We need to stop Fetishizing the Constitution

Whatever side of an issue one might be on, they can latch onto a Constitutional Amendment related to their cause and interpret it in their favor. One person can argue that it is unconstitutional to imprison people without charge and torture them, and another could argue that they should be allowed to stockpile all the military arms they please. While one of those is more obviously true and the other is the reasoning of a lunatic, both are arguably protected by the Constitution.

The United States Constitution, until you get to the amendments, is just a dusty-dry list of instructions for the functioning of Congress.

There are some good parts in it, and there are some parts of it that are trash.

Much of the Constitution is poorly worded, or too briefly worded, which has led to centuries of misinterpretations and arguments over how amendments are meant to be interpreted. Many amendments are only one (often convoluted and run-on) sentence long. Lack of clarity is a bad quality in any piece of writing, let alone a legal document underpinning the existence of a large and powerful nation.

The Constitution states in the sixth amendment that anyone accused of a crime has the right to a speedy trial by an impartial jury, and the eighth amendment prohibits the imposition of excessive bails and fines, and cruel and unusual punishments. The criminal justice system routinely violates these rights. People can spend days or weeks in jail before even being arraigned, and weeks, months, or years before going to trial, which can drag on even longer, and many are regularly impoverished by the process. That’s not speedy by any definition, and fines that drive people into unpayable debt are clearly excessive. Being locked up in degrading, violent, dehumanizing conditions for such time, without even having been convicted, or sometimes even charged, of a crime is a cruel and unusual punishment in itself. But, of course, the founders, for all the praise that’s heaped on them, didn’t bother to give any definition or provide examples as to what is “cruel and unusual.” I’d say being trapped in an environment where you’re likely to be brutalized, raped, and treated worse than any animal should be, or being paralyzed and slowly, torturously killed by chemical injections, meets the standard. But others may argue that unless a trio of rabid wolverines is forced up one’s anus and made to eat their way out, the bar hasn’t been met.

Proponents of the second amendment argue that it is a supreme ban against any infringement of their right to have weapons. Those who’ve read more than one phrase of the amendment know that it implies the right to “keep and bear arms” is contingent on their use being under the jurisdiction of a “well regulated militia.” In fairness, it could make that stipulation more explicit. It could define a “well regulated militia.” It could specify the kinds and quantities of arms a person may keep and bear. It could be honest about the fact that the amendment was included for the purpose of suppressing slave rebellions and encouraging the violent conquests of native lands. And if it meant that any paranoid jackoff could stockpile, without restriction or monitoring, enough guns to mow down a whole town or a school, then it should say so.

Rather than make necessary updates to the Constitution, acknowledging that the founders weren’t that exceptional and certainly weren’t omniscient, and that the country and world have changed in ways they couldn’t have anticipated, lawmakers pretend the document is sacred and infallible.

The Constitution should be a living, evolving document, changing to fit the changing world and the changing demographics of the citizenry it’s meant to protect, yet improvements are very rarely made.

The 27th amendment, the last amendment to be added to the Bill of Rights, was ratified in 1992, twenty years ago, and it has to do with some shit about how the salary of Senators and Congressional representatives can’t be changed until after their next election. As if the majority of people care about that or even know how much Senators and Representatives are paid. In brief: they’re paid too much, especially on top of how much they take in bribes, are given as per diem and benefits, profit from assets and investments directly affected by their legislative actions, and the fact that it’s a cushy, pampered fucking job with tons of off-time and very little actual work. While it’s good that they can’t give themselves raises willy-nilly, most of them don’t deserve to be paid a single taxpayer dollar, and it’s very telling that the last time they accomplished something significant it was a rather esoteric amendment applying only to themselves.

Given the intransigence of the political duopoly ruling the country when it comes to any matter of significant consequence which does not personally benefit those on both sides, we cannot count on them adding anything of value to the Constitution, let alone doing what really needs to be done. But they need to. We need a new constitution. We don’t have to scrap everything from the original, but rather treat it like a first draft. The founders were not geniuses or moral paragons, and the framework they laid for our country was flawed and incomplete. We can do better. Much as I dread what horrors certain politicians would reap in writing a new constitution, we have to accept that it is overdue.

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