THE FREEDOM OF AMENDMENT


 "We are climbing Jacob's ladder
  We are climbing Jacob's ladder
  We are climbing Jacob's ladder...


        What sets The Constitution Of The United States apart from most established forms of government and indeed, perhaps what has most enabled us to survive and evolve into a large and diverse modern nation, is a single brilliant concept of the original framers of this now famous document.  They had the foresight to allow for constitutional amendment, thus leaving as their historical legacy, a highly unusual (at the time) and pliable decree of government open to the necessity of change as civilization and its ever-transforming realities dictate. Indeed, it can be argued with all logic that freedom cannot hope to be achieved if we the people as a nation, as well as individuals, cannot change our mind as conscience, experience and technological and other changes indicate revision is in order.

        The mature and rational human being is one who has ceased from defending, whether or not it be right or wrong or whether or not the evidence dictates, a particular belief, ideal or side such as "Christianity", "atheism", "liberal", "conservative", "evolution", "creationism", etc.  One who has instead, learned to treat each issue as separate unto itself, thus voting for the best candidate rather than for the "party", deciding on the most desirable direction rather than what is deemed "liberal" or "conservative" and attempting to determine what is actually true based on the available evidence, rather than defending modern science or a particular cultural or religious viewpoint. Seemingly, one of the hardest things for many even well educated individuals to do is to admit that a particular position they defend regarding a certain issue is, according to the majority of evidence, probably not correct.  And one of the most progressive forms of human maturity is displayed when we as individuals are willing to admit that we are wrong and more importantly, begin to move in a seemingly better direction accordingly.

        As difficult as it may be for the majority of us to admit that we are wrong, harder still perhaps, is it to convince most of us of the necessity of compro- mise for the sake of positive progress.  Nevertheless, possibly the most advanced form of maturity is demonstrated when we as individuals are willing to compromise a harsh stance that we personally would prefer for the greater good of our group or society.  The art of effective compromise, not to be mistaken with overt willingness to give in, represents one of the highest forms of human kindness and dignity, for it takes a strong and emotionally secure individual to sacrifice what they perceive to be correct for the ultimate good of the whole.  It is most fortunate for us that the framers of the Constitution were pragmatic enough to bend often very hard-line individual positions in order to achieve a cohesive, workable and pliable result.

        Anyone who has attempted to formulate an agreeable platform within a particular group of people ostensibly united toward a common cause or goal will attest to the fact of how difficult it is to convince even a small gathering of like-minded individuals to agree on a common consensus.  Also necessary to the art of effective compromise, one must learn to distinguish when moving toward the middle ground is warranted and when it is not.  Perhaps the best way to determine what should and should not be open to concession is to use the litmus test of Human and Civil Rights as a proper guideline:  If a particular position tends to trample on and utterly subvert what is perceived to be a fundamental Human Right, then one should shy away from compromise on that particular issue; if not, then one should lean toward being willing to concede an unbending stance in favor of the ultimate advancement of positive progress.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other activists have learned through experience, it is far better to gain half of the pie than to remain entirely without food and shelter.

        To demonstrate the concept of effective compromise, let us consider the current rather divisively unbending argument between those on one side, who would take away all right to private ownership of guns and other dangerous weapons and those taking the other hard-line position, being that individuals in the United States have an absolute right to own as many guns and similar weapons as they wish and that no form of registration or other control should be allowed.  To examine this issue fairly, let us first look at what The Constitution Of The United States actually says and theorize on what was most probably the intent of the original framers of this document, keeping in mind that the language of older English literary form is sometimes misconstrued out of perspective of the original meaning and intention.  Secondly, let us examine how this applies in the context of basic Human Rights, which supersede any and all governmental authority (see Key Of History for more details).  And finally, let us attempt to form a reasonable compromise toward the good of the whole, if indeed any fair concession can be ethically achieved.

        The Second Amendment of the Constitution states:  "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  If one compares this to the other nine original amendments collectively referred to as The Bill Of Rights (although the Constitution addresses each one as an individual and separate amendment and not as a collective whole), one will notice that it is the only original amendment that has a qualifier attached; i.e., "a well regulated militia being necessary".  It is highly logical to assume that if the intent of the framers was to simply grant citizens the right to bear arms, then the amendment would just state:  "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall in no way be denied."  Also note the choice of the word "infringed" rather than the more definite "denied".  Modern usage of English sometimes uses this word "infringed" to indicate "interfered with" and indeed, some hard-line pro-gun advocates have tried to force this interpretation as being correct.  However, the word "infringed" according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary is derived from the Medieval Latin infringere, meaning to break or crush.¹  Thus it is very likely that the word infringed, as intended here by the framers of the Constitution, means that this right shall not be abrogated or taken away.

