Wednesday, March 12, 2014

We have lasted some 400 years.

I've been thinking of how spectacle distracts and numbs people so they won't take time to live authentic lives and make meaningful connections with others and that sort of thing.  Today I happened to see a headline that distracted me: "Dem Congresswoman Says the Constitution is 400 Years Old" and I wondered if an elected representative had actually been so ignorant, but when I read what the woman (Sheila Jackson Lee) had said, I realized the article and headline were very, very misleading.  She had not claimed the Constitution was 400 years old, she had said, with reasonable accuracy, but rather awkward phrasing:

. . . Frankly, maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman, and others for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a Constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not. . . 

She simply left out (but implied) the phrase "more recently" or "since 1787" or "later" or something like that.  The "nation" (as opposed to the state or the country) can reasonably be said to begin around the time Europeans started establishing permanent colonies and settlements in North America, which would indeed be about 400 years ago, when initial Spanish, French, Dutch, and English colonial settlements began in New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, and Maine.

 Sheila Jackson Lee could have meant ". . . sanctity of this nation and well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating since 1787 under our Constitution. . ."  and anyway, I think it was understood by the Continental Congress that as Englishmen they were protected by the [unwritten] Constitution of England, or at least that would have been the common understanding, and it was the failure of Parliament and the British Monarch to abide by the American [correct] understanding of the unwritten English Constitution and the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation that led to our constitution.

The more egregious and disturbing error in Sheila Jackson Lee's poorly phrased statement is the silly claim that the Constitution "clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not."   That is her serious mistake, and the headline should read, "Dem Congresswoman Says the Constitution Clearly Defines What is Constitutional, Implies No Need for Supreme Court to Interpret Its Meaning."

Meaningless news anyway, the inarticulate ramblings of persons in the House of Representatives don't really matter.  Bills that are introduced and have some chance of passing (or should have some chance of passing) are newsworthy, and I wish media outlets would give more information about those.

Recently discovered a wonderful Pro Publica investigative piece on what images have been censored from Sina Weibo, and I highly recommend taking a look.  By the way, Blogger sites, including this one, are also blocked (censored) in China.

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