We are hearing so often that Judge Alito is very like Supreme Court Justice Scalia, who believes very strongly that we should keep strictly to interpreting the Constitution only as its framers created it.
I find myself agreeing with him at least partially.
There were two points on which the framers agreed totally. The first was that they were working to create a form of government which could not oppress ether the states which were joining it or any individual citizen. The second was that they , having experienced the war for their freedom, wanted to be sure that this new government could change without the necessity of another violent war. This is why they decided that elections for Representatives should be every two years, figuring that if you could vote someone out of office every two years, you would not have time to build the sort of hatreds that would lead to real violence.
But Justice Scalia apparently believes that the Constitution is graven in stone.
However if one looks at the amendments to the Constitution, it is obvious that this is not true, that the framers of the Constitution saw it as a good beginning but also something which could and should be altered and added to as passing time required...
The first ten amendments were ratified December 15th, 1791, four years after the adoption of the Constitution. Amendments One through Nine listed and prohibited each one of the ways these men saw that the government could oppress an individual citizen. Amendment Ten protects both the individual and the state by reserving any rights not otherwise given to the government to the people and to the state.
Amendment Eleven, which was a modification of Judicial power, was ratified only four years later.
If one looks at the remaining fifteen of the twenty-six which have been passed., eleven deal with alterations or additions to election law. One, the Sixteenth, establishes the income tax. And two involve both making the consumption of liquor illegal and its repeal. The Fourteenth is in many ways the most interesting amendment because it deals with three subjects. The first section has to do with the protection of an individual citizen against possible oppression by a state. The second and third sections deal with elections, and the fourth section with public debt. Only the Thirteenth deals specifically with the status of an individual. The most recent amendment was ratified in 1971.
Do I believe that we need some amendments today? Absolutely.
First, only three states are lacking for ratification of the Equal Rights of Women Amendment. And this is needed as much for women as the Thirteenth was for slaves. The framers of our Constitution were men of their time, that is they saw women not as individuals but only in their relationship to some man. Women will never be free of legislative sniping until they have this amendment in place.
The second I would like to see would involve the limitation of present corporate business philosophy which states that it has no responsibility except to make a profit. It is high time that this “what’s good for business is good for the country” philosophy was made to acknowledge that it exists because of the community which supports it and becomes ready to participate in supporting the community from which it makes its profits.
The third would be in response to the ugliness which the Bush administration has created in its application of. the terms “terrorist“, “evil”. All too many of our young soldiers have been corrupted into believing that anyone labeled in this way is sub-human and therefore can be treated in the terrible ways we have seen and heard of in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. And it’s these young soldiers who are being punished, but not the administration which made their actions possible! Do we believe in our Declaration of Independence’s statement that all men are created equal, or not. If we say we do, then we cannot declare any one, no matter how reprehensible we find their actions, sub-human, “evil”, “terrorist”, not worthy of being treated like any other human being.
The fourth concerns a need which we can easily perceive today but was not one to which the famers of the Constitution gave any thought-- the protection of our natural enviornment. There is at present no real basis in Constitutional law for any environmental law, whether it be to limit harmful power plant smoke stack emissions or to encourage ecological diversiity through the protection of endangered species.
My next post will be the positions I feel any candidate for governor of Vermont should be embracing. We live in a larger world and must be part of its concerns as well as those we feel are purely local.