Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Have you ever read the Constitution?

“Have you ever read the Constitution?” a simple question that I have been asking around. Quizzing 25 or so folks, I found 1 who had taken the time to read the thing. I decided a couple of days ago to read it. Figuring that it would take some time, seeing how we have so many “things” associated with constitutional law. Like the Supreme Court interprets the constitution: whole college law school courses in constitutional law: etc.etc. Well its only 25 pages in word, or 8,800 total or so words. Yep the whole thing takes about a half hour to read, and that includes all the amendments, and it’s in pretty plain English. I find the owner’s manual of a 2002 Ford Focus to be much harder to understand, and of course no one reads them either. The same 25 when asked about the Bible, said that they have read it extensively and have “studied” great parts of it, and were able to come up with several memorized passages.

Let me digress. What started this line of thought was something a religion professor (Miss. Ruth I. Martin) told me in college. “Just because someone published a book, does not necessarily mean that they know what they are talking about.” I thought of this when I was listening to the news and several times I heard “The Constitution, says this or that, or does not say that,” you get the drift here. These appeared to be pretty smart people, they were Professors of this and that at here and there, or they were some Senator from some state other than NC, or they were associated with facilities that sounded like “The Institute For Strategic Study of the United States of America Constitution”. I was running along with the other lemmings, headed for the conclusion that the speaker wanted me to conclude, when Miss Martin came to mind. Does this person really know what he is talking about? So I got on line and read the Constitution, including the amendments, and I concluded that they did not know what they were talking about, but in fact were hoping that I was stupid, and would follow their agenda.

I decided to do a little reading, and studying on my own. I started with Roe v Wade, because there was also a discussion on this because of the new Justice nominee. In reading the ruling they heavily relied on the first, and fifth amendments to conclude that it was OK to do abortions. I have reprinted them here so you do not have to look them up:

1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
5. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

That’s not a synopsis, it’s the whole amendment. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they came up with the conclusion that they came to. Doesn’t that part that says “nor be deprived of life, liberty, …, without due process of law;” kind of say the exact opposite. They also mention a ruling from a case called Griswold that I thought made interesting reading and again did nothing to advance their conclusion it said:
"It is true that, in Griswold, the right of privacy in question inhered in the marital relationship. Yet the marital couple is not an independent entity, with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals, each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup. If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child." Id., at 453.”

Couldn’t that part that says “it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” To read “it is the right of the individual, internal or external, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as to whether they were allowed to live”. I did not mean for this to become a debate over R v W, just an exercise in the Constitution, what it says, and what folks have argued what it meant. It may mean just what it says in the simplest terms, life, liberty etc.

Ok enough on that. A study also opens up many doors for investigation. Did you know that we have a Republic, and not a Democracy? In a Republic we elect officials to go and make decisions on laws for us. In a Democracy we would vote on each law ourselves. Now when we start to study Republic we have to read the Federalist Papers by James Madison. Of particular interest is number ten, which deals with “Factions.” In #10 he says that “common people’s decisions are affected by their self-interest.” It is interesting to note that even in 1785 it was recognized that most folks have an agenda. Which brings me back, after long rambling, to my original thought, the guy on TV might not know what he is talking about, but he wants me to agree with him and join his thought process, and jump on his agenda.

I have found over the years that if you say something loud and long enough, people will believe it to be true. It also helps to be official looking, or have an official title. I got a kick out of our current president, (I know it’s supposed to be capitalized, but I chose not to.) When he was running for election he always had some sort of placard on his podiums. Like “The Democratic Candidate for President”, or “Office of the President Elect” Every day he, or one of his minions, and by that I mean his employees, and most of the news and media, are telling us things in hopes that we will believe them. “We are saving jobs,” as unemployment goes to record levels, “we do not what to run a car company,” as the government takes over GM, “We do not want to run Banks,” as they take over the banks, “No taxes on the middle class.” As they pass an energy bill that raise energy taxes.

Now what does all that have to do with the Constitution, well I read the thing and nowhere did I find that the government has the rite, as laid out in the Constitution to do any of the things that they have done lately, and hope to do in the future. "First they came…" is a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not protest;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.

The Nazis were the “National Socialist” Party. I can’t help but think that America, the one that I know is headed down a road that may not be easy to turn from. Socialism grew in Germany because of the bad economy, the Nazis improved it by spending and nationalizing most of the industry. Remember what your president said, “We are going to take the wealth, and spread it around.” He also said in a campaign speech: "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." Sort of like the Red Guard or the SS. You might spend some time reading the Constitution, and then go back to the Bible, as that may be part of our only hope.

Exit soapbox.

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