(The Pilot) If you can keep WHAT, exactly?

Legend has it that on his way out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was approached by some colonials (some legends say a single woman, and some say a group of people – in either case, the result is the same). The colonials asked Ben (we’re friendly with the Founders here) what kind of government he and the other fine gentlemen of the Convention had given them. Ben is rumored to have told the inquirers, “A republic — if you can keep it.”[1]

You’re probably wondering a few things right now, like, “Wait, don’t we have a democracy?” (Technically, no.) “Is Ben Franklin the guy with the kite and the key?” (Yes.) “Are you being serious right now?” (Kinda.) And — most importantly for this post — “So what?”

We’re here doing this because we believe that not everyone gets the civics education that they need to understand and participate in active citizenship. We (the country as a whole) have all but forgotten what it means to be an American, and we’ve forgotten how we got here. In a world full of clickbait, slogans, and sound-bytes, where thrilling reality TV and ratings are more important than actual information, we thought it would be a good idea to reteach ourselves basic civics and drag you all along for the ride.

This is not a political podcast, although it relates to politics. The creators of the podcast fall all over the political spectrum, and we think that it’s more important to have a quality conversation than it is to agree. We believe that it’s possible to entertain and explore an idea without necessarily agreeing on it. That said, we’re sure our personal politics will creep in as we have these conversations. That’s okay too. We’re sisters, so we’ve been having these conversations for quite some time and neither of us has declared war on the other yet.

To put it plainly, we are two semi-qualified, grown-ass women with better shit to do, trying to muddle our way through the civics education that not everyone gets. The good news is that at least one of us did get it.

Sam, our resident attorney who is not here to offer any legal advice whatsoever[2], was a history nerd from the moment she appeared on the scene on that summer day in the late 80’s. After an illustrious education in our suburban town, she went on to become a poli-sci major at a private conservative college, where her studies focused intensely on political philosophy and a detailed review of the Founding. She is the one who pointed Amanda in the direction of the primary sources we’ll be working from in at least the first several episodes of IYCKI.

Amanda has been politically active for as long as we can remember. The minute she understood that “justice” was a concept (likely back in the early 80’s), she’s been fighting for it. Struck by the defiant anti-authoritarianism experienced by most teenagers, Amanda was not super interested in government or civics as taught in most high schools. But her experience, first at a private liberal arts college, and then at a Methodist seminary, gave her a unique perspective on the world and how different it can look to different people — especially when it comes to the workings and treatment of the government. Amanda recently realized that she does not have the same background in why our government is set up the way it is (which can be super frustrating for someone advocating for change), and that’s what prompted her to create the concept behind IYCKI.

So, here we are. We’re two sisters, partially middle-eastern and partially eastern European, both raised in the same middle-class suburban household, both with very different higher educations and very different politics. We’re here to learn from each other and teach each other a thing or two, and we invite you to join us for it all.

For the first few episodes, we’ll focus on some of the early Founding documents and the influences behind them. Most of the documents can be found here. If the documents we discuss aren’t listed there, you can find them by a simple internet search of the author’s name and the title of the document we’re discussing. We’ll do our best to update the list of documents as we go along.

[1] This is the legend as we know it from several different sources. If you’ve heard the facts differently, that’s cool, too. You know what they say: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. And by “they,” of course, we mean the brilliant writers of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (a fantastic 1962 film starring John Wayne. You should watch it.).
[2] Ahoy! A disclaimer: Sam is a lawyer, but nothing that Sam says here should be taken as legal advice. If she says or writes something that you find helpful when it comes to understanding laws or legal concepts, that’s great! But this is a personal podcast, and the views Sam expresses here are her own and are not those of her employer, other lawyers, bar associations, or other people. Sam knows some things, but there’s plenty she doesn’t know. If you need actual legal advice about something, you should talk to a lawyer instead of just listening to a podcast.