There’s been a lot of noise lately about some proposed Constitutional Amendments: banning flag-burning, making English the only official language of the US, banning gay marriage, in addition to the usual evergreens. It seems to me that the Bull Moose Party ought to take a position on these.
As my teenage daughter said while listening to the yammerheads carry on about flag-burning, “that’s not what the Constitution is for.” Smart kid.
It’s that simple. The Constitution is a blueprint for the country, it lays out specific duties that the various branches of government are to carry out, and lays out general principles for the things it’s not supposed to meddle in. The last time a Constitutional amendment was enacted that restricted what citizens could do, it was an unmitigated disaster. That was Prohibition, and it failed so miserably that it barely lasted a decade before being repealed. Now, granted, none of the bans we’re talking about here are likely to cause anything like the rampant crime and violence that Prohibition brought, but there are principles involved.
Get used to hearing that word; we hope to make the Bull Moose Party the party of principle. We’re not going to tell you who to vote for or anything like that, but we will call your attention to what we believe to be the important principles that underlie every position that we adopt. Now, on to the topics at hand:
Flag-burning. This one seems obvious. It has been established over and over that the First Amendment protects expression, ESPECIALLY political expression. “The right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances” is specifically protected. I would say that lighting up the Stars and Stripes is a pretty clear petition for redress of grievances. Why are we even discussing this?
Defense of Marriage, banning gay marriage, whatever you want to call it. First, let’s make a little distinction here (you’ll soon discover that it’s all about little distinctions): There is legal marriage and there is Holy Matrimony. Holy Matrimony is a sacrament of the church, and each religion, sect, denomination and affiliation has its own rules for certifying and acknowledging the sacrament. Legal marriage is essentially a contract, a bit of civil law that accords those who enter into the contract certain privileges and rights, including issues of inheritance and next-of-kin status. As long as the religious institutions are guaranteed the right to decline performing or validating any marriage they so choose, there is really no good reason to deny gay couples the legal benefits of marriage. And anyway, it’s not what the Constitution is for.
English only. We’re working on an in-depth piece about this topic, but for now, we’ll just say this: why is it okay for third-generation Americans to celebrate and honor their Irish, Scottish or German heritage (ever been to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Highland Games or Oktoberfest?), but it’s not okay for more recent arrivals to preserve their family culture and heritage? Certainly, English ought to be the language in which the US government conducts its business, and there is some little merit in the economic argument that it costs money to print official information in multiple languages, but is that a reason to carve this notion in granite as part of the Constitution? Say it with me: “that’s not what the Constitution is for.”