With the Elena Kagan hearings starting this week, we’re bound to hear a lot of palaver about how the the courts should or shouldn’t read the U.S. Constitution. Should they treat it as a living document, to be held up against the times we live in? Should they read it literally, with no leaps of logic? Should they try to get inside the precise framers’ intentions? Yadda-yadda.
All I can say is that our Constitution is looking more and more like a sacred text — our Bible — handled with respect and used to solve every argument in the book, no matter where you sit on the political spectrum. That’s awesome when you think about it — the wisdom of a few men, enduring so resiliently for 200+ years. They were men of their times, pragmatists, knowing how to arrive at a consensus, able to give up their little pet clauses for the good of the whole. But, unlike scripture writers, they didn’t claim to be divinely inspired or to receive visitations from angels. They had a job to get done and they did it.
While we shout amendments at one another now like Bible verses and skirmish to claim the crown of “true patriot” (red vs blue; conservative vs liberal; us vs them; poTAYto vs poTAHto), it seems like we’ve totally forgotten the real wisdom of the framers: the art of consensus-building and compromise. As our politicians (& pundidiots) jockey for the most righteous sound bite in the day’s news cycle, they have forgotten the art of the long view. I should really say we, the enablers. And as we all surround ourselves with people and programs who support our views and keep us supplied with zingers and gotchas, we have forgotten that the USA got this far through a diversity of perspectives and through an infinite number of course adjustments as power centers shifted around. We go a little crazy in one direction; then we go a little crazy in the other — till now, anyway, it has balanced out to be a pretty wonderful nation to live in.
But I do worry. Perspectives feel like they are hardening. Can’t wait to tune into the hearings this week for all the blustering and bloviating as only the Senate can do, God love ’em.