As a new American, for less than a year, after working in the country on and off for nearly 40-years, I’ve been totally dumfounded that America is effectively governed by an unelected supreme court.
Since the Roe vs. Wade ruling was passed down(like tablets of stone?) by the supreme court there has been lots of great media coverage and a ton of opinion about both the court and the constitution. I’m in agreement with the idea that if something is to be legal, there should be something that say’s it’s legal. Where we’ve failed is we’ve left the decision as to if something is legal to this unelected body instead of making an amendment to the constitution.
For me the best of the pieces that match my own concern with the idea of some document, frozen in time, as a set of rules to run the country,
came during the discussion on changing the constitution on Thursday June 30th radio program “1A”The definition of a constitutional right – 1A (the1a.org). 1A is produced by WAMU for NPR.
The whole show is well worth listening(linked at the end), the show lasts 46-minutes. If you don’t have that time, have a listen, or read the transcription for the segment that smacked me in the face.
Host: Do you believe there are universal principles in the constitution that do stand the test of time?
Elie Mystal: Cultural interests have changed since the writing of the constitution is that the question? When the constitution was written, I was three fifths of a person; when the constitution was written if I went from Mississippi to New York, I was escaped, I was stolen property that had to be returned. The constitution had a fugitive slave clause in the original document. Yeah I’d say cultural interpretations have changed since the constitution. No, it’s not timeless.
It’s actually quite dumb in various in various areas, you want me to give you an example. What kind of democratic republic are we running where the people don’t get to popularly elect their president? That’s pretty stupid.
What kind of constitutional republic are we running where the federal elections are not done by the federal government but are done by 50 different states, all with their own different rules on who can vote, when to vote, how to vote. What qualifications you need to vote? How does that make sense?
This is a constitution written in a time when to go from New York to California meant you took three months and you had to eat Jim on the way. Now we get on Delta.
The idea that this document is somehow divinely inspired by slavers, or timeless, or does not desperately need to be updated for the modern era is just bonkers to me.
I also want to go back to this point that this other person made about the property rights that you do have property rights. They’re under the fourth amendment that says that there’s a prohibition on a legal searches and seizures; That’s a property right, right there. Why has that property right, not been applied to women? Because again, consider the source, only white men were concerned about their rights.
I can defend the right to an abortion through many clauses in the constitution. The first amendment grants the free exercise of religion since the idea that constant that that life starts at fertilization is a catholic fundamentalist religious belief.
It shouldn’t apply to other religions. Jewish people, for instance, should be able to have abortions and if they can’t, that’s a violation of their free exercise clause. Yeah, there’s the eighth amendment that I’ve made. There’s the ninth amendment that I made. There’s a fourteenth amendment. There’s a thirteenth amendment where involuntary servitude is already prohibited under the constitution, renting out a woman’s body for free against her will should already be unconstitutional under the 13th amendment.
So again, this idea that this constitution is ossified in a white male version from the 18th century is just wrong and provably dumb.
Host: We’re talking to Elie Mystal, correspondent at The Nation@ElieNYC / Twitter, Professor Olatunde Johnson from the Columbia University School of lawOlati Johnson (@OlatiJ) / Twitter and Brandon Stracener, an attorney and researcher at the California Constitution Center. I’m Celeste Headley, You’re listening to 1A.1A – June 30th, 2022