The Sacred Text

ConstitutionSometimes the hypocrisy of the right wing makes me want to run screaming into the night.

Conservatives are ideologically bound up in the defense of the nation’s Constitution.  It is often portrayed as a sacred text of sorts that no one dare suggest is less than perfect.  During the 2008 election, when the tape of Obama saying in 2001 that he thought the Constitution was flawed was revealed, the political right went into an apoplectic rage.   And heaven help anyone who suggests the 2nd Amendment might need to be reeled in a bit in a world of high tech weaponry the founding fathers couldn’t have possibly envisioned.

Yet it is these same people who are trotting out proposals to repeal the 14th Amendment, reintroduce the original unratified 13th Amendment, and add Amendments to prohibit gay marriage and outlaw flag burning.  It seems that when they don’t like what the Constitution says it becomes a living malleable document.  But when Liberals find it lacking they are treasonous malcontents.

The recent push to repeal the 14th Amendment is particularly interesting.  The heart of the effort is to remove the right of anyone born on U.S. soil to automatically become a US citizen.  The thinking is that this would reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming into the country and having so-called anchor babies.  There’s reasonable rationale for this proposal.  Back when the Amendment was ratified in 1868, this was a different country.  We were still growing.  We were just recovering from a civil war that devastated our population.  In a very real sense, we needed all the new Americans we could get.  Further, back then international travel was a long and arduous process.  No one came here casually and had a baby as they were passing through.

Times are different now.  Traveling here is a trivial matter.  And we are not at a point where we need a huge influx of citizens.  A higher barrier to citizenship might be very appropriate to our current situation.  Mind you, I’m not advocating for this one way or the other.  I’m just saying this idea bears some thoughtful debate and consideration.

However, it strikes me that the same situation exists with the 2nd Amendment.  The world that passed that clause was one in which a local militia of farmers with muskets might reasonably thwart a professional army.  It made sense to keep an armed population as a check against the potential power creep of a fledgling government.  But that time is gone.  Our government is mature, and the notion that your neighbors and their pistols and hunting rifles would be more than a minor annoyance to a modern army are laughable.  If we’ve learned anything from the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that deterring a well equipped military requires RPGs, automatic weapons, stinger missiles, and high explosives—stuff that’s illegal for us to own even with the right to bear arms intact.  (It’s also worth noting it most importantly requires an invading force with a moral imperative to not kill civilians.  Otherwise, all the C-4 on Earth wouldn’t help.)

I’m not trying to make a case here to repeal the 2nd Amendment, just that it is every bit the anachronism the 14th Amendment is.  You can’t reasonably be all about repealing one based on that reasoning and cry that anyone considering the other is trampling our sacred text and should be run out of the country.

The Constitution was intended by the founding fathers as a living document.  Those guys understood they couldn’t plan for everything, and so they built in a mechanism to adapt it and change it over time.  I understand and agree that the changes should not be capricious.  The process should be arduous, and is.  And this is all something the Conservatives agree with, except when they don’t.

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