The end of the year is always my time to pause and reflect. We get the name for our month of January from the ancient Roman god Janus, the two-faced god. He was the god of transitions, reflection and plans; he had two faces so he could look back and look forward. Many events of this past year have given me cause to pause. Recently, I hear many people squawking about their rights and intoning various amendments of the Constitution. That got me thinking about the Bill of Rights. I hated to admit it, but it had been years since I read it, and I couldn’t name more than half of them.
Of course, every time I see some politician or pundit mangle the Constitution or history, I realize, hey, I ain’t doing so bad! Some of them couldn’t tell you what Paul Revere was doing on the 19th of April, even with a history book in their lap.
Anyway, with the advent of the internet, it was easy enough to do a search and get a copy of the Bill of Rights. I read all ten of them, and was happy to see that I’d actually retained more than I thought. I got seven out of ten correct; that’s a passing grade in history. Still, the Ninth Amendment caught my attention. Here’s the full text of it.
“Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
This ties, nicely, to the Tenth Amendment,
“Powers of States and people: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
I had remembered the first part of the Tenth, as that’s a key aspect of states’ right, but not the end, which is important. So often, conservative politicians and pundits object and complain about minority groups supposedly trying to gain rights they’re not entitled to receive. These days, it’s gays and their efforts to get married, and women and their desire to control their own bodies. There’s been the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), numerous other efforts to prevent gays from marrying, and more anti-abortion laws than I can count. Yet, I keep coming back to that amendment; good old Number Nine. Just because a right isn’t on a list, in the Constitution, does not mean that “We, the People,” do not have it!
The next time someone screams that gays are looking for rights they don’t have, I can just quote that little aspect of the Highest Law of the Land. The next time someone says that women aren’t entitled to certain things, ditto.
Isn’t it funny how conservatives love to cherry-pick certain elements of the Constitution? As they do that with the Bible too, should we be at all surprised? This is something to reflect on.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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