Constitutional fundamentalists

The problem with both conservatives and liberals when it comes to the Constitution is that they are often like Christians in that, like Christians with the Bible, they tend to read into it what they want, ignore the parts they disagree with, and in fact probably have never read it in the first place.constitution_quill_pen

These “Constitutional Fundamentalists” are also very similar to religious ones in that when they do interpret the document, they always find that the unchanging and clear words in the document mean exactly what they already believed anyway.

You never see one of these people go “The Constitution is clear and unambigous and cannot be interpreted! We have to read it exactly as the founders intended! Unfortunately for me, it’s obvious that they intended something I disagree with.”

No, it’s always “We must obey the will of the founders who clearly wanted everyone to have an assault rifle without any restrictions whatsoever!”

 

Who cares what the Founding Fathers thought?

The Founding Fathers were a bunch of politicians, not too different from the politicians we have today (except that they were all rich white men). Some were tremendously intelligent people who deserve all the accolades they receive. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams — great men who did their best to create this great experiment.constitution_quill_pen

Others have been lost to history. William Blount? Alexander Baldwin? Pierce Butler? Some were mediocre men, who fought against giving people any power, who argued to keep slavery, who forced the great men into compromises like the 3/5ths clause and the 2nd Amendment in order to gain their votes.

You know — politics.

And that’s why it is so frustrating when the Constitutional Fundamentalists say that we should obey the “will of the Founders” when interpreting the Constitution.  Well, which Founders?  This wasn’t adopted unanimously, you know. To argue that we should never have a position about the Constitution based on who won is like saying we should never question Obamacare because hey, it got passed by some politicians so it’s gospel and cannot be challenged.

And that’s the key — I call these people Constitutional Fundamentalists because they view the document like it’s a religious holy book, handed down by the Founding Gods, and we should obey what the Founders said. (And, of course, 100% of the time, just like religious fundamentalists, these people know exactly what the Constitution means and it matches their own personal views perfectly! Isn’t that amazing!)

The Founders created a foundation for a building — the Constitution provides the very minimalist blueprint. “Freedom of Speech” it says, but it doesn’t go into any detail. Does it include libel and slander? Television and internet? Can you cause a riot and claim this freedom as a defense? Can you reveal military secrets and not get punished? The Constitution doesn’t say.

That means it has to be interpreted, just like it had to be within a few years of its passage, when the Supreme Court had to make decisions and Founding Fathers argued before members of the Court (who were also Founding Fathers) and they didn’t all agree! 

So with all respect to the great men who founded this nation, 230 years later, who cares what they thought? These were guys who thought you could cure diseases through bloodletting. They thought humans could be property, women should be close to property, and killing natives for land was perfectly fine.

This would be like trying to add air conditioning and heating to your home but being told “No, the original blueprints from 200 years ago don’t mention that, so you can’t do it.” We should not have our society limited, Amish-like, to a time that no longer exists.

Many religious fundamentalists already understand this. They already ignore the parts of the Bible they want to ignore, recognizing that something that was written so long ago should not guide modern thinking.

Somehow, Constitutional fundamentalists have yet to reach that stage.

 

 

 

What does it mean to be a patriot?

Many people claim to love America while hating the vast majority of people in it.  They threaten to commit violence against our government if they don’t get their way.  They moan about how immigrants and minorities are ruining our country and how, when whites become the minority, we will no longer be America.  And they think that these positions make them patriots.

That’s not patriotic.  That’s the opposite of what America is all about.  Remember “all men are created equal”?  Sam_Patriotic_Eagle_American_Flag-02md

Patriotism doesn’t mean loving your country unconditionally.  It’s not “love it or leave it” it’s “love it or make it something you love.”  It means working to change it when you disagree with it.

Part of the problem we have these days is that there are many people who hate government.  They love America and hate government.  They have poisoned the minds of many people into thinking that the government is the enemy, while forgetting that we are the government.  We, the people.  Those guys in Washington are just there to represent us, and if we actually get out and vote and participate, we can change them.

Often the loudest complainers are the ones who never vote, never write their representatives, and never lift a finger to make things better.  But when it comes to whining about how government doesn’t represent their interests, they’re right in front.

Other complainers are like religious fundamentalists — they are convinced that their interpretation of the (insert one:  Bible / Constitution) is the only one and everyone else is not only wrong but evil.  These people will often use violence to enforce their narrow views in the mistaken belief that they, and only they, are (holy / patriotic).  They, too, are anything but.

Politicians will sometimes point to farmlands and small rural towns as perfect examples of our “heartland” where true patriotic Americans live.  I feel patriotic when I walk down the streets of Manhattan, surrounded by people of all races, religions, and backgrounds, all living together in relative peace and harmony.   Interracial and gay marriages aren’t a sign of the downfall of America — it is the best example of how the American dream is being achieved.  Where all are created equal and treated equally and where we can set the stage for the rest of the world to see how it is possible to live together.

That’s patriotism to me.  Bringing us all together is patriotic.

Those who want to divide us are not supporting America.