A Constitutional Convention
For years I have resisted the idea that we need a constitutional convention to revise the Bill of Rights and rethink the other constitutional amendments. I feared that many of our most precious rights would have been lost in such a convention. After all, the caliber of the people chosen to represent us would have been similar to the caliber of the people running for President. But I finally have come to the conclusion that a constitutional convention is necessary.
Why do we need a constitutional convention? Let us look at the situation with our constitutional rights. The first amendment provides our right to freedom of religion. It is not hard to see after Waco and El Dorado that freedom of religion means freedom to be a member of some mainline Christian faith. It has nothing to do with dissident Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, or other groups like Wicca and Santeria. We need to be really, really clear that Congress has no authority over religion at all. The two are separate. The Churches may preach what they please and the Congress shall keep its nose out of religion. Further, it is clear that Evangelical Christianity has become the defacto State Religion. We need to assert the absolute right of people to be free from the opinions of other faiths.
The question of marriage is a religious matter. The government should get out of the marriage business. Polygamy, same-sex marriage, so-called underage marriage, masturbation, polyamory, all those sexual matters must not be programmed by a particular religious view.
The press must be free. Reporters must be immune from suit for keeping the names of their sources from government interference. We must know what the government does not want us to know. Why? Because bureaucracies are inherently anti-democratic.
We have a right to assemble for the purpose of petitioning the government and redressing our serious concerns. Closing off government buildings from the people by barricades, scanners, and police at every door is opposed to freedom. Open up the buildings. Open up the White House.
We have an individual right to carry a gun. We need those guns to create private militias to protect ourselves against governments that get out of control, like stealing 416 children to indoctrinate them into Texas Mass Church Evangelistic Christianity. The Social Compact has been broken in Texas and revolution is justified by those who broke the compact.
We have a right to be free from government surveillance in our homes. Because the government can sit on the street and listen to everything we say in our homes and because the government can without justification listen to our phone conversations, we must make it clear that the government may not eavesdrop on our conversations.
Because the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures has ceased to exist due to the Supreme Court's failure to interpret the law in strict obedience to the Constitution, we must simply say no more searches and seizures without the right of the person to be searched and seized being present to argue against the warrant. No more stop and search. No more knock and enter. It stops.
The fifth amendment is seriously compromised. We must require grand juries that have a right to demand information from prosecutors. We must demand that war and public danger be defined by the Congress, not the President. We must stop the use of DNA without a persons consent. We must end the so-called eminent domain for the use of redevelopment.
The sixth amendment requires public trials. Public trials mean trials that the public can see. All trials should be videotaped so that people can access them and see if justice has been dealt out. We need to be able to see the judges in action so that they can be voted out. Impartial juries means people who are not prone to be swayed by personal opinions. All persons should be eligible to serve, including convicted criminals. The right of jury nullification should be explained to a jury during the time of its inpanelment. The accusations of the State should be specific so that defendants may defend against real allegations. The age of a complainant or alleged victim should be no defense against testifying and that face to face confrontation should be guaranteed. The government should provide investigators as well as lawyers for indigent defendants so that the right of compulsory process is real.
The seventh amendment guarantees the right of jury trial. We should re-establish the right of jury trial for all kinds of suits brought in Federal Court, including tax matters.
The eighth amendment is meaningless when the bail is so high that only the rich can bail out. Fines that would take a lifetime to pay are unjust. We should carefully look at cruel and unusual methods of locking people up instead of physical punishment.
The ninth amendment guarantees the right of the people to raise their children in peace, to teach their children as they wish, to raise their children in the religion of their choice, to be secure in their own home, to decide when their life should end, to decide when life begins, to decide whether to wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle, to decide whether they will in private ingest drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or other dangerous materials, to be able to control their own bodies short of murder to another living being, to use or not use communication devices, to have freedom of person even when they are public officers, like lawyers and doctors, and so many other rights that were inherently ours in a free society. We need to definitively state that those a matters in which the general welfare must give way to the specific individual rights.
The tenth amendment was lost during the Civil War. We must either guarantee state's sovereignty or eliminate the autonomous nature of our provinces. We the people must recapture our freedom from the Federal and State Tyranny.
The electoral college should be abolished. Proportional voting should become the norm in federal elections. The political system that allow multiple parties should be allowed in America.
We should seriously rethink what is a crime. We should define criminal activity more closely. If however a person is convicted of a serious crime, they should be subject to slavery rather than the cruel and inhumane activity of imprisonment that we now practice. No one should be enslaved because of crimes of another.
The Fourteenth Amendment has become abusive and has allowed the United States government to increasingly involve itself in local affairs. This convention should guarantee that the provisions of the fourteenth amendment are present in the constitutions of the various states and leave it to the states to enforce. The remainder of the Fourteenth Amendment should be abolished.
The Fifteenth Amendment should be changed to guarantee that age and gender should not be a barrier to voting and that any one old enough to be able to request a ballot may vote. Neither should incarceration be a barrier to voting.
The Sixteenth Amendment should be abolished.
With the rethinking of the party system, we should rethink the need for a Senate. The Seventeenth Amendment should be abolished.
The Eighteenth Amendment has been abolished and the twenty first amendment should be abolished.
The Nineteenth Amendment was dealt with in the new Fifteenth Amendment.
The twentieth Amendment should be part of the constitution as the rest of these amendments shall become.
Amendments 22, 23, 24, and 25 should be part of the constitution.
Habeas corpus laws should be strengthened. Although the President is commander-in-chief, his right to commit soldiers to action without prior approval of Congress should end. The draft should be abolished. The American people ought to periodically decide whether we should continue armed conflicts.
Lastly, the concepts of the Social Compact should be incorporated into our law and a new office, the Federal Ombudsman, should be created to argue for the people and against any derogation of their rights. If he disagrees with an act of the President, the Congress or the Supreme Court, he should be allowed to place the issue on the next national election as a referendum of the entire Republic.
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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