December 27th, 2007

Jeff_Annie_Remedial Chaos Theory

Has Everyone Read Their Constitution(s)?

Blergh. The stomach thing is I've got feels like "revenge of the week off, no you're not going to enjoy it, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

So, yes, I'm still planning to finish posting the final parts for Behold, Little Padawan! today, but there may be delays due to blechy personal needs.

In any case, said blechy personal needs had me up last night till all hours. And when I get in that space where I'm too punchy to think, but too awake (due to one reason or another) to sleep, I tend to do some pretty weird randomly look things up on the Internet.

I decided to look up my state constitution and actually read through it. It's an exercise I highly recommend to others in the U.S., because I'm sure you'll find it a highly enlightening experience.

Oh, the hell with that. I'd recommend that everyone, everywhere dig up the founding documents of your country, province, state, county, city charter, or however you split up your government, and actually read it. I think you'll find some fascinating stuff in them thar words.

Now, I've read The Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution multiple times between my middle school and high school years. Certainly I read them enough that I know vaguely where everything is in both docs so that I can easily look up Articles and Sections as necessary.

[I should note, that this knowledge of both documents resulted in my getting into a row with Alan Keyes during my reporter days during his first run for president. Yes, that Alan Keyes. The way the man overreacted when I called him on something he claimed was in The Declaration of Independence, you'd think he never met someone my age who'd actually read and re-read both documents.]

Interestingly enough, however, I had never actually read The Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I mean, sure, I looked up various Articles and Sections to find out about how various arcane rules of legislature worked (this was prompted in large part to get educated about the fight for Equity Marriage in the People's Republic of Massachusetts), but I had never actually read it. Shameful for someone who once worked as an actual reporter in the state.

Until ickyness intervened and there I was starting at my screen in a brain-dead way and asking myself, "Hmmmm, I wonder what my state constitution actually says."

It's a fascinating document and reading unbelievable as it sounds, shows that founders of this state had a slightly different idea of what constituted "good government" and "good citizenship" then the U.S. founders did.

Also interesting: The Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts actually starts with what would be The Bill of Rights, which was tacked on at the end of the U.S. Constitution as a way to convince the states they should ratify the document.

In short, there's a reason why the state founders designated Massachusetts as a "commonwealth," and it all seems to come down to this: It's a series of interlocking rights and responsibilities, not just of government to the people, but of people to their government, and by extension to society as a whole.

Or, as JFK put it in his 1961 Inaugural Address, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

JFK basically summarized in one pithy sentence this: (Bold emphasis is mine.)

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Then you see the amendments for some things that make you go, "What the hell?" At least until you actually saw what they did.

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Then there are some things that make you clutch your heart in horror, until you realize that constitutional amendments can be your friend.

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Naturally, there's a lot more that's interesting in it (and I haven't finished reading the whole thing since, y'know, blechy-ness), but on the whole, I find it to be a very worthwhile pursuit.

Who knew that sometimes the fight to battle your own ignorance should start right in your backyard?

I consider myself well and truly schooled on the matter.

As we enter into an election season where people are heavily throwing around what they think the U.S. Constitution says and doesn't say, familiarity with all founding government documents is the best way to fine-tune the bullshit detector.

So go forth and read! And get to know how your government is supposed to work. It's the best ammunition you can possibly have.
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