Friday, January 7, 2011

The Sanitized Constitution

Dana Milbank on the House's reading of the Constitution:
In fact, there is only one version of the Constitution - and it wasn't what the lawmakers read aloud. What the Republican majority decided to read was a sanitized Constitution - an excerpted version of the founding document conjuring a fanciful land that never counted a black person as three-fifths of a white person, never denied women the right to vote, never allowed slavery and never banned liquor.

The idea of reading the Constitution aloud was generated by the Tea Party as a way to re-affirm lawmakers' fealty to the framers, but in practice it did the opposite. In deciding to omit objectionable passages that were later altered by amendment, the new majority jettisoned "originalist" and "constructionist" beliefs and created - dare it be said? - a "living Constitution" pruned of the founders' missteps. Nobody's proud of the three-fifths compromise, but how can we learn from our founding if we aren't honest about it?
It's the same issue as the new 'sanitized' version of 'Huckleberry Fin', which eliminates 'nigger' from the text and substitutes 'slave'. What a crock. Leave the literature alone, and let it stand or fall on its merits.

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