Hopewell residents don’t have to worry about soldiers from Fort Lee moving into grandma’s bedroom because the Constitution says they can’t.
The Bill of Rights is very much like the Bible in that respect — it says some good stuff so we can cherry pick what we like and ignore the rest. We’re obsessed with the First and Second amendments to the exclusion of the other eight.
Yes, number three is the one that protects Hopewell residents from Fort Lee soldiers. But when’s the last time you heard that discussed on CNN or Twitter?
It’s the First Amendment that causes the most trouble. Free speech and religion are cans of worms in themselves. This is the amendment that opens the door for religious nuts and Twitter fans to say anything they want with no regard for truth. Because of the First Amendment, we’re swamped with more B.S. than most of us can stand. We should amend the First Amendment with a subparagraph that says: All of the above is permitted but may be rendered null and void when too much bull takes over.
Now to the Second Amendment. It’s the only one known to millions of gun-loving Americans, but I suspect most of them haven’t even read it. The amendment begins with its purpose, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ….” Are these gun-lovers even thinking about that? Actually, they may be, even though they don’t know it. Some of them are convinced that if we aren’t armed to the teeth the government may do something to us — require us to house troops from Fort Lee, perhaps. There are an estimated 300 million guns already in circulation, more than enough for a really cool militia. Well-regulated is another matter entirely. I don’t know what these folks are worried about but whatever it is, the answer is guns.
Amendment No. 4 says police can’t walk into your house and rummage through your sock drawer. They also can’t fool with your DNA without cause or permission, though the guys who wrote the Bill of Rights probably weren’t thinking about that. DNA was discovered many years later by Patsy Cornwell.
Amendment No. 5. is where we get the right to … invoke the Fifth Amendment. It means we don’t have to confess or cough up any other information that might be damaging in a criminal case against us. Guilty people just love the Fifth Amendment. The innocent rarely need it.
The Sixth Amendment is the bit about speedy trial and the guarantee that poor people can get a free lawyer. Of course everybody else will get poor real fast if they have to hire a real lawyer.
The Seventh Amendment sets a $20 minimum on the right to a jury trial but obviously the writers were oblivious to the reality of inflation.
Eight protects defendants from excessive bail, but perhaps more important than that prevents police from beating the hell out of them. Or is supposed to.
By the time we get to the Ninth Amendment it seems that the writers were running out of things to protect us against.
No. 10 says if we forgot something let the states take care of it. And boy, have they — especially the lawmakers in some of our Southern territories.
Of the 27 amendments ratified, a couple of them are worth additional thought. The 18th Amendment outlawed alcohol, but a few years later members of Congress apparently decided that they were drinking too much and passed the 21st Amendment, whose only purpose is to get rid of the 18th Amendment. Drinking has always been a problem but no law or lack of it can solve it. If Mr. Trump actually builds the wall he promised, illegal drugs will continue to flow like water. It’s an enduring truth: If people want something, it will be there.
Sometimes what seems a good idea turns out to be an awful idea. The point is, the Constitution can be changed. It’s not written in stone like the Ten Commandments.
So that wraps up my discourse on the often-amended Constitution. Most of these things don’t bother us, we just go along with them.
But the 16th Amendment remains a problem. Now that’s the one I really don’t like. We should consider amending it. S
Gene Cox is an author and inventor, who retired from a 35-year career as a television anchor in Richmond. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at genecoxrva.