WE THE PEOPLE
There is so much talk coming from the right wing today about just how much the brilliant, unchanging and rigidly wonderful U.S. Constitution is to live by, and how its strict unchanging definitions and meaning must be kept fully applied as they were written. Have these people ever heard of the amendments? In fact, the body of the Constitution is seldom mentioned at all in today’s discussions, but the amendments are discussed all the time. The amendments are the changes that have been made to the Constitution since it was written because times changed, society changed, the culture changed, and the world changed. Everything must change or die, or be passed by. There have been 27 changes to the grand document of freedom (the first ten were passed when the Constitution was originally ratified). Since it was ratified state by state through1791. The 24th in 1964, the 25th in 1967, the 26th in 1971, and the 27th in 1992. This document (the Constitution) is constantly being changed and there are quite legal ways to go about that, not to mention politically supported. Almost all discussions, with respect to the document, are about the amendments. The first amendment is probably discussed more than any of the others, giving Americans the right to free speech, freedom from religious oppression and also a nearly unfettered free press.
These documents that support the original Constitution are not the property of the left or right. These documents are all our own. Strict interpretation is as ridiculous as the rather free-wheeling nature and broad span these changes would seem to reveal. The country of America is greater than the sum of its parts, of which the Constitution is only one…and it is a rather ragged changing one at that if history is any judge.
Case law rules the United States justice system. Judges, magistrates, and appeals courts make decisions about current and past laws, including the Constitution of the United States. The opinions of those men and women, sitting in those robes, effects change in how the written laws are interpreted. At one time, for example, shouting (falsely) fire in a crowded theater would have been perfectly legal under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. Today, after many court decisions, including those of the Supreme Court, it is generally agreed that such actions which potentially cause grievous bodily harm or death to many go beyond the protection provided by the First Amendment. That happened because of case law interpretations.
These court cases and decisions are considered apolitical in nature. Neither the left side or the right side of the body politic should be claiming that such things are endemic to their party or belief system. The Constitution changes over time. Amendments are abrupt and major shifts in how the original document is to be interpreted, while case law causes smaller and gentler changes to occur all over the nation.
Presidents, parties, and belief systems have come and gone over time through the turbulent history of the United States. The current party and leader in the White House are not stirring any more violent reactions or general ill feelings than having cater-walled through the corridors of the White House and Congress over the past hundreds of years. At one time congressmen dueled to death over strong belief differences. At times, they have beaten each other with sticks and ax handles, while in the very halls of Congress they were elected to serve. Riots have crisscrossed the nation before, during and after wars. Veterans have marched on Washington and been killed demanding care and rights.
The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” but in the reality of yesterday’s (and now today’s) world, there is no self-evidence of such things. The Constitution means what people reading and interpreting want it to mean, just like the Bible. Those people who put their whole trust in any document, including the U.S. Constitution and the Bible, make a serious mistake simply because those writings (or scripture) are interpreted by men and women. Men and women are flawed, craven, lying, manipulating and self-centered, to say the least. The population must hold to a center of core values and use those books and written instruments to help govern how those core values will be adhered to by the greatest number, but also how those core values may be violated by individuals and punished. The people must stand and proclaim themselves to be the standard, and then use the documents and writings to support that center, not make it. And we must all accept change in everything. We are responsible for making most of it and those things we are not responsible for we will certainly be held accountable for. The winds of change are blowing at gale force through the canyons of our lives. We must ride those winds by gauging how they change in both speed and direction.