Monday, May 6, 2013

Words on Paper

Trey Smith

One notion that has been drummed into the heads of Americans since birth is this idea that the US Constitution is THE leading principle for elected leaders in this land. Candidates for office and our elected officials themselves tell us this incessantly. They give speeches about it. They write about it. Stick a microphone in their face and they will wax eloquently about it.

This message is underscored when a candidate is elected and then sworn into office. US Presidents state the following:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Members of Congress recite something similar.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
In both of these recitations, the US Constitution is front and center. As it turns out, the US Constitution really isn't that big of deal to most of these folks. It is nothing more than words on paper.

To be sure, there are times in which these people really seem committed to this "hallowed" document, but only when it's convenient. For example, the Republican Party historically have been staunch defenders of the 10th Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Anytime the federal government passes legislation or creates regulations that they don't like, they howl about how such actions violate the letter and spirit of states' rights.

Yes, the right of states is sacrosanct...unless a state passes legislation or creates regulations that rubs the GOP the wrong way. When this happens, those staunch defenders of the 10th Amendment have absolutely no use for it. They immediately start demanding that the federal government overrule the state.

But it's not just those "dirty" Republicans. Democrats play this game just as well. Barack Obama has taken the Oath of Office as US President twice. He has sworn to uphold the US Constitution and yet he is doing a very poor job of it. As Glenn Greenwald reported on Saturday, it has been learned that our very own federal government is spying on us far worse than most of us ever thought possible. They are busy collecting ALL of our emails, phone conversations and almost any other form of communication that we employ (like this here blog post).

Such actions violate parts of three different amendments to the US Bill of Rights. It certainly puts a damper on the freedom of speech. Part of this freedom is the right to say things you don't necessarily wish to share with Big Brother. The 4th Amendment is supposed to protect us from unreasonable search and seizure. It is patently unreasonable to search through our communiques without probable cause. And what about the right against self-incrimination? If the feds are documenting almost everything we say or write, then we can end up being hung on our own words and nothing else.

What is the point in possessing legal rights -- mere words on paper -- if they don't really guarantee much of anything?

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