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Friday, June 29, 2007

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Why the Supreme Court
really does not matter

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a guy whose job required him to take an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution.

He is a nice guy who is just starting off as a law enforcement officer.

I took a similar oath a couple of decades back when I enlisted swearing to defend the Constitution against all comers - outside and in.

The nice young man and I were having a bit of a disagreement regarding the Supreme Court’s interpretation of a law.

At this point it does not matter which law. For those of you who do not know me well, I can get pretty high on the soapbox when it comes to Constitutional matters and such.

Anyway, I finished my mini-lecture on why this particular law was clearly a violation of the Constitution, and then he replied: “It does not matter. Once the Supreme Court makes a ruling the Constitution is altered - what was unconstitutional becomes constitutional.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. That’s how it works.”

“So, if the Supreme Court suddenly ruled that local government officials could censor a newspaper and not violate the First Amendment, that would be constitutional?”

“I don’t think they would do that, but yeah, I guess.”

“And you would up hold that law and arrest those that broke it - say newspaper editors like me who decided that the Supreme Court was wrong?” I said.

“My job is to uphold the law, not interpret it,” he said.

“Really,” I said again, this time smiling. “You don’t think you have any duty to interpret the Constitution?”

“No. If everybody interpreted it for themselves we would just have chaos.” “So, if the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment did not protect private ownership of firearms you would arrest those who maintained their firearms?”

“If that’s the law,” he said.

“And if the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution allowed governments to round up Catholics or Lutherans and put them in camps, you would help enforce that law?”

He rolled his eyes.

“Of course not.”

“Then you do have a duty to interpret the Constitution don’t you?” I asked. “At some point, you have to.”

He stammered for a while about practicality and the like, but in the end he took my point. At some point it is up to each of us to take the responsibility to decide if each government action is an infringement on our constitutionally protected rights.

And it is an important point for all of us. I took an oath to defend the Constitution against all comers -- not to defend the government, not Congress, not the Supreme Court - but the Constitution.

Most importantly, the Constitution has no meaning unless we each interpret it individually.

The Constitution is a contract. It is a contract between you and I and our neighbors that each of us must signoff on for it to have any meaning.

It’s a neighborhood association agreement - a list of very basic rules meant to keep a group of us from seizing the reigns of government, and whacking our fellow citizens about the head and shoulders with them.

It really does not matter what the nine political hacks on the Supreme Court say - what matters is what we think about our contract with each other - and if we think the contract has been broken.

It is an individual duty we all have as citizens - and for those who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution - it is a sacred duty.

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