Change the Constitution?

As a result of the comment thread on another article, I started thinking about Constitutional Amendments. As some of you who have read my other articles may know, I am a big proponent of adhering to the precepts set out in the Constitution. That most important document lays out a pretty good system of governance, particularly because (if strictly followed) it keeps too much power out of the hands of any one person or group of people. Most of the power falls to the states, and what national oversight there must be is divided amongst three equally powerful branches of government. However, hearing folks argue, as I do, that the slow and steady shift in governmental power is “within the bounds of the Constitution”, I am thinking that maybe it is time for a change.

We’ve heard plenty about Constitutional Amendments lately, in the context of trying to “save” the institution of marriage in this country. The concept of using a Constitutional Amendment for the purpose of discrimination is abhorrent to me, but I am not at all opposed to making some changes for the sake of clarifying the nature of our government. The Constitutional Convention was very concerned with creating an executive branch which would not have the power to evolve into a dictatorship. There was much debate at the time as to how to prevent that from happening. However, we now find ourselves in a situation where the executive branch has claimed for itself the power to make laws and ignore laws by using signing statements and executive orders. Our Congress, which was originally envisaged as the only branch with that power, seems disinclined to enforce oversight on a “war-time” President, having already given up its Constitutional power to declare war. The judicial branch is quiet under the weight of “national security”. And the press, specifically protected in the First Amendment due to our founder’s recognition that, even with the checks and balances put in place, the government needed a watchdog, is in increasing jeopardy of being crippled by the same.

Perhaps some clarification is in order. Continue reading

Security or Liberty?

As the should-have-been scandal of the administrations illegal wiretapping policy wanes, as our government proceeds to contract out the construction of new, large-scale detention centers (apparently in preparation for a large influx of immigrants…?), as the right of whistle-blowers or dissenters in the administration (and elsewhere) to criticize our government is called into perilous legal question…I find myself more and more concerned with questions of where national (and personal) security ends and personal liberty begins. It seems that this is a question which should be uppermost in the minds of all Americans, as we tread into an age where the potential for extreme government monitoring and control is more technically possible, and apparently more desired, than ever before. And yet I find in casual conversation that very few citizens are concerning themselves with this vital issue. The attitude that the government will make the decisions which will best care for us is pervasive, and the notion that it is every citizen’s obligation to monitor and influence the government is outdated, perhaps treasonous. From it’s inception, however, our nation has been founded on the assumption that informed and active involvement in our government is every citizen’s obligation. The founding documents of our government worked hard to indicate that this was a government designed to be created and maintained by the people. It was not to become a monster controlling and directing the lives of its citizens for its own benefit. Hence the electoral process. Hence the “checks and balances” that we heard so much about in school. Hence the Bill of Rights. We hear much these days about the possibility of things being “unconstitutional”, but does anyone even remember the Constitution?

In the name of trying to revive interest in a crumbling concept, I would like to explain very simply what our government was meant to be and discuss the arguments which the current administration uses to justify its departure from those original ideals. I would like to bring to the notice of the public that this is, as Abraham Lincoln so famously said in 1863, a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, and that such a system depends upon the involvement of those who allow themselves to be governed, if it is not to perish from the earth.

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