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The United States Constitution: What does it means?

Wayne Horne | 10/6/2016, 5 a.m.
The national election is now less than five weeks away. Character as defined in this year’s election has been a ...

The national election is now less than five weeks away. Character as defined in this year’s election has been a focus of the presidential campaign, but in the background there has been an emphasis on parts of the U.S. Constitution. Not in the broadest sense but in the very narrow sense of who supports a particular piece of the document to justify a point of view versus the intent of the entire document.

The person elected President in November will swear an oath in January next year to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Not the parts they like, but the entire document. There are seven Articles contained in the document with an additional 27 amendments that either add, subtract, or modify other parts of the Constitution. Saying “it’s in the Constitution” doesn’t always make an argument clear. The Supreme Court interprets what it means. There are reams of paper put out each year that say what is in the Constitution and it’s a sure bet that some of those interpretations will change in the future.

Anyone can pick up a pocket version of the document for three or four dollars. You can read through the whole thing in about 20 to 30 minutes. There have been many attempts to change the Constitution that have failed. For instance, in 1876 a proposed amendment forbidding religious leaders from holding a government office or receiving federal funding didn’t make the cut. Another one in 1912 making marriage between races illegal was averted. In 1938 there was an attempt to limit personal wealth to $1 million. That’s about $19 million in today’s dollars and would eliminate most of the candidates in the last several presidential campaigns.

There’s a long history for one that failed in 1948: the right of citizens to segregate themselves from others.

How much thought and effort went into the 27 amendments to the document? It is hard to know, but most amendments are short and seemingly to the point. In practice not so much. The shortest amendment is the XVI (16th) that was ratified in 1913 and gave power to Congress to levy and collect an income tax. It has yielded thousands and thousands of tax laws that affect all of us. The longest amendment is the XIV (14th) and regards Civil rights.

Alexander Hamilton, who was the first Treasury Secretary, believed national debt was a blessing. He felt the more money the government owed, the more the people had a stake in the country’s success. George Washington, our first President, called for the emancipation of his slaves in his last will and testament after his death and that of his wife. His wife Martha, however, did not stipulate their freedom in her will. They remained slaves.

One last thing… the recent outrage expressed by some regarding participants of sports teams protesting real and perceived bias by police toward African-Americans and other minority groups seems misplaced. The method of the protest is to not stand when the National Anthem is being played. This form of protest is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While it is a form of protest I and others may not agree with, it is a freedom that many, including myself, have fought for. Some have sacrificed their lives for. The form of protest should not be the focus of outrage but rather the focus should be on the reason some feel the necessity to protest. It should be a comfort to all citizens that the freedom to protest is a protected right. Stay tuned…