Monday, March 17, 2008

The Season of Politics - History, Ground Rules and Decorum (Part 2)

I've really thought hard about what to talk about next, but in the end, I think its very important to talk about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

These are, without a doubt, the two most important documents to the fabric of our nation. These are the cornerstone of everything that we believe in. If you have no idea what is in these documents, you owe it to yourself and your family to read them and understand them. They are really that important.

All elected members of government are sworn to protect these. Even the president.

These two documents, together, describe and limit the scope of our government. They also describe how things are two be done. Such as elections of certain offices and their removal.

One interesting thing that I hear people ask is why do we have a census? Well we have a census because the Founding Fathers decided that a representational government would need to have a head count of the population so to determine where legislative boundaries would be. Yes it is expensive, but without it, Powerful men in Washington would in turn decide what the population was, and my guess, is those numbers would be most self-serving. The number of members of one house of the legistlature is determined solely by the census. The people, the bigger the House of Representatives. The Senate has 2 members from each state. This was created by the Great Compromise...a different post.

The Bill of Rights was created because it was felt the constitution needed a clear definition of what each citizens rights should be. While the constitution defines the framework of government and some basic rights, it does not clearly define what the people can expect. The Bill of Rights also constitutes the first 10 amendments to the constitution. If it is not clearly defined as a right in the Constitution, it is defined here.

Here is where I've been thinking about making this two posts, but this point is also very important. These two documents state clearly that there is to be a separation of powers with defined checks and balances. This was not created to stand in the way of justice, but to preserve it.

The United States was created as a nation run by the rule of law. Many types of government are run by the rule of man or deity. While these are neat and all, they fail to protect the most basic principals of liberty and justice. Our nation was created in away as to protect these ideas.

While congress has the ability to create laws, they have no power to enforce them. The executive branch has the power to enforce laws, but they can't create them (this is debatable - rules are one thing, but technically, not laws. Congress has given the President and the cabinet the ability to create rules). Lastly, the judiciary has the power to interpret laws and determine if laws can be enforced or should exist at all.

What about the will of the people?

The will of the people is limited by the power of the constitution. While most people believe the United States of America is a democracy, this is only partially true. We've chosen a representative republic. We elect people to represent us, and we have a constitution that prevents us from doing things that ultimately are wrong.

This concept is rather difficult to understand. To quote Spock from Star Trek - the Wrath of Kahn, "It is logical. The needs of the many out way the needs of the few, or the one." In someways this is true and important, but in others, this is just plain wrong. Our constitution defends the needs of the few or the one. Its a check on our own need for power. The majority of the people can not chose to remove the liberty of another person just because the want to. It is very difficult to make these changes for a reason.

To make an amendment to the Constitution is a very difficult process. This is on purpose. The American people have very interesting mood swings when it comes to the issues. Our attention span is short. We seem not to be able to must much change in our Constitution.

The last few amendments have all died along the way. Term limits (I would say we already have them, its called the ballot), Equal Rights Amendment and protecting the family (a veiled attempt at saying it should OK to discriminate against homosexuals) didn't have the political will to over come the difficulty in changing the constitution. Although the ERA still has a chance.

On a personal note, I'm only in favor of one amendment right now, and that's one establishing the Writ of Habeas Corpus as a defined right in the constitution. But that's for another post.

Our entire system is designed to be a pain in the ass for the simple reason that if anything becomes to easy for one branch, the others have a source of remedy to return things to the way they should be.

All of this was started because, we the people of the United States of America want nothing to do with a king or a tyrant. No one in our great nation should ever be above the law or the Constitution. It is not a guide, it is the rule of law. We as citizens are obligated to defend this document more than we are obligated to defend our president or the leaders in Washington. At the core of our system, is the Constitution. Not a person. Not a party. But a piece of parchment. That is what we stand for and that is who we are.


Nap Warden said...

Hi, I just wanted to stop by and say...yes, auditioning for play dates is weird, and so is having a nanny come over with the kiddo...such is life in the big city. It's me and the nannies. As a SAHM, sometimes I feel like a martian.

The Mama Bear said...

Ever considered being a Merit Badge counselor for Boy Scouts on the Citizenship badges? This post is more informative than the materials they gave my boys.
Just wanted to let you know you have been added to the Proud Papas of the Universe blogroll at The Cafe

OhCaptain said...

I have considered volunteering for the Boy Scouts having been one myself.

I learned a lot about this as a scout and it was probably the biggest catalysts in getting me interested in this subject.

Right, now the volunteer time is pretty limited. I help out my kids school, but with the Mrs. in grad school, their isn't a lot of spare time to give away.

You best bet, just keep reading. The Smithsonian and are great places to start along with wikipedia.

If I didn't live half way across the country, I'd have a membership at the Smithsonian. I love that place!

OhCaptain said...

Oh! And thank you for the nice comments!

Robert said...

Very thought provoking writing. It was a good read. I don't agree with all your points here but isn't that the whole idea? Living in America we can disagree and still leave with our head!

One point I have to make is that I really don't think anyone on the "protecting the family" side is looking for ways to discriminate against homosexuals. At least I hope not. I think most are trying to keep things the way things have always been since the foundation of the country. It is not a new way to discriminate against a particular group. If we don't keep a fixed line somewhere, ask the obvious question, what's next? If we legalize homosexual marriage, why would we then discriminate against bisexuals? Couldn't they equally love someone from both sexes? Wouldn't it be discrimination to tell them they can't marry both the man and woman with whom they are deeply in love? Then, if we agree and allow that, where do we go from there? Three partners? Four? Cousins? Brothers? Sisters? Was there a point at which you said, "ok, now you're being sick?" How is that line decided? And how is it moved? Popular consensus? Just some things to think about. Thanks again for a great topic though.

OhCaptain said...

Robert, thanks for the excellent comment. I really enjoy a political debate.

Instead of just at a comment rebutle to your argument, it seems to have turned into an entire post.

I hope you find the rest of my posts interesting and stop back. I love here everyone's opinion. I even enjoy testing my own opinions.