On September 17, 1787 (two hundred, twenty-nine years ago today), the U.S. Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, PA. One of its important compromises –between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan— allowed states to be represented both by population (The House of Representatives, favoring the larger states) and by same number of votes per state (The Senate, leveling the playing field for smaller states.) The Constitution was ratified by conventions in eleven states and was adopted (went into effect) in 1789. It is the longest living Constitution in the world.
The beauty of the U.S. Constitution is it is alive; It allows for changes of itself through amendments— for example, the abolition of slavery (13th), and prohibiting denial of women the right to vote (19th)—and it is interpreted to fit the lives of people in the present moment to allow for freedoms as yet unconceived by its writers and ratifiers. (Its freedoms are often hard won such as in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional; and Giddeons v FL (1961) allowing the accused to obtain a public defender.) Yale Law Professor and Constitutional scholar Akhil Amar said about the Constitution, “It is this epic, flawed, spectacular conversation” and “it’s the job of our generation to make it more perfect still.”
Psychoanalysis, too, is a flawed and spectacular conversation. It, too, is governed by a set of principles and procedures, and like the U.S. Constitution, is a sacred forum for struggle and negotiation where the state of the self is improved, made richer because of increased accessibility to experience and emotion, and made freer as well by being so enriched. It is through struggle and argument that our country is made better. Sometimes I think the conversation of psychoanalysis, like the voice of the vote, ought to be a basic right. But who will provide and who will pay for such a service?