To the editor:
Our Constitution has served us well.
It has provided mechanisms for resolving controversies peacefully over the years, except only for one civil war. By now, many other countries have drawn from it in crafting their own constitutions.
However, we should remember that the nation, the world, and the issues of the 18th century were far different from what we face in the 21st.
Most citizens were small farmers, who needed little in the way of governmental protection from the problems that plague us today. The capacity of the planet to accommodate over 6 billion people was not in question. Our founding fathers could not have imagined the problems and challenges resulting from technological progress in the last two centuries.
Even when it was written, the Constitution had its flaws. It permitted slavery. It denied women the right to vote.
In dealing with current issues, many people look to the Constitution and the attitudes of our founding fathers for guidance.
Natural as that may be, it is not always relevant. For example, when the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of free speech, was written, there were no billion-dollar corporations with enormous power to influence elections through TV ads.
When the Second Amendment was written to guarantee the right of the people to bear arms in a well-regulated militia, the authors hadn’t experienced individuals using automatic handguns or assault rifles against their fellow citizens. The Supreme Court was not established to argue about what might have been in the minds of lawmakers living in a far different world over two hundred years earlier.
What the Constitution has done most effectively is to establish a political system that facilitates peaceful decision-making and as such is one of the most important documents of all time.
But when we try to use it to solve the practical problems of today, such as how best to limit the power of huge corporations or to prevent the slaughter of innocent citizens in a movie theater, looking to the Constitution for answers is fruitless at best.
Hesperus Avenue, Gloucester