of England started doing things to keep the American colonies under his thumb, and to keep money coming into his coffers. His subjects tried everything that they could to stop him from acting like the Council with an eighteen year old Slayer, but nobody wanted to listen. So representatives from every state came together in Philadelphia, and they came out with the Declaration."
Giles took off his glasses and polished them. "It was written in large part by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, and it is possibly the best-written document of its type in existence." He looked around at everyone staring at him. "It was right for them, not for England," he muttered. Several snorts answered him.
"They started out by saying the right to decide who ran a country didn't come from royalty, or armies. It came from the people," Willow said. "They were the only people that had the right to say who was in control." She smiled. "They said that all men are created equal, and that everyone is endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"Once they did that, they listed the reason that they were breaking away from England, not least of which that they considered him a tyrant," Giles said. "They listed dozens of offenses. They tell how they tried to fix things, and how their overtures were rebuffed."
"And finally, they took a huge leap," Faith said. "These crazy guys that signed this - and what most people would call it when they signed it was a suicide pact -"
"Because if the British had caught them after they signed this, their lives and lands would have been forfeit," Willow broke in.
"- and these jokers pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the idea of an independent America." Xander took a breath. "And let me tell you, quite a few of them paid cash."
"And that's just the Declaration, the Constitution is on a whole other level," Buffy said, then halted, finally noticing the several men in black suits entering the room. The Scoobies moved into a defensive position, until they saw a man that they all recognized enter.
"Miss Summers?" Jed Bartlet inquired of Dawn. "What your sister and her friends have said is exactly right. The Declaration was dangerous, dangerous prose, and it had to be there to lay the foundations, but eleven years later, another forty men got together and put together a set of rules for us to go by while we ran this country. And these rules have lasted for two hundred and thirty years, with less than thirty changes to them, and ten of those in the first few years. And the reason it has worked so well, well you'll find it in the beginning, the Preamble:
"We, the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of Liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America."
"These guys were likely the smartest group, when it comes to government, ever, D," Faith said, her arms crossed. "And most of that is because they built things with the idea that we, humans, were going to be runnin' things, not some kinda supermen."
"They put things together so that there were three different branches of government. One to make the laws, one to enforce them, and one to interpret them - to decide if the laws were right and if people were abiding by them." Josh Lyman said. "This was a radical change. Instead of depending on a branch to police itself, each branch had some power, if it chose to use it. For instance, the President could send out the Army, but if Congress didn't like it, they could cut off funds, or the courts could decide that it was an unconstitutional act." He shook his head. "Just so crazy that it worked."
"Part of the reason that it worked were those first ten changes, the Bill of Rights," a balding man spoke up. "I'm Toby Ziegler."
"The Bill of Rights said, among other things, that we couldn't be forced to change our religion, like what happened all over Europe in the 1600's, and then happened again in Hitler's Germany," Willow said sadly. "It also said that we couldn't be stopped from exercising our right to express our ideas, in many different ways. It was meant to keep the rules loose, so that we could not be controlled by people as easily."
"They weren't perfect," Rona piped up from the rear. "Letting people own other people, and saying that black people were only worth 3/5 of a white people, big screw-ups." She sighed. "But sometimes you gotta take what's available, and if they didn't take that, there might not have been an America."
"And one of the smartest things they did was to put in a way to change things, because what's okay now may not be right ten years from now." Xander said.
"I agree," said President Bartlet. He then turned to Dawn, and said. "The Constitution is a contract between the American people and themselves about how we think things should be done." He sighed. "Literally millions of Americans, from rebels dressed in rags at Valley Forge, to Marines in Kevlar and flak jackets in Afghanistan, have given something, or everything, so that this way of running things, of doing things most of us want without stepping on the toes of the least of us. So it's very right, to spend today looking at what they were fighting for." He looked at his watch. "I'm due at the White House in a few. Ms. Summers, would you and your group like to join Abby and I for the fireworks? I'd like to join you at Arlington, tomorrow, to pay tribute to those who have gone before and given it all."
Buffy smiled widely. "I think we can fit you in."