With so many attack ads and vile personal issues plaguing this year’s elections—when there are even more vile policy issues we could be concentrating on—it’s heartwarming to remember why we vote at all. Sam Fink’s beautifully illustrated Constitution of the United States of America, in an impressive new edition by Welcome Books, reminds us of what is good and true about our country and what binds us together, no matter what the pundits or politicians say. As Fink comments below, “We have this government. Whether it functions well or not, it’s what we have. And it’s the Constitution that keeps us from going at each other’s throats.”
All images are copyright © Sam Fink, all rights reserved, and appear courtesy of Welcome Books. Images in the gallery above represent two book pages per web page.
You’ve had a lot of elections to vote in. What was the most difficult one?
Well, I was born into a Democratic family. I think I voted Democratic most of the time. But when Eisenhower came along—I had been a G.I., and I was working at the time for Young and Rubicam. And the president of Young and Rubicam, Sig Larmon, was a staunch Republican. He became a personal friend of Eisenhower; he used to go down and play bridge with Eisenhower on the weekends. He even wrote a poem for Mamie, Eisenhower’s wife, and he said to me, “Will you edit this and send it off?” So I did, and I got a nice little thank-you note. So I could vote for Eisenhower or Stevenson, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll go for a Republican this time.” But I didn’t.
What’s your favorite part of the Constitution?
In humor—though not because I like to drink, though I do a little, I’m not a teetotaler—when it came to Prohibition, I had fun putting a tear in the eye of that big black bird with the bottle wrapped in newspaper. And then, when Prohibition was repealed, it was fun inventing a bird with a long neck to go down and have a drink. I thought that would make a good poster for a tavern, the two of them, side by side, with a lot of history.
My other favorite is the 26th amendment, giving the vote to 18-year-olds. But they’re my children, these drawings, and I love them all. They’re in good hands in this edition. A friend I gave the book to called up; he said, “Sam! It’s funny!” I didn’t plan to do it the way I did, but there’s a lightness to it, and I think the lightness helped it get published.
Why did you make this book in the first place?
I’m a Jew, and for us there’s a book called “Ethics of the Fathers.” And one of the ethics is, pray for the government, because without a government we’d be at each other’s throats. And we’re seeing that right now in Iraq.
When President Nixon resigned, it went so smoothly. [Newsday columnist] Jimmy Breslin once gave a talk at a dentist’s society—a friend of mine is a dentist, he told me about it—and Jimmy based his talk on the night of Nixon’s resignation, when he was down in Washington. He said he went over to Pennsylvania Avenue so he could see what was going on in the White House. He said there were all these cars going by slowly, rubbernecking to see what was happening. And there’s only one police officer. He was saying, “Get going, get going.” Breslin said in another nation there would have been a revolution.
We have this government. Whether it functions well or not, it’s what we have. And it’s the Constitution that keeps us from going at each other’s throats.
What are you working on now?
I decided to copy the book of Exodus, in an abstract form—no pictures, just colors and skies. Forty different chapters with 40 different colored skies, with the Hebrew on one side and the English translation on the other. Welcome Books is probably going to publish it in 2007.
Here I am in my 90th year and I can’t understand how I still keep going. I’m a lucky man.