Nov 15 2009
An article I read yesterday got me thinking about the U.S. constitution.
You can probably guess its source: the Onion. Another funny, spot-on parody.
Spurred by an administration he believes to be guilty of numerous transgressions, self-described American patriot Kyle Mortensen, 47, is a vehement defender of ideas he seems to think are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and principles that brave men have fought and died for solely in his head.
Imagine this argument:
The Constitution says “X.” Therefore, position “X” — my position — is the right one.
No, the Constitution says “Y.” Therefore, position “Y” — my position — is the right one.
I’d be tempted to step into the above and say,
Screw the Constitution. It’s an imperfect document. Tell me about your values instead, for that is what the issue really is. And while you are at it, convince me why your values should be preserved/embraced by this country.
“Screw the Constitution”? What kind of anarchism is that?! Actually, it’s freethought. As a freethinker I hold no idea or document to be above critical scrutiny. Just as I freely criticize what’s in the Bible, I will freely criticize another document that some people will present as sacred, particularly when they believe it supports their cause.
Of course, I would not scrap the Constitution. I would certainly consider further amending it. Yes, the U.S. Constition is an important and largely esteem-worthy piece of legislation and legislative history.
But it was written hundreds of years ago by men who lived in different times. Their culture was different; their economy was different; their technology was different; the threats to their peace and prosperity were different.
I don’t value the paper ideas are expressed upon. I value the ideas themselves. Or not. As I see it, the Constitution expresses and protects a set of values. These values are largely about a desired or preferred lifestyle. And I don’t mean lifestyle flippantly. Lifestyle means the freedom to engage in some behaviors and the prohibition to engage in others. Lifestyle includes the opportunities we want to preserve and obligations we consider important.
Maybe it’s the scientist in me. But whenever I hear a political disagreement, I really wish people would stop talking in abstracts and get to the nitty-gritty. Okay, you say you love freedom. But the freedom for what?