Saturday, January 31, 2009

Perverting the Preamble

Earlier on DailyKos, I posted a comment to the effect that the neo-con corporatists and their GOP clients have have inverted and perverted every word and clause of the preamble to the Constitution.

I do not accept that the text of the Preamble is just window-dressing. Rather it is the framing spirit of the document, embodying the intentions of the Framers, encompassing what they are attempting to accomplish beyond the bare frame of the words on the page. It is the offset to the minimalist, strict constructionist school of Constitution interpretation. These words are in the Constitution as well, put there by those same sainted Founding Fathers.

If you're a certain age, you can literally hum along with me (Schoolhouse Rock rocks!), but if not, well, you know the words....

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Let's take those one at a time shall we...

n order to form a more perfect union,
Well, let's be honest, President Obama has said more and more eloquently than I could ever dream of about this one. The union is not perfect, will never be perfect. But it can be made more perfect. And it is a binding obligation laid on anyone who swears an oath to the Constitution to do so.

establish justice,
Okay, let's go over this again, kids. The same law applies to everyone. The law treats people fairly. It is not one law for rich and privileged people and another law for everyone else.

insure domestic tranquility,
Millions in fear, hundreds of thousands in want and desperation -- real tranquility. Of course it's hard to be tranquil when you're broke because your job's in China, your health insurance is in fantasyland, your retirement fund has been evaporated to pay some unearned bonus for some phony mandarin toady investment banker, and your future is well, hard to imagine as any better. Happy Holidays, everyone. (And yet, we hope anyway. Yes we can.)

provide for the common defense,
More and bigger guns is not the common defense. Attacking enemies we don't have in pursuit of your own wishful thinking fantasies is not the common defense. Dogged pursuit and extirpation of the people who DO attack us IS the common defense. Accurate assessment of the real threats we face is the common defense. Defense funding decisions by campaign contribution is not the common defense.

promote the general welfare,
General welfare, not corporate welfare. We seem to have covered this before but we'll go over again. And again.

and secure the blessings of liberty
Wireless wiretaps. Emprisonment without trial. The Unitary Executive theory. I could go on, but I don't have any more bricks to throw at things I can afford to break. You might be surprised to know that the Unitary Executive theory has a long tradition in the constitutional tradition the United States, although it reaches back to the English roots of American constitutional law. Charles I tried to implement this, under the heading "the divine right of Kings." He couldn't make it work, and ultimately, provoked a civil war that caused the rebel (New Model) army to brand him "Charles Stuart, that man of blood" and cut off his head. As an appellation for Cheney "that man of blood" works for me.

to ourselves
The antecedent was "We, the People" not "We the corporations," nor "We, the Rich People." Despite stringent attempts at keeping all those poor unwashed masses out of the body politic, they are part of it, even those, crazy, only count for three-fifths of a person African-American type persons. Them, too.

and our posterity
We are thus bound and required to take a long view. How long? Next week? Next month? Posterity is a long time. Generations upon generations. Your grandchildren's grandchildren. One cannot anticipate all of the consequences of one's action over that time, but one can have the humility to be aware that your actions will echo down the years in ways that you cannot now understand.


Reading this over, there are some themes I want to develop further. First the notion that the Preamble to the Constitution is in fact part of the constitution, not just window-dressing. One cannot declare oneself to be in favor of the original intent of the Framers and ignore that the original intent of the Framers was captured by the Preamble and their purposes were defined by that Preamble, with the remainder of the Constitution the instrument for those purposes.

Second is the idea that American constitutional history begins, really, with the accession of Charles I. and that the core of American constitutional thought was formed between that time and the evolution of parliamentary government under the Hanoverians

A Place to Belong Whoever you are Just as you are

That is the motto of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, NH.

When the Right Reverend Eugene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire is just Gene, another child of God, it's where he goes to Church.

In light of all the nonsense that the Bishop's invocation didn't get broadcast, and the fingerpointing about why, I ask you to pause for a minute, and just listen to what he said.

"I didn't support Gene for Bishop because he was gay, I supported him because he was Gene," one of my fellow NH Episcopalians said to me once. I understand, full well the symbolic importance of the Gay Bishop(tm), but guys, really, he's our bishop because he's a fantastically great pastoral leader.

In the meantime, enjoy what he said:
"O God of our many understandings,

We pray that you will bless us with tears – tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger – anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace.

Amen."

A couple minor glosses to this: Thanksgiving for your pain and anger and discomfort; I have heard Gene use this form before in invocations. And about daughters, Gene knows whereof he speaks. He was married before he came out and has at least one daughter and grandchildren