        More significantly, in order to fairly interpret any particular part of The Constitution Of The United States, it is necessary to compare the portion in question against the Preamble, that oft overlooked but nevertheless, all-important part of the original text.  The reason of such preeminence being that the preamble lays down the overall purpose and intent of drafting the legal document in the first place; ". . . in order to. . . insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, provide for the general welfare. . ."  The Preamble clearly states that one of the main purposes of the Constitution is to provide for the domestic tranquility of We The People.  Thus, it can reasonably be interpreted that Congress shall have a right to regulate the distribution of arms to the citizenry in order to help insure civil order.  Furthermore, the constitutional framers would not have deliberately contradicted themselves by intending to allow the unregulated distribution of arms if by doing so, the ability to "insure domestic tranquility" would be compromised (as it has been a very many times in our brief history).

        Not everyone of course, least of all legal experts for the National Rifle Association, chooses to interpret the Constitution in this way, but other highly trained scholars of United States law argue with equal vehemence, that the fact that the Second Amendment is "qualified" as to the necessity of a well-regulated militia and the fact that our various states now have adequately armed National Guard and law-enforcement agencies for domestic protection (as was not at all the reality during the unstable and volatile time when the Constitution was formulated), the right to bear arms by private citizens is no longer guaranteed at all based on the original intent of the framers.  Obviously since such highly trained legal scholars differ so dramatically, a logical mind can interpret the Second Amendment in more than one specific way.

        Going beyond our own constitution and submitting the question to the higher authority of Human and Civil Rights, let us examine whether or not it is a Human Right to keep and bear arms.  Since many modern civil rights advocates consider Jesus to be the founder of Human Rights, it can be argued that the ultimate pacifism of Jesus, which teaches to "put away" our weapons and to "turn the other cheek", would deny this to be the case. However, even ultimate pacifism seems to have limits according to Jesus for, unlike much of our modern psychological and intellectual justifications which attempt to excuse the evil that men and women do, Jesus was very much a realist regarding the human proclivity toward evil.  In reference to when (or perhaps after) he was going to be put to death and apparently for their own security after he would no longer be with them, Jesus also said to his followers, ". . . let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one." ²

        It can therefore apparently be concluded that at least according to Jesus, although we should do everything in our power to "put away" our weapons and strive for peace and goodwill, we also have the Human Right to defend our own persons and our immediate family against the evil that people historically do. This also lends credence to the modern theory demonstrated by Gandhi, King, Chavez and others that we should seek peaceful positive change through non-violent resistance.  Thus, we can perhaps reach an admirable compromise regarding the issue of gun control in the modern era, such being, that we have the right to keep and bear arms in order to defend our families and ourselves but yet,  easy and immediate access to dangerous weapons should be curtailed. ³  In order to help "insure domestic tranquility", citizens in a proper Human and Civil Rights oriented society should not be allowed to possess dangerous weapons without certified training, a reasonable “cooling off” period (perhaps 30 days) and background checks.

        If the opposing sides of the gun control issue (in reality, "arms" control issue---see Credit "3" below) are not content with this conclusion and still feel that doing such would violate what our founders intended, then it may be a constructive idea to amend The Constitution Of The United States in a similar manner such as this:  "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be denied.  Notwithstanding, in order to insure domestic tranquility, the Congress shall maintain the right to regulate the access to weapons it shall deem dangerous to the general peace and safety of the people; howbeit such regulation shall not deny reasonable access for the people to possess reasonable weaponry in order to insure the defense of their own persons and their immediate families, nor access to such for the general purpose of hunting game or sporting and similar contest as allowable by law."  A point of contention would undoubtedly arise over the phrase “reasonable weaponry” and probably more detailed definition would be necessary, but quite obviously, there is a definite need in the modern world to differentiate between a hand gun or hunting rifle and a nuclear bomb or biological weapon (see Letter From The Grave for more information.).

        Today, some would contend that the first ten amendments are sacrosanct and not open to amendment.  However, this is a freedom-less and hollow argument that has no constitutional basis whatsoever, for the Constitution very clearly does not differentiate between the first ten amendments and any other amendment.  Also, logic dictates that if the original framers intended this to be the case, they would have included The Bill Of Rights entirely as one single unalterable amendment.  The fact that they are treated as separate issues very strongly indicates that the framers of the Constitution clearly intended for them to be subject to change the same as any other amendment.  Historically, several amendments have been altered by future amendment, the eighteenth having been entirely annulled by the later Twenty-First Amendment.

        Just as it is true that the truth will make us free, 4
 conversely, not knowing what is true will continue to insure that we remain slaves to an inherited historical legacy of lies, fear and superstition.  And thus, if we establish legal concepts of Civil Rights that we cannot later add to, subtract from or eliminate entirely, then We The People can never truly be free, for in doing such, we remain slaves to the beliefs, customs and immediate necessity of a largely forgotten distant past, which may or may not have any practical bearing on our present-day reality.  Furthermore, if we are not open to change, even of our most fundamental conclusions and beliefs, then we cannot begin to be free as individuals and if we do not practice the maturity and importance of effective compromise toward the good of the whole, we can harbor no hope that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." 5 *

 ...Do you, do you, want your freedom?
    Do you, do you, want your freedom?
    Do you, do you, want your freedom?..."


Declaration Of Independence

The Constitution Of The United States


DEDICATED TO:  President Abraham Lincoln, who walked a very fine and often, very unpopular line during our extremely volatile and unstable years of civil war strife in order to preserve our fragile Union of united states, which at least in theory if not modern-day reality, is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.


