In the last two months of George W. Bush’s eight-year term as President of the United States, as President-Elect Barrack Obama assembles his cabinet, perhaps now is a good time for the American people to take a refresher course in United States history. Writer Jonathan Hennessey, a ten-year veteran of the film and television industry, along with artist Aaron McConnell, a freelance illustrator and author of several of his own comic books, including TheYoung PUPS and Black Gesso, have taken it upon themselves to offer the first lesson: The United States Constitution.
Published during the sweat-inducing final weeks of the U.S. presidential election, this graphic novel not only provides an easy-to-understand translation of the historical American document, but it presents the struggle our Founding Fathers endured in order to write it, so that elections like the one Obama, the first African-American to be elected Commander-in-Chief, could take place.
Hennessey and McConnell adapt the often hard-to-understand document into comic book form so that they can explain its concepts. The writing and illustrations are simple yet effective in bringing understanding to some of the most misunderstood U.S. laws, such as the process for voting on elected officials, how a bill is passed into law, and the “Bill of Rights”. It also points out common misconceptions, such as the belief that the word “democracy” is present in The Constitution. It is not.
When presented as a graphic novel, The United States Constitution becomes much more than the guidelines by which a country abides. It becomes a story that gives the readers a historical perspective of how much America has gone through to obtain and maintain its freedom and a clearer understanding of why it’s so important to hold our political leaders accountable for what they do. After all, isn’t it a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”?
The Founding Fathers had their flaws, and Hennessey and McConnell reflect those flaws in their work. Racism, sexism and anti-Semitism are all part of America’s history. Of course, times have changed and Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and the rest of the Founding Fathers prepared for that change, creating a document which has been adaptable over the years. Hennessey and McConnell provide examples of contradictions and repeals, reflecting a changing American society.
At present, the American conscious has grown weary and numb from eight years of 9/11 scare tactics, public deceit, the War on Terror, and a plague of abuse and corruption. Before Obama is sworn in as the next U.S. President in January, let Hennessey and McConnell’s The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation be your refresher course.