The US Constitution was signed by its framers on September 17, 1787, in what we now call Independence Hall in Philadelphia. That’s why today is Constitution Day.
I feel like trying to write on a subject as vast and profound as the US Constitution in one column is like a child going to the beach and trying to scoop up the ocean in a Dixie Cup.
But here goes.
First, most of the rest of the world doesn’t have the rights we Americans take for granted, and that includes wealthy, free countries. Even now, the European Union and Australia are cooking up “guidelines against misinformation,” which many of us now realize is a euphemism for “censorship.” Thanks to our First Amendment Free Speech rights, censorship from the government is illegal. So, when they do it, and we know they do, at least it can’t be too blatant.
Outrageously, as recently revealed in the Twitter files, our federal government has engaged in unconstitutional censorship on social media, but at least part of it is finally getting exposed, and they had to go about it in a sneaky way by secretly colluding with the likes of Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Second, the powers that the Constitution gives to the federal government are mainly negative, not positive. What does that mean?
Maybe you’ve been led to believe “you have the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to worship freely,” etc.
But if you read the Constitution’s text, it says Congress cannot prohibit (emphasis mine) the free exercise of religion, abridge freedom of speech, infringe on right to bear arms, etc.
In other words, the text carefully spells out what the federal government can not do, and leaves the rest basically open for freedom.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s the First Amendment word for word:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
And the Second:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
And in what has been called “the most ignored amendment in the Bill of Rights,” take a look at Amendment Ten:
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.
Plain-talk Translation: Unless the Constitution spells out a power in black and white as belonging to the federal government, or says specifically that the states can’t do it, then all those other powers and choices belong to the states or to “We the People.”
Third, a hallmark of the Constitution is its systems of checks and balances. Without citing names, in recent weeks especially we’ve seen disturbing moral failures from leaders in both political parties. Simply put, our leaders aren’t angels, they’re fallen human beings like the rest of us, so checks and balances spread out the power. That way, it spreads the power around and reduces the chance of tyranny.
Fourth, it seems our liberties are always under attack. Look at the New Mexico governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). When faced with lawlessness and murders in her state, she declared a ban on open and concealed carry in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County. We all grieve the violence, but is banning law-abiding citizens from being able to defend themselves the answer?
Perhaps inspired by how so many politicians ran over our rights during the Covid lockdowns and used “follow the science!” as their creed, Grisham swaddled her attempted gun ban as a “public health emergency.”
Violators would have faced civil penalties and a fine of up to $5,000!
In response, the satire site Babylon Bee generated these gems:
Fourth, is the pendulum [finally] swinging back?
For example, shortly after the governor issued her outrageous order in New Mexico, Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen struck a diplomatic tone and sympathized with the governor’s desire for safety and supported the community’s anguish over violence. But in a press conference he said, “This order will not do anything to curb gun violence other than punish law-abiding citizens who have a constitutional right to self defense.”
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said he would not enforce the unconstitutional ban, and U.S. District Judge David Urias followed suit by striking down most of the order.
Also, outraged gun owners and civil libertarians gathered in Old Town Albuquerque to protest the governor’s actions. Some news reports estimated the crowd in “the dozens” while others claimed “hundreds.”
In open defiance of her ban, they openly carried their weapons and some had signs like “Our founding fathers warned us about you” and “Gun rights are women’s rights.”
It seems, many of us are waking up. We can’t sleepwalk while our rights are being stripped away. People are wising up, learning their history and rights, speaking up, and taking action.
That may be the most encouraging take-away on this Constitution Day.
Column from Constitution Day 2021.
Updated Sept. 20, 2023. Some Republicans in the New Mexico legislature are pushing ahead with efforts to impeach Gov. Lujan Grisham over her attempted gun ban, but it will be an uphill climb since Democrats control both houses of the legislature.
Geography note: Contrary to popular belief, New Mexico is part of the USA, one of its 50 states. New Mexico is not part of Mexico or any other foreign country.