A few days ago, Republicans took official control of the House of Representatives. John Boehner (pronounced “bayner”, similar to the medicine, and not “boner”, like it’s spelled and would be much funnier) began the Republicans’ session by reading the Constitution which is apparently to soothe the anger of Tea Partiers. Yet, they didn’t read the original document despite proclaiming to be “originalists.”The BBC reports, “Republicans chose to read an amended constitution rather than the original which refers, among other things, to slaves being worth three-fifths of a person.” Of course, Democrats couldn’t take the high road and thus be upstaged in the age of 24 hour entertain-news, so they took part as well.
In any case, I find a problem with any such act that essentially sanctifies a given document. It becomes dislodged from its historical, social, cultural, and political context. (I have a sneaky suspicion that a similar reading occurs of the Bible.) The point that they chose not to read certain parts that historically are still part of the document, still part of the idea, reveals an inherent tension in the idea. A New York Times report commented on this.
But, not mentioning those previous sections also erases those histories. It makes it possible for the dominant political ideology to persist without any critical examination: one can only be a “strict constitutionalist” or an “originalist” if this erasure is performed.
My point really is to say that the Constitution is more complicated than calling for the government to follow it more closely (or however you want to put it) or the ridiculous idea of reading it aloud in the House. This is why one whole branch of government is essentially devoted to its interpretation. If it were as simple as just being an honest-hearted, real-‘merican advocate of the Constitution, of following some instructions (connect A to B, now take piece C . . .), then everything would be just great.
In fact, had the proponents of the “strict interpretation” theory remembered their high school-level civics lesson (I am assuming they’ve had one), one of the best features of the US Constitution is its inherent flexibility: the government has been able to change and shift when needed (i.e. remember how the US doesn’t allow slavery anymore?).
Then again, perhaps the Republicans haven’t been able to offer any new ideas or been able to work with President Obama or the Democrats because they been busy concocting such a stunt?