Repeal and Replace

brown and gray rifles lined up
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Too often the power of the US Constitution has not come from what it actually says but rather from the underlying perspectives and assumptions that were made by its 18th Century authors:

  • White men are superior to all other beings.
  • Women are invisible and subject to the whim of (free white) men.
  • Blacks are not fully human.
  • Indians are savage and only marginally redeemable.
  • Human sexuality is Biblical before it is biological.
  • Poverty is a failure of human will.

Assumptions like this come from the perspectives of “founding fathers” who wished to enshrine in government their priorities and goals based on their specific world view.  Any investigation of the United States Constitution offers a great deal to question and interrogate.  Part of that interrogation must also acknowledge that the Constitution is not entirely hopeless.  In it, we have an instrument of government that has a built-in capacity for the “do-over.”  We have the tools to fix things and do things right. 13th & 14th Amendments, 19th Amendment, 21st Amendment, etc.  It is essential that we now take advantage of this feature and move to repeal and replace…the 2nd Amendment.

We are currently living in a world where it takes only 30 seconds to kill 8 people.  When the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791, a standard rifle such as the Brown Bess could only fire six rounds in a minute when fired by a professional.  The first standing army was established that same year (to quell Indian revolts) and only white men could legally possess arms.  The 2nd Amendment secured access to the lethal power of guns in the 18th Century as a “right” for a specific purpose, time and a limited population.  But today it has become the foundation for extreme ideology that is toxic and publicly lethal on a mass scale.

With the incredible advances in weaponry both for hunting and for warfare, any rational being can recognize the necessity to revisit the laws governing the ability to carry and use deadly force. Outside of the contentious question about whether there should be deadly force in the hands of civilians in the first place, what if we were able to have an amendment that used language such as this:

All people within the United States, have the right to personal defense by means of reasonable force so as to limit the threat to personal injury.  Equal are the rights of all persons to exist without the threat of lethal force to their personal death or injury, either by accident, exposure to circumstances or perceived threat to others.

A modern 2nd Amendment will recognize that weaponry for hunting and survival (though I may personally disagree with it) is a way of sustainable life for many people in this nation.  It will also acknowledge the right one has to defend themselves if they are properly trained and vetted to respond to threat.  But it will also recognize that easy access to military grade weapons has created a national health and public safety crisis that is fueled by ideological perversions that leave all of us unsafe.

Legislators and language in our government that defend death by suicide, mass shootings, domestic violence and race hatred creates an environment where these tragedies are not just tolerated but expected.  This is counter to everything the US Constitution stands for.  We must rethink the 2nd Amendment…repeal and replace.  We deserve to be much more than the land of the feared and the home of the dead.

Old Dreams and New Realities

Listening to the politicians and advisers orbiting Trump as they enable, justify and excuse his “policies” reminds me of the fact that there is nothing broken or dysfunctional in our government. What we are seeing is the way our government has worked since the beginning. What the white, rich and powerful don’t want to address, they de-prioritize or ignore completely. The best example of this is how language that expressly addressed the barbaric practice of slavery was removed from the original draft of the Declaration of Independence before it was finalized.[1] The idea that Jefferson, one of Virginia’s primary slave holders, wrote a passage decrying the practice of slavery was bizarre enough.  But the irony of a document that would be foundational to declaring political freedom for one group of people would intentionally omit the physical freedom of another group of people speaks volumes about how de-humanization and the violence of passive acquiescence to marginalization is built into the fabric of the American way of life we live today.

I find myself focusing on this because throughout this week of commemorating the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. every public statement (with the exception of our current “commander in chief”) makes it clear that Civil Rights based on race have not yet been achieved despite the lives given by King and so many others. In truth, we live in a Leaning Tower of Pisa. The United States, like the tower, is beautiful, but also like the tower, the foundation is unsound. We continue to prop it up and attempt to find solutions to keep its imbalanced and unstable structure reaching toward the sky. The tower was designed as a bell tower and although they are able to ring thanks to modern technical machinery, the bells do not swing free for fear of toppling the structure. We are in a similar dilemma in the United States; the bells of freedom cannot ring in this nation as long as we are so desperately out of balance.

The human, industrial and technological makeup of this country was unimaginable to the European colonizers who settled on this land and established what would become the United States. Rather than continuing to build on our lopsided foundation, we could actually take the last 200+ years of learning to restructure and completely rebuild a fully enfranchised method of governance that is truly representative of the kaleidoscope of humanity present in the modern United States. What arrogance we have to believe that we should never need to revise. We must look at the failings, create space to keep those failings in our consciousness while taking the modern genius that has gestated for a couple of centuries in an increasingly diverse and global community and aspire to even greater futures than the “founding fathers” could have even conceived of. The only place that Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and others have in our present is as characters in our collective memory; they belong in a museum. These long dead men should not continue to stand in the way of equal pay for equal work, they should not be holding a gun to the heads of innocent people and their limited vocabulary should not hinder our ability to abolish the ignorance of racist intolerance.

Government reform requires a bold willingness to evolve and actually create something new; government reform does not mean putting band-aids on a bloated and sickly status quo and it definitely doesn’t mean a “return” to some narrow, bigoted, sexist and isolationist version of “greatness” that spilled forth from the gouty guts of an overfed empire.

MLK had a dream, but we need a new Constitution in order to make it a reality.

– ALD

[1] – Declaration of Independence Slavery Passage Removed

A MUST READ from Michael Harriot of The RootAmerica Did This: An Open Letter to Memphis, Tennessee