February 4, 1999
day I was chatting with a man I have known for half my adult life,
and what began as a conversation about philosophical principles wandered
into the topic of professional wrestling. I offered a few mild criticisms
of the sport, and described how I would handle an opponent in the ring if I
were a wrestler.
If you were a wrestler, my
companion said, youd be one of those guys in a hood and
Maybe I should have shrugged this off as
a casually insensitive remark. But I couldnt. It was just too
hurtful. I wondered whether hed been feigning friendship all these
years, just waiting for the chance to slip in a few wounding words.
Just for the record, I
retorted, I dont even own a hood or mask at the
moment. (Of course it depends what you regard as a
hood or mask, but I think I was legally
accurate.) But he didnt retract a syllable.
Speaking of hoods and hurtful remarks, it
has been reported in several newspapers that I once spoke to the Council
of Conservative Citizens, which is currently being pilloried as a radical
Well, its true I addressed them some
years ago. But I should state here, for the record, that I would never have
accepted their invitation if I had known then of their associations with
Republican leaders. Still, they seemed like nice folks, and neither I nor
anyone in the audience wore a hood or a mask. I dont recall any
burning crosses, and I dont even think anyone used the hurtful word
But I did talk about the need to restore
constitutional government, and if anyone finds that hurtful I want to
humbly apologize. It just sort of slipped out in a careless moment. I now
recognize that the last thing this country needs is constitutional
government, which are code words for heartless bigotry.
After all, the Framers never intended for
the Constitution to be taken literally. That would mean repealing most of
our laws. It would make it impossible to save Social Security and
Medicare and to bomb other countries when we are in the mood to do so.
Countless patriotic Americans would cease getting regular checks in the
mail and would be forced to seek income only from those who paid them
No, the Constitution was meant to be a
living document. It means whatever the people in power
want it to mean, when they want it to mean it. This is, after all, a
democracy, in which the winners get to rewrite the rules of the game.
Thats what separates democracy
from such static forms of competition as, say, professional wrestling.
Who wants to live in a country where words always mean the same things,
year after year? The life of a Supreme Court justice would be intolerably
dull. The rule of law would lack the vital element of surprise. We would be
overrun with fetuses.
The Framers werent perfect. Far
from it. Their chief mistake was to write the Constitution down, which
created the false but stubborn belief that it wasnt supposed to
change too fast. This mistake was compounded by including the
cumbersome amendment process, which created the equally false belief
that the Constitution couldnt just evolve spontaneously, like other
living things. Evolve, of course, meansto change in a
progressive direction. And progressive, when applied
to government, means more.
The written Constitution has also led
right-wing extremists to make the simple-minded assumption that
criminals should be removed from office, which would clearly thwart the
will of the people. Instead of writing that officers could be removed for
treason, bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdeameanors,
the Framers should have written or other equally high Crimes and
Misdemeanors. Or better yet, or even higher crimes, and not
just some lousy misdemeanors, such as perjury about private consensual
But these are minor flaws. The true
genius of the Constitution is that it is a self-abolishing document. Its
subtext, for those who can appreciate its subtle nuances, is:
Change me. It enables us to gradually obliterate its own
literal meaning, if we can think of a more progressive one.
Archive Table of Contents
|FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.