DC has been a pretty cool place to live for the last two years. It’s a great place because a lot of friends come through it or want to come to it for a visit. That being the case, I’ve become no stranger to the Smithsonians, the monuments and the National Archives. I honestly never get tired of seeing any of it.
The National Archives is a great place to visit when Nick Cage isn’t there trying to pull off a heist. The main reason for going is typically to view the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They’re pretty impressive to see even though the ink has faded away drastically. I hope somebody wrote down what they say because we are going to lose them eventually. I don’t know why our founding fathers weren’t smart enough to write them with a Sharpie.
It’s amazing to see the Constitution—the original rulebook for our country. Maybe you’ve heard this word as much as I have: Unconstitutional. It’s a very important word. The Supreme Court uses it a lot in judging whether or not certain laws and liberties line up enough with what our country was established upon. Everyday people use it as well. We all have our own varying opinions of what is unconstitutional.
What strikes me as odd, though, is that in the Archives, right next to the original Constitution, is the Bill of Rights. As I’m sure you know, the Bill of Rights is considered part of the Constitution, but it was added on a few years later. To be exact, the Constitution was ratified in 1788 and the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.
So that means only three years after it’s implementation, people thought that the Constitution didn’t quite cover enough subjects, which gave us the Bill of Rights. So when you think about it, the Constitution itself has pretty much been unconstitutional since the third year of its existence. And since then, we’ve had tons of amendments to the Constitution.
It only took three years for Americans to realize that we are living in an evolving country, and with its evolution must come the evolution of our laws and liberties. I think we can all agree on certain laws and rights, like that no one should murder or steal. But as time and technology advances, can we expect one set of documents to continue to lawfully and accurately cover all the changes around us?
For instance, the Internet wasn’t around in the 1700s. New forms of technology require the evolution of laws. What is acceptable? What is inacceptable? How do we preserve freedom and maintain civil justice? It’s tricky stuff. It’s why the Supreme Court will deliberate on subjects so extensively.
Another example is “freedom of the press.” I think we all agree that it in its foundation is good. But when it was written, the press had never seen a video camera or a smart phone. We have to reestablish what freedoms the press actually has. What kind of freedoms should the press have in delivering information to the public during a war? I would argue that even though there is freedom of the press, it doesn’t mean they have a license to say anything they want.
Freedom of speech. We are allowed to say what we want, but there is also “speech that incites a riot” which is illegal. It’s the reason you can’t yell, “Fire!” in a movie theater unless there is actually a fire. There are certain liberties that come with limitations for a reason.
My point is not to start my own political party or get anyone to rally behind me. Trust me, I’d be a terrible political leader. I can’t even sit through more than four minutes of C-SPAN. I just think that we can have the tendency to hold onto certain beliefs that we deem constitutional, and really we have to learn to evolve. If the times and technology are advancing, then holding tightly to word-for-word written rights from hundreds of years ago won’t do. The rights need to advance as well.
To quote the great philosopher Austin Powers, “Right now we have freedom and responsibility. It’s a very groovy time.”