Honestly, I’m starting to believe that the worst thing for our country has been this trend to interpret the Constitution in a similar manner to the Bible–as if it is some mysterious bunch of words dictated from holy men who had insights into the nature of the world the rest of us lack, which then means that the only way we can discover what words in the Constitution mean is to take each one individually and hem and haw over it.
I once knew a girl who claimed to believe that the Bible was the inerrant word of God and who also believed that “wine” in the New Testament was not fermented grape juice, but a non-alcoholic fruit juice mix. See, the Bible is inerrant, but you have to, apparently, know the right way to read it in order to make it so. It’s inerrant, but words don’t mean what they normally mean. It’s inerrant but only if you realize you can’t take it at face value. You start to see the troubles with this approach to Biblical understanding. You can’t trust what you plainly read on the page. That’s not exactly true, until you know the secret code or something.
And I see that more and more in what passes for Constitutional understanding among our politicians. Rather than a messy flawed document the founders intended for us to change as we needed (though not easily), we’re growing more and more prone to treat it like a holy text, like its meaning is derived from figuring out not what it says or what precedents we’ve established based on what it says, but on a kind of religious close reading that is just bizarre to outsiders.
I mean, say what you will about our national discussion about guns at the moment, the idea that a state can make it a crime at the state level for a federal agent to do his legal (at the federal level) job is ridiculous. It’s exactly opposite of what the Constitution says. The only way you could believe that it’s Constitutional is because you’ve parsed the fuck so far out of the 10th Amendment that you’ve come up with some mystical meaning, not one based on what the actual words of the Constitution say.
I honestly think we’re back in one of what Ginsberg called America’s “silly mood.” The thing that sucks is that when America is in a silly mood, people end up dead.