NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

December 27, 2012

Lay the myth to rest

I was planning to continue my writing on the U.S. Constitution, especially about how it is part of climate change as well as campaign finance and granting the rights of human beings to others.

However, something else has come up, something constitutional, but not so much about how court decisions and amendments have modified and refreshed our guiding document, but about a myth that is attached to it. Now there is nothing so unusual about myths replacing reality in history nor are myths always harmful, but they can be; they can be dangerous, even deadly.

That being the case, sometimes we need to rethink a myth to see whether it truly has anything to do with our time; whether the frequency with which it is repeated has anything to do with its validity; whether it has anything to do with the issue with which it is associated.

If we determine that the answer is no; that the founders’ concerns of the late 1700s are no longer an issue, because they were expressed in the midst of a war to gain independence from a foreign power, one that instead of using its military to defend its subjects, was using these armed forces to oppress them. We need to consider how our time is different from the late 18th century; whether we’re dealing with the fundamental freedoms that remain fully alive for 21st century Americans: religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, the ones the Bill of Rights emphasizes by placing them in the First Amendment.

In contrast, consider what the founders thought was of enough importance to place in the Third Amendment: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.” A problem back then, certainly, with foreign troops in our midst, but not today, and who now cites this part of the Constitution as the basis for a freedom that is threatened?

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