Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Framers were not sure, how can anyone else be?

Here's a quote from Mike Madison (a high school freshman) about the framers of our Constitution: “Let me give you an example. Last six-weeks we studied the Constitutional Convention, right? We found out that the first ten amendments are called the Bill of Rights; we had to learn what those ten were about, sort of. What we didn’t spend much time on was the small talk, the side conversations about the Bill of Rights. We know that James Madison introduced those first ten amendments, actually there were twelve but the other two didn’t make the cut. So, Madison did a Power Point presentation and the first slide about free speech and free press was up on the screen. He waited a minute so everybody could read it and then clicked his remote and went to the next slide. Ben Franklin stood and said, “Wait, can you go back to the first slide?” Madison clicked back to slide one, and Franklin continued, “Let me get this straight—all we’re saying is we can’t pass a law limiting free speech? So there’s no law, for example, that would prohibit me from saying Adams there [he points at John Adams] has the face of a pig? I would be protected by the constitution from any retaliation?” A lot of people laughed, Thomas Jefferson laughed so hard he knocked over the tripod that held his digital camcorder. Adams stood up to say something but his microphone wasn’t on so no one heard him. His aid reached over and turned on the microphone and just as he did Adams coughed, but over the PA system it sounded just like a pig snort so now everyone was laughing.”

Did anyone answer Franklin’s question?” “Not really. The answer was that they’d let the Supreme Court sort out the details, so it was a cop-out. But, that’s the truth; the constitution didn’t get bogged down in detail. There have been a million exceptions to what we call freedom of speech. You can’t preach about sedition, you can’t yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater, you can’t libel or slander people, and you definitely can’t say anything that costs your network any ratings points, according to Franklin; so, at least in this case, “freedom” doesn’t mean complete, unimpeded freedom to just say anything. Franklin didn’t give up—he wanted to make sure his legacy was solid, as he put it, “In favor of logic.” So, his last question, before they booed him out of Independence Hall was, “So, tomorrow I’m a guest on the View, you know, that show with Barbara Walters. Let’s say, what’s her name, the Quarterback’s wife, asks me where I stand on freedom of the press, I can call her a pinch-faced whiner, and there’s nothing she can do about it?” So, the founders weren’t exactly clear on the amendments so how can anyone say with any certainty what the “framers” intended?

“History can be fun—I got it.”