Thursday, January 3, 2013

This goes out to you, Dr. Franklin

Apparently there are thought to be some problems with our religious feelings about the U.S. Constitution, according to Thers and Georgetown professor Louis Michael Seidman:
Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?
I would like to say that no constitution is foolproof, and when the fools constitute the majority, whether in the Supreme Court or the House of Representatives or both, the problem is as it were metaconstitutional. Nevertheless our Living Constitution certainly is, if not downright dead, at least pretty frail, and there's no reason we shouldn't consider shopping around for a fresher one. Herewith, a proposed

  • We the uninvited representatives (let's get that out of the way first thing, and if you don't like it you can litigate it, or hold a plebiscite, or something)
  • of the people of the United States (and by "the people" I do not mean "the states" or "the white men" or "the imaginary universal militia" or "the people and their foetuses", but just citizens of the country by birth or naturalization, meaning that all of them have been born)
  • in humble recognition that our Union is far from perfect (whatever making it "more perfect" may have meant in 1788, it sounds totally fatuous now, in addition to being, as your fourth-grade teacher may have told you, less than standard English),
  • that justice is hardly available to all (especially to those who can't afford high-class lawyers), 
  • that domestic tranquility is provided only to some (especially those who can pay privately for their own security), 
  • that our common defenses are far too commonly turned to the offense of others (we'll try the specific language again here, but don't get your hopes too high for it working), 
  • that the general welfare is nowhere near as general as it needs to be, 
  • and that the blessings of liberty (which, as they say, ends where the other person's nose begins)
  • are fast slipping away to forces that our old Constitution doesn't deal very well with, to be lost if not in our time then certainly in that of our posterity if we don't do something about it soon, 
  • do ordain and establish and institute and otherwise kick off (because a little redundancy is a tradition here)
  • this here Constitution for doing these things better in the United States of America.
N.B. Nothing in this document is to be regarded as inspired by, emulating, or otherwise under the influence of any deity, demiurge, totem ancestor, muse, Norn or Valkyrie, prophet, sybil, or angel, or other wholly or partly supernatural entity. This particularly applies to the Hebrew Ten Commandments, which have played no role in the composition of the work, even though we are coincidentally much opposed to oath breaking, theft, and murder. Disrespecting our parents and coveting our neighbor's ox or his or her ass are problems too, but we don't think the Constitution should go there. Besides, be honest, haven't you ever coveted somebody's ox? As for Sabbath observance, you can just forget about it. If you think parent-honoring, non-covetousness, and Sabbath observance are in our old Constitution, go right ahead, it's a free country, but they are not in this one.

Any other suggestions?
Image from the 92nd Street Y, which is actually doing a re-constitutional convention thingy this summer.

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