Unspun Logo

Who Are We Hurting?

Posted by Rick · March 24th, 2004 · No Comments

CBS News Online reports,

“All we are saying is, ‘Please, can’t we in our lives do this?'” said Rep. Barney Frank. “When I go home from today’s work and I choose because of my nature to associate with another man, how is that a problem for you? How does that hurt you?”

He drew no immediate reply from Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans supporting the proposed amendment.

Frankly, Mr. Frank, that’s because there is no sensible reply.

But that’s not going to stop America from completely changing the meaning and tone of the Constitution of the United States. Intended and written as a document which both set up a government and defined that government’s limitations, we are about to completely reverse the thrust.

In fact, without doing a thorough study of all the constitutions written since then, I can’t swear to this, but I believe it’s actually a change of the thrust of every constitution written since the Reformation, in every country.

Most constitutions today are modeled on the one that has been “the supreme Law of the Land” in the United States for more than 200 years. And — I have to say this again because the change we’re talking about making is so tremendous, so stupendous, so earth-shattering as to literally astound — that Constitution was intended to limit the government’s powers, abilities and rights, not the powers, abilities or rights of citizens.

You often hear people (even ignorant Supreme Court Justices who apparently cannot read) say of a right (for example, “privacy”) that “that’s not in the Constitution.” And this is given as a defense for the government’s intrusion upon that right. But this has things all backwards. It’s not just impliedly true that the Constitution recognizes that this is not a defense, either. The Constitution almost didn’t pass because some early Americans were concerned that something like what is happening today might happen because of the silence of the Constitution on the rights of the people. They knew that there were those in the world who would some day say, “That’s not in the Constitution” and then give that as a defense for government’s intrusion upon that right.

(It’s important to note that not everyone believed this. Many thought, naively, that people generally would not be so evil as to twist things up in that way. After all, they reasoned, the Constitution limits the government. And many still think today that it’s not of the utmost importance to guard against a despotic tendency in even the most democratically-structured governments.)

In order to placate these people who feared what the government of the United States could become, the Bill of Rights was developed. And thanks to that Bill of Rights — the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution — the Constitution was ratified and the United States of Amerca was born.

At the time of the Bill of Rights, everyone knew that it would be impossible to spell out all the possible rights of the citizens (and, also, of the separate states that formed the union, but I’ll write about that another time). So the 10th Amendment — the last at that time — states,

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

And ever since then, constitutional amendments have been used to correct and prevent the government’s abrogation of those rights which had been reserved to the people; those rights which had not been expressly detailed in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The only exception to this — ever — was Prohibition, the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol. This was a commercial right; it didn’t even ban the drinking of alcohol, although that was no doubt the intent, since if you couldn’t manufacture, sell, or transport it, it would be tough to find any to drink. And this was such a dismal mistake that it was repealed soon thereafter by the 21st Amendment.

The Constitution does not attempt to delineate all the rights, powers, or freedoms of the citizens because the fact of the matter is that the people of a truly free and democratic society have too many rights to be listed in a single document. And as the world changes, new situations arise. A document which purported to list all the rights of the citizens would soon fail because there would be things people would naturally wish to do in an evolving world that could not be known at the time of any such original listing of rights.

Now, however, for the first time — probably since the Reformation — the United States of America, which literally “wrote the document” on freedom, has begun to consider transforming the Constitution from a document which limits the power of government to a document which limits the power of the governed.

These are sad and dangerous times in which we live. And it’s not the terrorists who destroy buildings and injure and kill some of us whom we should fear. It’s the terrorists within our own government who destroy institutions and injure and kill our freedoms who will cause us the most damage. This, unlike same-sex marriage, is a problem for all of us. It hurts all of us.

Categories: Constitutional Issues


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment