Today, September 17 marks Constitution Day in America, as our great foundational document was finally completed on this date in 1787. So much has happened in America since 1787, far too numerous to list herein. However, one thing is for sure, and that is the fact that a large chunk of Americans have no idea what the Constitution says, let alone what it actually means. Since 1787, an additional 27 Amendments have been ratified and added (the first ten - AKA Bill of Rights were added to ensure full ratification by 1791). But understanding what the Constitution includes and does not, seems to require a great degree of knowledge, as the average American can't tell you what anything beyond the first two Amendments say, and even with that, they only have a gist of its intent in those two amendments. I recall not too long ago (as a Reader for College Board) that some Advanced Placement Government students from Texas always incorrectly listed the Second Amendment's Right to Bear Arms language to somehow always fell within the language of the First Amendment. It made me think while reading their responses that they honestly believed the entire Constitution is just a freedom to own a firearm or at least they were taught to believe this. No other Rights seem to be recognized by those students. And why should they think otherwise, when we have a media focussed solely on the sensational instead of the real.
Case in point. This past week, a United States Congressman (uproxx.com/viral/madison-cawthorn-constitutional-right-to-fly-reaction/) went public to demand that vaccine requirements cannot be placed on individuals because the Constitution guaranties their rights to travel freely without restriction from State to State. He went on further to declare that any effort to require vaccine passports to fly was a direct violation of the Constitution. Except there is no provision restricting the power of government to control the travel of Americans from anywhere. If it was a Constitutional right to fly on a plane, then why would be charged for such a flight? Why do we have to comply with identification requirements?
Under the Constitution (Article I), Congress has the sole authority to regulate the flow of interstate commerce. If the travel of persons from state to state is not considered Interstate Commerce than why has the Supreme Court consistently extended the right of Congress to regulate it (See Gibbons v. Ogden, Heart of Atlanta Hotel). Why are people so confident they know what the Constitution says when they truly have no real idea? Perhaps because the Media has promoted a notion that every individual's "opinion" is as valid as any expert's. This is now seen throughout social media. Just within the last five years (since the rise of Trumpism), I have been personally accused of "needing to go back to school" or to "seek mental help" when I discuss what the Constitution actually says, and what the Supreme Court actually has ruled it to say and what the Framers actually meant when writing the document (via their written communications and the Federalist Papers) not written by the Modern day Ultra-Right Wing Federalist Society, but the real patriots writing under the pen name "Publius" - (Madison, Hamilton and Jay). I can honestly declare, it is quite frustrating hearing comments from people that have little to no actual knowledge of our Constitution or the law.
Which leads me to to re-think a principle I have been espousing for years that the "First Amendment gives us the right to remain stupid." Now I think the First Amendment should require a basic understanding of what the Constitution established when it comes to our form of government and why it has been interpreted to mean what it says for over 200 years. Perhaps add a dash of understanding as it relates to Stare Decisis as outlined by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison?
The only problem is, who should teach this material? Should MAGA's be allowed to teach it? Will everyone just argue that whatever is taught would lead to "indoctrination." Unfortunately, I am feeling less and less optimistic these days that our democratic republic will survive in the long run. I mean, when 36% of the public loses in an election (See California Recall), and the media amplifies their minority's impact for being far more important than that in reality, we are in for some real trouble. The First Amendment protects the free press, but at what cost when they actively engaging in harmful propaganda and disinformation (see Newsmax, OAN and Fox)? We need 21st century fixes and when folks like me become worried about our future, we all should be worried. In the interim, let's celebrate the Constitution as we really know it - and pray more Americans understand that keeping it is only going to be more difficult as the continuing divisive (media driven) post-Trump years unfold. Be well!