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I’m not a constitutional lawyer and I don’t even pretend to know the document like some people, but I still have some simple and exactingly dumb questions of those who do seem to know a lot more than I do.
As I thumb through my hand-size copy of the Constitution, courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union, I have a feeling a lot of folks who pledge allegiance to the document don’t really understand that it’s a blueprint for a republican form of government, written soon after a war with an imperial power under the direction of an evil king.
The document spells out how to be very different from an imperial power under the direction of an evil king. But from there, the document is anything but specific when relating freedoms imagined in 1787 to the plethora of freedoms we endure today, many of them related to our roles as consumers in the corporate state rather than citizens of a sovereign democratic state.
There are seven Articles chock full of Sections that describe in both fitting and vague detail the duties and powers vested in Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court, the powers and duties of the states, the process for amending the Constitution, and said allegiance to “This Constitution…”
It’s a blueprint and it was written a long, long time ago. It says in Article 1, Section 2 that representation shall be determined by counting the number of free Persons (whites) while excluding Indian people but recognizing that all other Persons (slaves) should be counted as three-fifths of a citizen.
That historical language is still in there, that Indian people are non-persons and that slaves are three-fifths of a person. I include those facts simply to note that those folks who want to interpret the Constitution in a very fundamental way, like religious folks who want to interpret the Bible in a very fundamental way, are missing the boat by a few centuries. A document written in 1787 can’t be taken literally.
Our Founding Fathers’ judgment of human content in order to define political representation had to be an interesting discussion. Counting free Persons while excluding and reducing the numerical value of others. Yes, this document, this Constitution, was written long, long ago by people who very likely could not have conceived of a future nation with a defense budget that eats up half of federal revenues, corporations that possess more wealth than the states, the boob tube and even more addictive internet vices, and guns that rattle off shots faster than a “well regulated militia.”
And for all those New Conservative Neanderthal Party (NCNP) affiliates, those who decry the scientific method and rational thought as godless voodoo, well, try this on for size, quoted from Article 1, Section 8: “The Congress shall have the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts…”
Hey, folks, we’re certainly dropping the ball on that one. There are no what-ifs in that section. Should we get to work and develop a sustainable energy policy, a moon-landing moment, so to speak? The Constitution seems to say that we have the authority to demand that of our Congress.
And in these days of school shootings and endless free speech, I can’t ignore the latitude, the vagueness of several of our most important amendments.
Since when did the First Amendment mean that entities other than a live citizen have freedom of speech, and since when did the Second Amendment mean live citizens can load up on as many weapons as they want under the auspices of “a standing militia”?
The notion of the right to bear arms is directly related to the notion that every citizen could be called upon to execute the laws of the nation, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions. I don’t see shooting and killing 20,000 fellow citizens a year as a basis for the right to keep and bear arms. The militia isn’t quelling an insurrection or repelling an invasion—looney tunes with guns are shooting up our society.
I know these two cornerstones of the Bill of Rights are seemingly untouchable, but dumb questions certainly are protected by the Constitution as well. The way I see it, let the dumb questions flow.
I’m sorry, but in 1787 there was no idea that Monsanto would have the same rights to free speech as does the farmer forced to buy their genetically modified seeds to make food products that affect the health of the people. Free speech has been changed to mean that any corporate entity has the right to produce and sell violent video games and pornography. It gives an organization like the NRA or Karl Rove’s PAC the right to spew falsehood and deceit.
Parents today fully understand that “freedom to choose” is not a freedom at all. Freedom has become a burden to folks trying to rein in the modern notion of parenting in a society gone mad with consumer excess. I’m certainly glad that I was able to raise my kids before the onslaught of cell phones and video games and Facebook. Is there freedom in being constantly barraged with minute-by-minute updates from a Twitter account, the constant notice of another text message coming in?
I have used the dumb question very successfully at Tea Party rallies, at the GOP booth at the state fair, and in my visits with rabid gun enthusiasts. And even though the recipients of the dumb questions provide plenty of hollow rhetoric as they meander around their backwards ideology in search of an answer, they still answer the larger question I was seeking via the dumb question.
They don’t know what they’re talking about.
The way I see it, many people who wrap themselves in the Constitution don’t know what they’re talking about either.