Sunday, April 17, 2005


A must read in this week's NY Times Magazine:

on the Judicial "Constitutional in Exile" movement and how it is licking its chops in expectation that Bush will name one of their own to the Supreme Court.

My own take on the idea of a "Constitution in Exile" (the notion the "real" U.S. Constitution was legislated out of existence around 1937) is that it is a complete crock of shit. Our Constitution, as people sometimes need to be reminded, is made of WORDS. It only means something when someone READS it. And it has NEVER meant anything in a stable way: each of its framers had a someone different take on its meaning, significance and historical trajectory; each citizen who takes the time to read it will draw different conclusions from it. Consequently, its meaning only materializes when we begin to interpret it and try to reach some consensus about it as a group. Often, our judges perform this process for us. When we as a people can't stomach their deliberations, we elect new officials who will appoint better judges or, if frustrated in that regard, take to the streets in an attempt to change public (and judges') opinions and beliefs. (I refer you to the Civil Rights movement.) When that doesn't work you have Civil War.

The Constitution lives, whether the right-wing likes it or not, because, being made up of words, it can't do anything else. In fact -- irony of ironies -- the whole notion of a "Constitution in Exile" depends on the right-wing's ability (to quote Emerson, who was thinking of pro-slavery advocates) "to read the Constitution with a very shrewd and daring and innovative eye" even as they're telling you that the "real" Constitution "just means what it says." In the beginning are the people, reading the words.


Post a Comment

<< Home