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Friday, June 27, 2008

A Commonplace Book

I don't suppose I have anything terribly interesting to say about The Brethren's recent pronouncement as to whether or not Americans have the right to bear arms. Turns out that they're gonna let us, at least for a while longer. Whew. Funny sort of how it's DC that instigated this latest crisis. The seat of governance, with its crack addict mayor and its zero tolerance for self defense. Bizarroland.

But there's one idea that struck me. The Bill of Rights. Isn't it supposed to, well, not grant rights, but spell out the explicit fact that we have them, certain unalienable rights? How is it then that the Second Amendment could possibly, could conceivably be used to limit our rights? Doesn't that sound absolutely insane? The Second Amendment is somehow interpreted by some of the Just-Us-es to mean that individuals do not have the right to bear arms? That right, of self-protection, derives from some permission of the state? It is a corporate right, depending on the existence of a well regulated militia? Because the Founding Fathers were syndicalists? who had a profound distrust of independence and self-sufficiency?

They sometimes come right out and say it. They don't believe in original intent. The Constitution is a living breathing penumbric thing, like a giant gasbag or hotair balloon or phagocytic amoeba, that expands and contracts according to the momentary digestive state of the ex-lawyer who happens to be squatting over the bench. It doesn't mean anything, it's just a guide book, like where to find a good meal, if you happen to crave, say, some Chicken Kiev.

Is that what the Constitution is? -- a recipe book that lets you whip up anything your palate fancies? Today abortion, tomorrow no guns? Funny. I took it for something more. Not just a scrapbook of carelessly gathered suggestions, a sort of Hints from Heloise that you might line the birdcage with, or frame, or whatever, just depending on the mood of the day. That's what living and breathing must be, they assure us; it means everything, they assure us and reassure us, all the while of course nodding sententiously and affirming that the Constitution is a Very Good Thing -- which it is, but it means Many Things to Many People, as has been proven decisively in these pages. But here, allow me to excerpt the salient passage of Justice Kennedy's opinion:

The Constitution means many things to many people. It is a very good thing. To some, it seems bad. To others it seems good. It means many things. Many people have different ideas about it. Some think it is good. Others think it is bad. It means many things. People like it, while other people do not. The different ideas that many people have about it mean many things to them. There are many opinions. Many people have opinions about this. It is a very good thing.
This is echoed by Souter, who wrote in eerily similar prose:

Gun control means many things to many people. It is a very good thing. To some, it seems bad. To others it seems good. It means many things. Many people have different ideas about it. Some think it is good. Others think it is bad. It means many things. People like it, while other people do not. The different ideas that many people have about it mean many things to them. There are many opinions. Many people have opinions about this. It is a very good thing.
So it's a good thing that the Constitution includes provisions whereby gun ownership is so clearly forbidden: unless there's a militia, which there isn't, there can be no guns. After all, isn't that what a Bill of Rights is for? To limit freedom? I don't know what's wrong with that tiny conservative majority on the court. Don't they get it? It's like that First Amendment, which is all about limiting the power of religious people, and excluding them from any influence in government. Separation of Church and State, dude -- it's spelled out right there, in those very Constitutional words. Can't your read? And the free press -- don't you see? The press is a group! The Constitution is all about groups, not individuals. Don't you get it? Just go down the list. You will find that the Constitution abhors the individual and exalts the village. Duh.

I can't wait till Obama makes those court appointments. It's time we moved back to a simpler way of doing things, a tribal way, with communal firepits that burn low-greenhouse-gas-emitting animal and human waste products, and where we can burn off all those carbs by hauling water in leather bags and clay pots. What's old is new again. My vision is almost perfect in its harmony. How can you tell? Cuz guns just don't fit into that idyllic tableau, now, do they.

We won't even need writing. Constitution? What's that? We'll just make it up as we go.


J

1 comment:

John said...

The odd thing about the "living" Constitution ground is that they don't seem to acknowledge that the Constitution can expand AND contract. They seem to think that a living Constitution only grows, but imagine telling them that an evolving standard now allows for warrantless wire taps and they will go into paroxysms of rage. This is why it is essential that the Constitution be a firm document read in its proper context. Let the legislature grow or shrink it through the appropriate channels.