On Jan. 5, House Republicans decided to demonstrate their devotion to our Constitution by reading it aloud on the House floor, but apparently not devoted enough to read all of it. Robert Ariail humorously cartooned (Jan. 7) that only five words were read, "Congress shall make no laws ...," thus justifying their eternal gridlock in Congress. If truly devoted to our Constitution, why did they deliberately leave out sections that were later changed in order "to form a more perfect Union"? The section, for example, where slaves "bound to service" are counted as three-fifths of a person. The section where fugitive slaves escaping to a free state could not gain their freedom. The section where voters could not directly elect their senator. Or the section denying women voting rights. Republicans deliberately left out those parts because reading them would reinforce the fact that our Constitution is not carved in stone, but a living document that must change when required in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Our forefathers did not fail us. They designed the best possible system that could be achieved in that moment in time. In fact the brilliance and originality of our Constitution reached the pinnacle of equality in the world in 1787 and inspired millions around the world to seek a better society. Nevertheless, the wiser heads in Philadelphia understood that some of the necessary compromises in our Constitution were flawed and anticipated that future generations would perfect their work.
Three times in our short history citizens rose to the challenges of inequality and successfully brought about changes through amendments to our Constitution: the Civil War period, the early 1900 Progressive era and the tumultuous 1960s era. Are changes needed today? Since most voters believe that Congress is inadequate as our representative body, shouldn't our Constitution be changed to deal with this, such as establishing term limits? Should we have a constitutional amendment to eliminate earmarks and require a balanced federal budget? Should our Constitution prevent core political abuses, such as political redistricting, the stacked deck of incumbency, rules for financial political campaigning, and the political appointment of lifetime judges? Should the burden of military service fall disproportionately on a handful of citizens, our poor and lower middle class, or should we have a Bill of Responsibilities for everyone to complement our Bill of Rights? Shouldn't our Constitution be precise and clear about the war-making powers between our commander-in-chief and Congress? Will today's generation rise up to accommodate these and many more needed changes in waiting? If not us, who? If not now, when? Clearly our satiated Congress will never initiate changes of this magnitude. Remember not only did they not read aloud all of our Constitution on the House floor, but also apparently comprehend only five words, "Congress shall make no laws."
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.
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