Certain folks in Congress have been posturing lately (What? No!). These folks are proposing changes to the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Fourteenth Amendment, regarding who should be granted U.S. citizenship. While the urge behind this bit of posturing has been of the mean-spirited, punitive sort, it's set me to thinking about Constitutional change.
The writers and signers of the Constitution were wise enough to realize that the world they inhabited wasn't likely to be the world that we in the 21st century would inhabit. So they provided for Constitutional change, by these methods:
Proposing changes -
- A change could be proposed by an up vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress
- Or by a Constitutional convention composed of two-thirds of the states and affirmed by three-fourths of the state legislatures or conventions
Ratifying changes (four methods) -
- proposal of convention ratified by vote of the state conventions
- proposal of convention ratified by vote of the state legislatures
- proposal by Congress ratified by state conventions
- proposal by Congress ratified by state legislatures
The founders, then, made it possible but somewhat difficult to provide Constitutional change. This has led, I think, to the current Supreme Court vogue of "strict constructionism," which I think goes against the intent of the founders. Strict constructionism is an attempt to treat the Constitution in the same manner as religious fundamentalists treat the various religious texts - as unvarying and perfect.
The problem with this tack on Constitutional interpretation - beside the fact that the Constitution is a secular document, not a religious one - is that our U.S. society changes, due to:
- external forces - one example is the trend to globalization, to which the U.S. must respond, politically, socially, and economically
- internal forces - certainly the U.S composed of thirteen states has a reality dramatically different from that of fifty states - one of which isn't even on the North American continent
- technological changes - these affect travel, the threat of war, the health of U.S. citizens
- sociological changes - when the U.S. was formed, the nation was primarily agrarian. In the 20th century, livelihoods came primarily from industrial and business sources. That is, the people worked largely for others, their well-being dependent almost totally on the vagaries of the business world. Business in the 21st century has shunted much of its work force aside, along with employee benefits. Now a large segment of the U.S. work force must fend for itself, but without the benefits of agrarian self-determination or the ancillary benefits the business world used to attract and retain workers.
The U.S. has done little to respond to these changes in a Constitutional manner over the past quarter-millennium, and the current tendency to the so-called strict constructionism exacerbates the disparity between the Constitution's declarations and current human needs and realities.
So I say to those wanting Constitutional change:
But in doing so, the tack toward mean-spiritedness must go away. The Constitution was originally a document affirming human rights as they applied to self-determination and a secure and vital Union. These declarations were meant to encourage national unity, but tempered by human compassion, not a punitive rub-their-noses-in-the-dirt ethos.
Since the urge for such change must come from some person or place, I'm going to raise my hand and go first.
In random future posts, I'm going to propose, if not exact wording for Constitutional changes, statements of the direction in which I feel such changes must be made.
Causes Bob Mustin Supports
Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.