This is a discussion that we had on a local activist email list in June:
(list member 1):
As I understand it, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the law of the land, it is our form of government. It is not a partisan issue. It is said to be at the balanced center of govt control and none.
Of course they make it a party issue, and those wanting less control or more will not cease to push it in their desired direction.
What does “the law of the land” mean? Is that a legal term? What IS the United States of America? It can’t be “the land,” because that was obviously here a while before 1776.
If The Constitution for the United States of America is “our form of government,” how did we become party to it? Is it a contract that is binding on us, and if so, what is the evidence that we are parties to it? As I understand it, when it was created, of the 42 delegates remaining at the time of the document’s adoption, 35 were trained as attorneys. It’s generally stated by people writing about the drafting that the document was signed by 39 of the drafters, who, if so, would then be actual contractual parties to a formal agreement. However, if you look at the bottom of the signed parchment, it clearly says “In Witness (HUGE LETTERS) whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names”- So, the “signers,” almost 90% of whom were trained as attorneys and well aware of the legal significance of their signatures, were witnesses, not bound by the document.
The 14 states that ratified it did that through simple majority votes of state conventions that, like the populations that elected them, were exclusively white, male property owners. How, exactly, did the incredibly small (the state conventions ran from 26 to 271 delegates each) portion of the populations of the states they “represented,” derive the lawful authority to bind the entire population that happened to live on a patch of land that preexisted the formation of the “body politic” that actually composed “the state” to The Constitution? And, even if you think that a binding contractual agreement was, somehow, thereby created at that time, what is the evidence proving the agreement, made by men who are now dead well over 150 years, now binds us to that contract? Why should anyone have ANY control over anyone else other than to be able to stay them from violating their lives?
What exactly is this “state?” Where does it derive it’s “just powers,” and are those powers created only by a voluntary agreement of all parties?
Taking a rigid position that now, faced with unprecedented social, practical and environmental stessors, we need to return to a legal structure created under wildly different circumstances and with a very different population than we have today, may not be wise. The government supposedly “limited” by The Constitution has certainly not been stopped short of extreme invasions of lives, both of “foreigners” and of “citizens.” The point seems to me to be to focus merely on preventing violations against others lives rather than on “governing.” In particular, it seems that knowledge of the crucial nature of learning how to have a society governed solely through voluntary agreements, always by all parties to such contracts, is what should guide us now to a truly balanced center.
Bottom line: Does such a thing as a “government” really exist at all? If your answer is yes, how do you defend its legitimacy?
These are the questions facing us in this time,
(list member 1):
Down the rabbit hole we go. You bring up excellent questions. What to do now is the big elephant question in the room, and certainly learning from the past is part of it.
Webster’s 1828 + 1913 dictionary defines government as:
Gov”ern*ment (?), n. [F. gouvernement. See Govern.]
1. The act of governing; the exercise of authority; the administration of laws; control; direction; regulation; as, civil, church, or family government.
2. The mode of governing; the system of polity in a state; the established form of law.
I suppose it all (the Constitution) came about by the guys that jumped on it and there were many bystanders or just unrepresented parties not participating in the process. So it happened. If it can all be disqualified from the onset or some time around the Constitutional Convention, we still need to figure out what to do now.
(list member 2):
The way I see it, the Constitution a way of saying “we recognize the rights all are born with, and will protect them”. The constitution does not represent our rights, it’s really more like an oath.
Personally, the work I do is to preserve and protect those unalienable rights- and while the Constitution is an excellent document proclaiming protection of those rights it’s still only that- a document. It’s the spirit behind that document that makes it more than “just a piece of paper”.
That spirit is, I believe, the key to it all. That spirit is love, honor, bravery, and integrity.
Note: It’s rather interesting that the word “government” can be broken down into 2 parts, “Govern” which in Latin means to control, and “Ment” which in Latin means mind…. This of course is being hotly debated, could it really be just a coincidence??
(my second reply):
I would prefer not to be questioning the ideas of people for whom The Constitution symbolizes cherished values, but I think it’s time to look at these things with the rose colored glasses off.
Do you think that saying “we recognize the rights all are born with, and will protect them” was the intention of the trained attorneys drafting the Constitution? If that’s the case, why was the Supreme Court then made into a monopoly gatekeeper on a court system that has consistently ruled that the government has no responsibility to protect anyone?
What is this idea of “rights” in the first place? The first principles of natural law are to do no harm to others and honor your agreements with them, essentially meaning don’t use aggression or deceit. Don’t these two principles embody ALL of the so-called rights? Putting a handful of cases in enigmatic legalese into a Bill of Rights simply further muddied the waters. Under a truly effective system of law (what Common Law could be), there should be a remedy for all harms done. This is impossible under a thicket of statutes that provide ample room for all kinds of chicanery and evasion, to the point where major violators are given retroactive “immunity” from having to redress the damage they’ve done, etc.
Warm and fuzzy feelings about our noble founders good intentions (gone bad) will not go to the heart of the matters we face. A structure of government is created by people whose intent is to govern, or as you point out, control, society (i.e. the peasants, us). The spirit we need now, in my opinion, is one of unequivocally honoring the integrity of others, recognizing that when we don’t the person most harmed by the omissions is ourselves. If we have such a spirit (and volumes can – and probably will – be written about it’s meanings and implications) a “special piece of paper,” the meanings of which are stretched, ignored and disputed in order to gain illusory advantages by invading others’ lives, becomes a distraction from the truth of the immediate situation right now.
The obfuscation of the present moment is what has lead to a situation where a battle to “control of the minds” of the population of the world is proceeding apace. People must know in their bones that being invaded is not acceptable, and be allowed to see when that’s happening to themselves or others. When that spirit emerges and pervades society, the sanguine honoring of sacred documents will become irrelevant. In order for that to happen, we first must, each, stop pushing anyone else into circumstances or agreements they don’t enter into voluntarily, with full disclosure.
Just possibly, though I’m highly skeptical, The Framers were trying to do the best they could in 1787. However, quite evidently, it didn’t work. They created a document that merely masqueraded as a social contract. What we need now is some kind of social contract that people can become members to voluntarily (or not) and leave at their will if they find it has been misrepresented or changed behind their backs. This would be a free market, providing services to members that are not compulsory. It is not clear how we can do this, yet from my perspective this is the mission we must choose to accept.