Credits:

1. Merriam-Webster Online

2. Luke 22:36.  The reason for wording such as "perhaps" and "apparently" is that the meaning of this particular portion of Luke is not entirely clear and thus, is open to considerable debate. Modern priests, preachers and others who find it necessary to pretend to know everything in order to maintain their assumed position of importance, appear to be what Jesus would call "fools", "hypocrites" and "liars".  It is important for us as individuals, especially if we are in a position to instruct others, to be willing to openly admit what we do not know or are uncertain of.  As Paul would later write, "For now we see in a mirror, very dimly", as "now I know in part" (First Letter To The Corinthians chapter 13).  When was the last time a priest, preacher, politician or science educator was heard to answer, "I do not know"?

3. Although often viewed as a "gun ownership" dispute, the true issue is the right to keep and bear arms of any kind, including knives, grenades, bombs, tanks, warplanes and even nuclear weapons.  In spite of what the National Rifle Association and certain gun sellers and collectors would have us believe to the contrary, there is no rationality in allowing totally unrestricted access to arms; i.e., are we going to allow citizens to store nuclear bombs in their garages---how about nuclear bombs attached to privately owned aircraft?  The argument that no regulation is warranted is truly irrational and without practical merit of any kind given the modern reality of advanced "arms".  Fortunately, the framers of our form of government were careful in their choices of phrasology---the right to "keep and bear arms" is significantly broader than a simple right to own a gun and therefore, requires significantly more carefully weighed and thought out regulation.

4. John 8:32.

5. President Abraham Lincoln; Gettysburg Address (1863).


*FootNote:  The purpose of this exercise in futility, rather than to enrage either side by singling out the particular issue of arms control is instead, intended to annunciate the necessity of artful compromise in order to "form", maintain and correct "a more perfect union" of anything, whether it be a marriage two people, a small group of like-minded individuals or a large federal government ruling a large and diverse population.  If our so-called "founding fathers" were as unwilling in their time to concede toward the positive advancement of the whole as are many of our hard-line advocates today on a great variety of issues, there never would have been a Constitution or a United States of America.  The majority of the framers would perhaps be seen today as relative political moderates, rather than the radical revolutionaries they apparently considered themselves to be at the time.
        It would undoubtedly be greatly beneficial for us all if those who put as much time and energy into insisting on having their entire way regarding the volatile issue of arms control surrounding the Second Amendment, instead, concentrated on defending the First Amendment, which is most openly, blatantly and repeatedly ignored on a daily basis in our nation's classrooms and our corporate controlled media.  Unlike any other amendments, the First Amendment contains a dual reciprocation insuring that the government shall neither support a particular religion nor shall it likewise, deny the free exercise thereof. The most probable intent of the framers for this very clearly delineated amendment obviously would be to allow ALL students and ALL teachers to present any and all religious and other opinion they so choose (providing it is presented as opinion, in the case of teachers).  Unfortunately, neither the religious 'right' nor the secular ignorant wish for this to become a reality any time in the foreseeable future, as they both have their ultra-narrow agendas well established, which seek to stifle and trample on the rights of the vast majority of We The People in order to shore up their own ridiculous and uncompromising view-points; such positions being generally rooted in modern common assumed misconception and/or the accumulated ignorance of baseless tradition.  (See The Tree of Knowledge for more details.)
        And, as is most clearly obvious in the recent flag-waving entirely twisted coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our theoretically 'free' media is habitually very careful to select what we do and do not see and hear, thus the mass population of We The People are led to believe what the corporate behemoths wish for us to conclude; perhaps more accurately, we are lead to accept the mythology of the 'vast patriotic majority' due to the corporate fear of appearing even marginally unpatriotic (i.e., a major news network on national television coming out against such a war might cause an unwanted negative response to the bulging coffers of General Electric, Disney and 'See the B.S.'---note the immediate reaction of corporate sponsors and Disney to the recent perceived negative remarks of Bill Maher (which, for better or worse, was clearly an opinion freely expressed as guaranteed by the First Amendment) and note also, the quickly (apparently forced) apology of Mr. Maher, the host of ABC's Politically Incorrect.  Far more telling, note how that CNN Online daily for weeks on end during the war in Afghanistan, devoted an entire page to "America's New War" (later changed, perhaps in reaction to anti-war activist criticism, to "War On Terrorism"), cross-referencing it even on the sports and entertainment pages as well as practically every other page.  One might suppose that all of the other ratings generating murder and mayhem that we are daily subjected to suddenly ceased for a month or two.  The avarice of the mass-media conglomerates has gradually taken America entirely away from what is a perceived 'free' press to a nightly indoctrination of the overt greed of modern capitalism's unnecessary product accumulation and the corporate American way, at the expense of truth, justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of us all.
        Whether or not Bill Maher (above) was right or wrong, or even expedient given the immediate situation, is not at all the issue.  The fact that he later apologized for his publicly stated opinion overwhelmingly indicates what is really true about our tightly corporation-controlled supposedly 'free' press.



           


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Copyright © August 20th, 2003 by Richard Aberdeen.

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