Constitutions: Where does the interest lay? What for?

Constitutions made by governments, whether at the foundation of a state or due to changes in types of government, to seal agreements and settle possible disputes are all instruments that we have learnt to admire and profess. Constitutions differ from laws in that the latter are instruments by which we are ruled/managed. However, constitutions are documents that generally state what we consider ourselves and how we define ourselves. They are nothing but letters of intent. This is why any state must have laws, but not necessarily a constitution (see the United Kingdom).

However, when the founding fathers gathered and agreed in signing the US constitution back in the 18th century, they were doing so within the frame of mind of their times (politically, culturally, etc..), agreeing in what they saw as the best for the emerging country, conceding for the sake of agreeing. In the same way the constitution done in France after the French Revolution was done under the same conditions. More recent countries have often copied these constitutions; have been inspired by them, when the then leaders sat down to draw their own.

But what is a constitution? It is a reflection of the history (experience), culture, reality (day-to-day life) of a given state. And with time, this history, culture and reality grows, changes (or our perception of it changes) and generally evolves. For that we have the case of the amendments in the US and the different republics of the French history.

The US Constitutions is one of the most recognised and followed

Curiously it is often true that it is the more progressive side of a state that dictates a constitution (a constitution represents change and progressive people are more prone to change), but curiously, after time, it is the less progressive side of a state that defends the same constitution. This is again proof that society evolves.

But if societies evolve, shouldn’t constitutions do it as well? Not by mere amendments, but furthermore, by a reflection by the whole society of where we are as a state. A statement that reflects in writing where a society is and what it envisages it will be. And yet again, now we know where, how and what we want to be, but this doesn’t mean that our great-grandchildren will agree with us, since again, the societies history, culture and reality will have changed.

Why am I writing this now? This week there was the brutal murder of 28 people in Connecticut. The US is the 11th nation with the highest number of bullet-deaths per capita, and by far the first of what is called the developed nations. This is because the US constitution contains the right of every US citizen to possess a weapon. This is fine for the 18th Century, but it’s more doubtful in the 21st Century.

I am pretty sure that back in the 18th Century there was a higher proportion of senseless mass killings than today, and some of them probably well accepted by society, but in this the US society has also evolved.

The National Rifle Association and other organizations, politicians and citizens that agree with this right and refer to the US Constitution to defend it, are precisely those that defend profusely the US Constitution (less progressive side of society) or most of it. Now I’m not saying to exclude them, since they are also part of society, but nowadays the US Constitution does not reflect the view of the US society in the 21st Century. And I’m sure that if the chance to draw a new constitution was in the minds of all US citizens, that constitutions are not immobile documents, more people would push for a new constitutional process.

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One comment on “Constitutions: Where does the interest lay? What for?
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