Rarely does any of us ever get it right the first time.
A perfect example of “us” is “US” – our great nation, and more specifically our rightfully revered Constitution.
After completing the original Constitution, it didn’t take long for (most of) our Forefathers to realize they forgot a few things, hence the Bill of Rights, also known as the first ten “derps” of our Republic. The flip side of that characterization is that these are the things that apparently weren’t important enough to include in the original. It all depends on your point of view, and your mood.
Since 1789, there have been only 27 Amendments to the Constitution. 10 of which came almost immediately via the Bill of Rights. That’s not bad for getting most of it right in the first draft. I’ve amended this post 27 times and it hasn’t even been posted as of the moment I said that. Another way to look at that is, it takes a lot of work and wrangling to make an Amendment happen. That means each one ought to be pretty important. But as much as we universally revere the Constitution, we are remarkably selective about which Amendments we similarly revere.
I could ask you which Amendments you actually know in terms of matching a number with its content. But I’ll do one better than that and reveal my own ignorance, which is extreme. On a daily basis, as I go about my routine of wondering why my phone can’t peacefully transition from the WiFi at our house to LTE as I listen to Internet radio on the way to work, I know the following:
1) Amendment 1 is about free speech, free assembly, free religion, and some other free stuff.
2) Amendment 2 is about the inalienable right to have a musket so you can join the militia.
3) Amendment 5 is about not saying anything that might get you in trouble.
And that’s it. I know there are other Amendments – the abolition of slavery, prohibition and the subsequent prohibition of prohibition, and the right to citizenship if you’re born in the Land of Generally Unknown Amendments. But in terms of knowing which one is which, that’s a score of 3 out of 27. That’s 1 in 9, or 11%. There is no test in any venue at any time of year where 11% is considered a passing grade. People that were not born here, who have to take a test to become citizens, will score far better than 11% on the Amendment Challenge. And of course I scored far better than that in elementary school, which is the last time I was asked to remember any of our Amendments by heart.
Here’s another interesting tidbit. It’s entirely anecdotal, but it appears depressingly reliable. If you are passionate about Amendment 1, you are likely to be equally dispassionate about Amendment 2. And vice versa. That’s not a generalization. It’s a sad statement about how polarized our nation has become. Amendment 1 is almost always a top priority on the left side of the aisle, and Amendment 2 is a stronghold of the right. If you spend any amount of time talking about free speech and the importance of a free press, you probably don’t spend anywhere near as much time talking about the right to bear arms. And vice versa. Get mad if you like, but as far as I can tell, it’s simply true.
Now, I know people who consider both of these Amendments to be equally important. I can think of a couple in particular who are among my most treasured friends. But those people are rare. Thank you so much, two-party system. George Washington tried to warn us, but we wouldn’t listen.
So here is what I’m going to do. Call it a gimmick if you like, but I call it a way to avoid coming up with new topics for up to a year. The next 27 posts on this blog will be about our Amendments. And here’s the fun part. I’m going to start with Number 27. Think of it as the Ultimate Top 40 Countdown. Except for the 40 part. I will learn a great deal as I research the material that will go into these posts. You will also learn a great deal, simply by living life over the next year. If you happen to read anything I write along the way, great.
No, let me amend that: GREAT.