Much is still made in any internet forum of our Constitution, what is in it, what it means, what it was meant to mean and most of all how it is not followed, ignored or changed to suit… Oddities and ironies abound, like those who claim it is always only the party they oppose who is ignoring or not following it. Or those who claim to revere it, follow it, and believe in it, but also think it gave them the Amendment II to fight the government it created.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Amendment I has a boat load of freedoms spelled out. And it seems clear. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” yet many seem to think that means their Christianity trumps all (including the Constitution) and that there is no “freedom from religion”. They mock and deny other religions, atheists and agnostics but don’t you dare not say “Merry Christmas”! Then there is “or abridging the freedom of speech,” which is so widely misunderstood that many think it means no one can tell you when you are wrong or that you are wrong. When it comes to “or of the press;” many decry any press that does not feed their bias. Lastly is “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And we all know how well that one works out. Protests are not respected, they are also mocked and derided and getting harder and harder to even do. And try to speak to your Congressional representatives? Good one. Well that is just not how that works. But still we believe in the First Amendment, except when we don’t.
Amendment II is likely the most hotly argued and deeply divisive right in the Bill of Rights and no amount of facts, background, history, jurisprudence, mass shootings or rhetoric is going to change any minds. I wish I knew why I ever even bother trying. But I will always note that “A well regulated militia” is in there for a reason and “shall not be infringed” has just never really been true.
Amendment III about quartering soldiers has not been necessary in over a hundred years so it is there but seldom argued or discussed for that obvious reason.
Next comes Amendment IV “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Well that one is surely not practiced as intended with (NSA and even local) law enforcement actions and judicial activism to root out criminals, drug lords, terrorists, anarchists and other assorted really bad guys, but the point remains it has not been stable and iron-clad as “rights” should be.
Amendment V “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” When a prosecutor can get an “indictment on a ham sandwich” as they say, we clearly have a problem and the piling on of charges makes a docket look like Hell’s Angels, the mob and the Crips are in town. And “Eminent Domain”? Don’t get me started.
Amendment VI “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Well except when the media and rumors might make that impossible…so again, not an iron-clad right.
Amendment VII “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” Which might explain why so many write in mediation agreements and try to settle out of court…can we trust a jury? Should we trust a jury?
Amendment VIII “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Over two hundred years in and we still do not agree on what is “excessive” or what is “cruel and unusual. Iron-clad?
Amendment IX “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” But since these were not enumerated, we just should “know” what they are and when they have been violated? How is that working for us?
Amendment X “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.” Do we even know what they meant by “the people”? And have we followed this one much? Iron-clad?
Do you see my point? People get apoplectic about the Second Amendment and scream about the First Amendment but there is little that has been free from interference, and not a whole lot of freedom delivered by these guaranteed rights when you look close enough. And it is also why all ends of the political spectrum offer their own interpretation of the Constitution.