May 25, 2009
Ignorance, stupidity, gross misunderstanding of the Constitution of the United States. Which is most harmful to our country?
My age and life experience make these three things equally offensive and disheartening. Add to them a serious lack of a sense of history concerning the men who crafted that venerable document.
Often, people who write letters to the editor demonstrate at least one of those failings by quoting the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution in a manner indicating they mistakenly believe them to be actual laws encoded therein. They are not. Ignorance, misunderstanding or simply a poor knowledge of the history behind the document?
Quoting the Constitution to make a point is pointless. One must be able to logically show why the quote is meaningful. This requires a knowledge of history that is rarely evident in some letters to the editor.
On April 28, a person wrote to decry individual ownership of firearms. He cited the U.S. military and local police as our protectors. His letter created a firestorm of replies in opposition.
So, here is some factual history about the Constitution and the men who put it into its original form.
The Founding Fathers all were learned men. They were much better educated for their time than the average person today. They were careful, often arguing for days and even weeks about the placement of a single word. The ink was barely dry when some of them thought it incomplete and fought hard for the inclusion of the first 10 amendments, which were ratified by the states at the same time as the Constitution itself.
The current bone of contention concerns the Second Amendment, which guarantees individual ownership of firearms, recently confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Although it mentions a militia, a study of the letters and other writings of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others make it stunningly clear that they feared foreign attack far less than an internal government tyranny. They wanted the people to be able to defend themselves against that danger. Indeed, Jefferson wrote that a new revolution every generation would be a good thing for the people's freedom. The Founders knew well the temptation of power and the corruption it engenders in men. They sought to ensure that the people of the United States should not suffer from it.
All things considered, today, it may seem to some, that the Founders were not entirely successful.
Garey L. Bearden is a resident of Milford and a member of The Spectrum & Daily News Writers Group.