I was watching a "debate" on one of the political/news channels a few nights ago, and was astonished by what I heard. Two guests were arguing in the usual fashion about the "Gun Control" issue. One was railing about the injustice of the new proposals for gun legislation, when her opponent said with utter sincerity,"Why is the Constitution so important to you when kids are dying?"
I was flabbergasted! I still am as I write this. Many arguments against his ludicrous assumptions raced through my mind. But I realized that this was just a diversion. He was right. The real question is, why is the Constitution important? More importantly, why is the Constitution important to ME? Even when kids are dying. No, especially when kids are dying!
The Constitution provides careful limits, beyond which, under no circumstances can our government pass. Our Founding Fathers with their many human limitations and faults understood that government in any form no matter how altruistic was always going to consist of humans. Humans chocked full of those same limitations and faults that needed to be carefully reigned in. Without ongoing, strong limits these faulty humans would invariably engage in the most destructive, weakening, power robbing of governmental excesses. Excesses that have proven over time to be irresistible to humans in power. I'm not talking about the common faults like greed, sloth, or lust, etc. Those are easy to spot but almost impertinent. I'm talking about the much more subtle, nefarious evil of the perception that "the people" need taking care of. And more importantly, that those in government are just the ones to do it. The perception that somehow the people doing the governing have some special knowledge or ability, without which, the "common people" certainly would not thrive, and may even perish.
This is only human nature. We all believe to some degree that our job is most important. Most of us however, are mature enough to understand that this is OUR illusion. People in power suffer from the circumstances of such power that encourage the belief in that illusion. Again, it's only human nature.
So the primary purpose of the Constitution is to protect me and every other US citizen from those in power who might try to exercise their special knowledge and ability against us. I do not question that many in Government sincerely believe their illusion. But they have forgotten it's THEIR illusion, not mine. Nor should it be yours.
Even more insidious is the belief that there are special circumstances that allow for the forceful exercise of their illusion. No one would ever suggest that this kind of power be wielded carelessly. Only the most serious situations require this kind of forceful dispensation of the special knowledge and ability of those in power. The kind of situation we are in right now. "Normally we wouldn't consider this, but…". Just insert the "serious situation" of your choice here. The current (last 100 years or so) list of special circumstances is quite lengthy and getting longer. It includes, war, death, accidents, health, business fairness, education, etc. All of these sound special indeed!
There were horrendous diseases, civil unrest, riots, wars, poverty, political upheaval, fires, crime, accidents, ignorance and a litany of other evils of human existence when the Constitution was written. Our founding Fathers saw none of these as a reason to defy the Constitution. They knew it was likely that when a challenge was presented against the Constitution it would be couched as the solution to these very tragic realities of human existence. That is why they so plainly laid out the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is also why it is so general. They knew that if they attempted to explicitly address every possible situation, someone would inevitably find one not included and attack with that. That's something that modern legislators have yet to learn. If you read the words, as written, it is quite clear. It only becomes unclear when read with the motivation to find a way to subvert it.
As a result of the technological prowess humans have obtained in the last 200 years, we now suffer from the delusion that we can and should eliminate all suffering. This is playing God. No level of technology can transform humans into Gods. The Constitution recognizes this, the realities of human life and that we and our government cannot play God.
So here we are juggling with the political realities of today's "problem de jour" and its corresponding "solution de jour". How do we resolve this? It matters little what the particulars of each are. Once we deal with this set. We will have another.
This is the power of the Constitution! The Constitution is a set of principles by which I can make a decision independent of the political parties. Independent of the unmanageable tangle of justifications of each side of the issue. Independent of the often misrepresented and always confusing statistics. Independent of even my own ignorance! An unsophisticated "common person" can make the proper decision quite easily. If the Constitution doesn't give explicit permission to the Government, it can't be done by the Government. Period! If the right is explicitly outlined in the Bill of Rights, then it's even more sacred. The Government cannot violate that right.
This is why the Constitution is important to me. It allows me to make political/governmental decisions based on what's best for the FREEDOM of the people of this country. Not what's "best" for "the people". No one knows what's "best" for "the people". The details of "best" are best left to the individual.
It's not what is fairest, nicest, safest, or most profitable for ALL. Nothing is fair, nice, safe, or profitable for ALL. Nothing is "best for ALL". "Best for ALL" is indefinable in a nation of more than about one or two people. It's what gives the freedom of action to me and my countrymen, and the freedom to experience the consequences of that action that is best. There is no other more powerful empowerment than that. The freedom for each to decide how best to live their life and the freedom to experience the results of those decisions. Good and Bad.
The Constitution recognizes the best and worst in humanity. It recognizes the tremendous potential for abuse of power when humans govern, but at the same time recognizes the potential for great good in the "common people" when left to the natural laws of cause and effect and self-interest.
So that is why the Constitution is important to me. Even though kids are dying. Unfortunately kids will always die. That's what living things do. It will always be tragic. It will always be unnecessary. Often it will be preventable even stupid. But that's what humans do. The Constitution does not kill kids!
In fact the Constitution is why more kids DON"T die. They don't die in tyranny, terror, and oppression. Their parents are free to express their gifts in a manner that produces more prosperity, safety and happiness than anywhere in the world. They don't die of starvation. We feed the world! They don't die of polio, rubella, and a dozen other formerly common deadly diseases. Is it perfect? Of course not. Nothing ever is. Nothing ever will be. But we'll never get closer than by allowing humans' built in motivation for good called self-interest. Humans are capable of great good when allowed to personally reap the rewards for it and allowed to experience the pain of falling short.
If we are going to suspend the Constitution until kids no longer die, we'll no longer have a Constitution. We'll no longer have freedom, we'll no longer have happiness, we'll no longer have the life that we know and love.
Due to a near tragedy with guns as a child, I am not particularly comfortable with guns. However, I feel that the threat to the Constitution by well meaning gun control advocates outweighs my discomfort. I am joining the NRA, and may even purchase a gun. Those suffering under the illusion of their own utopian superiority cannot be allowed to continue to nibble away at our inalienable rights without a fight!
Whew! I feel better.
Hmmmm, what's next…?