Meaning and Purpose in the Constitution

United States Constitution
Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States

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Meaning and Purpose in the Constitution

Last week the American Supreme Court made two rulings on individual rights. In one case the court reversed its position on constitutional rights for women. Meanwhile, in another case they affirmed new rights to carry firearms in public. The constitution does not mention either of these rights explicitly. Of course, the constitution is quite vague on many rights and protections. The ninth amendment offers protections for rights left unmentioned, while the second amendment refers neither to self-defense nor individuals.

Indeed, both cases highlight fundamental problems not just with the Supreme Court, but the American Constitution as presently constructed. The Dobbs decision says a lot about our respect for women and their decisions. Roe was about more than just a right to abortion. It was about the dignity to make difficult decisions that affect a one’s own health, opportunities, and identity. Meanwhile, the Bruen decision makes the open carry of firearms in public a constitutional right. This is a radical expansion of gun rights that will gradually change the views of many toward the second amendment. Such a radical interpretation makes it almost inevitable that a future generation will decide to repeal it.

The American Constitution is in a moment of crisis. The Supreme Court looks to reinterpret American law in a way that will radically change American society. Meanwhile, Trump’s machinations after the 2020 Election exposed how the complexities of the electoral college make presidential elections vulnerable to exploitation. Meaningful constitutional reform is past due. This means we must pass a series of constitutional amendments designed to protect democracy. It also means constitutional rights should mirror human rights. But most of all our politics must reflect our values and ideals, because we should not lose a sense of meaning and purpose in the constitution.

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