Today marks the beginning of a series of posts on the Constitution. I’m not a historian, but I took two classes in college and recently finished a book called White Trash that you should definitely read if you enjoy using your spare time to learn about depressing shit like how power structures of the past are still fucking you over today. I wouldn’t be surprised if Williams College asks me to rip up my diploma and promise to stop telling people I ever attended. But I am so sick and fucking tired of listening to Americans clearly not know anything about the fucking document that is the foundation of our government while simultaneously bitching about our government. It’s just time to take a stand. If you’re going to hate something, at least hate it with fucking facts.
It’s not entirely their fault that they don’t know this stuff. Unfortunately, the AP history exam kills a lot of Americans’ love of studying the past before they really ever get to consider the nitty-gritty of the Constitution – and that’s Americans lucky enough to have even gotten social studies. History should be storytelling, not just names and dates. Trust me, George Washington became a lot more interesting once I found out he nearly got everyone killed because he forgot to train the army and had to turn to a gay Prussian named Von Steuben for help. Yet, most Americans seem to think they’re a Nobel-prize winning scholar on whatever constitutional amendment applies to the right they don’t want taken away. I wish I had a nickel for every NRA member who doesn’t know what DC vs Heller is, or free speech nut who can’t name the other four rights protected by the first amendment.
First and foremost, I’m not entertaining the “listen to the old dead dudes” v. “this shit is open to interpretation” debate. It’s stupid. I don’t think that because I’m a liberal -the Democratic party can choke on a diverse selection of horse penises after finding a way to lose to Trump – I think that because back in the day I read a fucking book about the birth of the document at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It’s a stupid question because there is no holy consolidation of ideas that actually adds up to “original intent.” These historical Martha Vineyard dwellers disagreed so much on how to fucking start a never-before-seen country, any unlucky time-traveler at the Convention would think he was at a family reunion. Seriously, our founding squabblers hit each other with canes and shot at each other. The famous Federalist Papers and their less famous counterpart…wait for it…the Anti-Federalist Papers, could easily be compared to Bachelor contestants’ throwaway accounts where they post things like “Lauren had a boyfriend at home! She just wanted to be on reality television!” For example: “Alexander Hamilton doesn’t really want a strong government! He just wants to be king!” Speaking of Hamilton, Aaron Burr, a prominent politician, famously dueled him after years of bitter debate over power structures. These dudes disagreed so much, they literally killed each other. Yeah, they compromised on some shit, but left some issues close enough to boiling that we had to have a Civil War that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
Also, they did the damn thing thing in about 100 days – at least, that was the length of the convention. The full history is a little more complicated than that, but it still seems like they were rushing like a female sitcom character in her late 30s trying to have a baby. To be fair, it’s really hard to run a country without a plan, especially if you’re trying to maintain class structures (spoiler alert: of course they were. They were rich!). I took more time to write my undergraduate thesis, and I didn’t even do a final edit because I was pretty sure they’d still let me graduate. We definitely require PhD candidates to take more time to write their shit, I’m assuming, since they actually do require a final edit. Of course, they did have a prequel to work off of but that clearly had not been working. And yes, they had been arguing, caning each other, and writing anonymous hate mail about this for a lifetime. They’d also been heavily distracted by a war with the historical military equivalent of…well, the modern United States.
But let me ask you this question: if I stuck you and 55 other people, most of whom you hated, and all of whom loved any sound coming out of their own face, and provided you all with bottomless beer – how long would it take you guys to come up with a governing document worthy of standing the test of time? And no, for the sake of the thought experiment, you can not use Siri. They couldn’t even do it – only 39 of the delegates even signed off on the final draft, and poor Rhode Island couldn’t even get anyone to go represent them. You’d really think it would have been New Jersey.
Because this is Muricah, you probably think this still sounds like a good idea, as long as I’m serious about the bottomless beer. It’s true, our Founders liked to party! Admittedly, they didn’t really consider it partying, since beer and wine was a pretty large part of the colonial food pyramid. It was totally acceptable to be three beers deep by lunchtime – they called it “snacking.” What a time to be alive, if you weren’t the slave constantly pouring for an increasingly drunk asshole who gave zero shits about your wellbeing! Look, I know most people attempted to live on beer and candy their freshman year of college and probably did a reboot their senior spring as they faced the crushing realities of adulthood and rent. You have enough experience to say: that’s not really an ideal state of mind to do your best work.
And of course, there’s the white-supremacist elephant in the room. Fellow white people: when will we figure out how fucking insulting it is to say “Aside from thinking your ancestors were ⅗ of a person, these dudes just really hit it out of the park.” No, for fuck’s sake that is not how logic works. Promoting slavery is not one idea, it’s a whole collection of ideas that got together for an orgy of shitfuckery. You have to think Black people suck; you have to think some people straight up don’t deserve to be happy; you have to think there are humans so awesome they should be waited on hand and foot at all times so they can just sit around espousing genius-ness; you have to have faith in an economic structure that relies on unpaid labor. So there’s also a lot of ideas that are still tied to monarchy, class hierarchy and elitism that makes the FREEDOM pill of eagle feathers and hot dogs they’ve been shoving up your butt since that dumbass story about George Washington and the cherry tree proof that the founders certainly can tell a lie, even if it was also to themselves.
Now, the Bill of Rights actually is pretty popular, and less obviously pro-slavery. It’s perhaps the most popular part of the thing, to current citizens. However, it was not particularly popular with the delegates at the Constitutional convention! You know who didn’t want a Bill of Rights? James Madison, at least for a large chunk of his political career. Later, he changed his mind and wrote them. In modern politics, we call that being a flip-flopper. Madison, to be fair, had consistent goals: he really wanted to hone in on protecting individual rights for the people rich enough to deserve them.
Seriously, these dudes were classist as fuck. Thomas Jefferson, one of many founding fathers who did not attend the Constitutional Convention, said of future President Andrew Jackson: “One might as well make a sailor a cock, or a soldier a goose, as a President of Andrew Jackson.” Now I agree that Andrew Jackson was a terrible choice (he’s the Trail of Tears one), but Jefferson’s issue with Jackson was that he was the wrong breed – white trash. In other words, his issue was literally that Jackson had pulled himself up by his bootstraps. In a country where citizens were going so hungry they were forced to eat clay, Benjamin Franklin saw freedom as the opportunity to experience “happy mediocrity.”
Every American hates at least one thing in the Constitution – if only the electoral college. It is theoretically possible to change it through an amendment process, but it is practically impossible given the incompetence of our current Congress and the assholery of our current president. Hell, there’s even a “founder’s intent” argument to be made in favor of constant revision: Thomas Jefferson would actually be surprisingly chill about it, even if it did involve fighting. He was really into “little rebellions”, even suggesting they could happen as frequently as every 13 years. It’s hella disturbing when you think about how he actually saw all the guts and death and smallpox.
But that’s the Constitution we have, and those are the people that wrote it. We do the best we can to make sense of it and apply it to the question at hand. But if you’re going to open your mouth and use it to defend your actions, or call it the greatest document ever written, or say it’s an outdated piece of trash, at least do your homework first.
Speaking of opening your mouth, next week we will be discussing why the first amendment does not give you the right to be an asshole on the internet. Cheers!