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Tammy Messina: There’s nothing offensive about Constitution

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: January 13, 2011 10:09 p.m.
Updated: January 14, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

Since when did reading the United States Constitution become such a controversial event?

Last week’s reading of the Constitution by the House of Representatives elicited a number of reactions, both positive and negative.

Time magazine published the headline “The Cult of the Constitution.” Cult?  Really?

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., called it a “ritualistic reading,” “total nonsense” and “propaganda.”

The New York Times called it “a presumptuous and self-righteous act.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., referred to it as “a stunt.”

The Huffington Post called it “display of faux piety.”

I guess if you want to land some attention-getting headlines, read the Constitution — the basis for all  U.S. laws — out loud in the House of Representatives, one of the governing bodies responsible for crafting our laws.

Wait, that doesn’t sound very controversial to me. In fact, that sounds like common sense. It’s hard to believe this is the first occurrence, according to historians, in 222 years.

Recently, the Santa Clarita Valley Republican Women Federated group, of which I am a member, issued a challenge to the membership to read the Constitution. I hadn’t read it in more than 30 years so I took the challenge.

After all, this document is the basis for governing the country I live in.

There was so much that I didn’t remember. The sobering reminders of where we began as a nation were cause for reflection and thanksgiving for how far we’ve come through the years.

Much of the controversy in reading the Constitution was in the decision to omit pieces of the text that had later been amended. So only the amended versions of those issues were read, not the original writing.

I understand the controversy surrounding the “version” that was chosen for reading. It is hard enough to read references to “free persons” in the foundation document of our nation’s laws, let alone hear it read out loud.

But it’s in there, and thankfully, it was amended. Certainly, the decision to read the “amended version” makes for easier understanding overall

However, the relevant historical evolution is lost in that version.

Reading the textual references to slavery would certainly have been offensive or, at the very least, insensitive to some listeners. Reading the original text corresponding to some of the more technical amendments would have been a source of confusion to some.

When it comes down to it, no matter which version they chose to read, there would have most certainly been controversy.

Critics on the left say the Constitution is no longer relevant. Yet our high courts are still hearing cases and declaring rulings and laws “constitutional” or “unconstitutional.”

Why would they do that if that document weren’t still relevant? They wouldn’t.

So why read it now? Perhaps it’s the state of the economy and the hardships felt by so many.

When things got tough, my mother always taught us, go back to the basics. This is our American foundation.

If you haven’t read your Constitution in the last 10 years, I challenge you to take the hour or so that it will take you to read it.

This is the foundation on which all of our laws are built. It’s important for us to know it and understand it. And it’s even more important for us to protect it and hold our lawmakers accountable to it.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Constitution, check out the upcoming class the “Citizen Guide to the Constitution” Jan. 21 and 22. You can register online at www.scvevent.com. Or do the research yourself. There are plenty of resources available online that make it easy to understand. www.usconstitution.net is just one of them. Have fun!

Tammy Messina is a resident of Santa Clarita and a local business owner. She can be reached at tmessina@wildcat.la. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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