And You Wonder Why Our Laws Are Screwed Up?

When you look at the criminal law blogosphere, you’ll see a lot of folks bemoaning the state of our criminal justice system. Frankly, everyone has complaints about how unfair it is (and this comes from both sides of the fence–prosecutors and defense). I, too, complain about the things that, from my narrow perspective, are unfair or unconscionable. It’s what we do as 21st Century humans.

When you wonder about how people can interpret our Constitution and, more specifically, the Bill of Rights so wrong, consider two very important facts.

  • The Constitution was made-up by a bunch of hung-over guys in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787. Oh, we love to idolize them and talk about how the process was so wonderful and saintly. It wasn’t. It was highly political, messy, sweaty, and reeked of beer farts. But, that’s beside the point. The real point here is that it was made-up by a bunch of guys, and by guys I mean rich (yet debt-ridden) (many even slave-holding) humans with penises. Sure, laud them for some wonderful ideas, but at the root, they were slobs akin to you and I. Mostly, I thank them for being ambiguous.
  • 38% of Americans believe that the recent earthquake in Japan was a sign from god.

The first point will likely be addressed in more detail in a future post. I intend to have oodles of fun with it. The second one, however, is my focus today.

Frequent readers of this blog know that I don’t blindly follow statistics, but I temper my skepticism with years of listening to people I meet along with crazy, evangelical family members. They attribute the hand of god to successful surgeries, a good job, succeeding at trial, high test scores, a $20-winning lottery ticket, touchdowns, and the 1985 Royals World Championship. So, I can easily see over 1/3 of population (many of whom attend megachurch cash cows).

Decisions in this country are largely made by individuals who are popularly elected. One way to become popular is to appear of solid moral character. The easiest way to feign solid moral character is to declare allegiance to some supernatural belief in the form of religion. These religions can be very persuasive and persistent–even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Essentially, they make up stuff and charge you to follow it based on faith. This faith is sold using a variety of tactics to include fear (you don’t want to go to hell, right?), promises of eternal existence (you want to go to heaven, right?), or peer pressure (everybody talking about how wonderful Mr. X is because he does what is necessary to go to heaven).

It was found recently that the earthquake is attributed to god by 38% of Americans. Never mind everything we’ve learned about the molten core of the Earth, the ever-flowing mantle, the unstable crust, the Pacific ring of fire, and eons of evidence to support scientific findings that geologic happenings are firmly attributable to the laws of physics–not some all-knowing presence up in the sky.

Think about it. Earthquakes are explained using solid, scientifically tested, peer reviewed evidence. It is evidence-based and not the result of political compromise or conjecture. Yet, people still attribute their cause to unscientific, untested, faith-based reasons.

Now, consider the Constitution and all of its provisions. It was made up by men in Philadelphia. It is not scientific. It is political. It was based on perspectives and theories of liberty. It was not based on physical evidence or peer reviewed data. It was the result of a compromise between several competing proposals. Now, people debate wildly its meaning, intent, and interpretation.

Knowing this, why do we still look at certain interpretations of the Constitution with amazement? The fact that there are wildly competing views of its provisions is really the only thing that does make sense.

If you have doubts, don’t question my perspective. You just need faith.

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