Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

How’s about we rewrite the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The most interesting story on my plate right now is public reaction to the disclosures that our government is “spying” on us. On the far right and far left, folks are coming unglued – bending what facts are known into either some massive conspiracy – or some massive conspiracy. Just what kind of “conspiracy” depends which reasoning-challenged theorist you’re talking to.

Of more rational interest, is the reaction of the majority in the middle of the political scale. Polling indicates most of us think government has little choice but to technologically look over our collective shoulders to find the bad guys – the really bad guys – out to brutalize this nation. That “middle majority” isn’t actually endorsing prying eyes in our communications but seems to understand that terrorism has to be rooted out and the terrorists use the same communicating technology we all do. Not endorsing but not condemning. For now.

Is the officially sanctioned snooping violating one or more of our rights of citizenship? Probably. Should we be upset about that? Probably. Angry enough to demand it stop. Doubtful.

In my book, this new facet of our technologically-driven lives shares a commonality with gun control and a couple other modern issues tied to our founding documents. We’re 237 years from the signing of the Constitution – living in a world the signatories never dreamed of. But, despite the overwhelming differences, we’re still trying to push, pull and stretch the two-century old dictums to cover today’s problems. You can’t get five pounds of old lard into a new two pound bucket. But we keep trying.

Take the gun issue. In 1776, we had one army that moved by putting one foot in front of the other – walking to where it was needed. Took about four to six weeks to walk the length of the 13 colonies. Local militias were needed to handle local problems until the army – which may have been two or three weeks away – could get on the scene. Now, a fleet of Apache helicopters can go from Maine to South Carolina in a few hours. Do concepts about militias conceived then still make sense?

Rifles then were muzzle loaders. Took about two minutes to fire, load and shoot again. Now an AK-47 shoots 150 rounds a minute. Are the rights to private ownership and use of the private firearm still valid 237 years and a few hundred million citizens later?

In 1776, dispatch riders delivered messages to our military in the field – sometimes taking several days. Now it’s point-to-point, computer-based, satellite-relayed and orders are delivered instantly. If you wanted to thwart military actions then, you killed the messenger. Now, you hack. Is military security still run the same way? Want to talk about drones?

Our lives – our world – have changed. Big time! While we still pride ourselves on maintaining the original freedoms and rights, we can’t do so forever with 200-year-old rules that don’t account for two centuries of technological, military, political and societal changes. In 1776, for example, America was about 90% Caucasian. About 20 years from today, Caucasians will make up less than 50% of the population.

So, what about it? Want to make some modifications to the Constitution? The Bill of Rights? I do. But it’s not likely we’ll do so very soon. While the methods of changing the Constitution are clearly laid out, the process is deeply flawed. And, given today’s polarized politics, a Constitutional Convention would be a disaster. Totally!

Most scholars agree such a gathering would be limited to a single issue. But there would be icebergs in Hell before you could keep the nut-cases from trying to load up on abortion, gun control, immigration, the gold standard, state sovereignty and a dozen other favorite targets. It would be “Katy-bar-the-door” and a battle royal.

So, back to government snooping. Most of us seem willing to cut ‘em some slack. For awhile. National security reasons for needing unfettered access to communication links are just too damned important to argue with. But, if we’re to tolerate – or even encourage – government reading our mail and listening to conversations for our safety, we need adequate and public assurances about how it’s done – by whom – and why. We need members of Congress more concerned with our welfare and protection that their own. Something we don’t have at the moment. We need clearly defined rules – rules available for all of us to read and understand. We need the right legal hammer to drop on those who abuse our approval.

And, oh, by the way – within a week after the operations of the National Security Agency were reported, sales of Orwell’s “1984″ on Amazon increased 6,000%!!! The fictional 1948 novel went from a ranking of 7,636 to 124 in 72 hours.

“1984″ it ain’t. But you see what I mean about problems for success with a one-topic, orderly Constitutional Convention? No way!

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Rainey