Civil Discourse Now

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"Constitutional Convention" prime time with such delegate "stars" as Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

   The contrasts would be sharp.
   In 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia over the summer. Of 73 men chosen by their respective States, only 55 participated. Of those, 39 were present to sign the document. Many delegates stayed in taverns. Inns and sleeping rooms were common amenities of taverns. Delegates had been sworn to secrecy about the proceedings and deliberations. Many of the delegates attended dinner parties, during which copious amounts of alcohol were consumed. Some compromises were reached in the Statehouse, but still more were reached at night, after delegates had repaired to local “public houses”—taverns and pubs.
   Imagine if a constitutional convention were held today.
   Corporations might vie to show their patriotic spirit by the supply of giant screens and other electronic gadgets, at no charge to the American people. Perhaps a Greg Ballard would intercede for those poor corporations and insist money be shoved at them. That might spark an idea amongst some who would see a source of revenue from corporate sponsorship of the convention.
   “Monsanto Corporation is proud to present Constitutional Convention 2016.” Someone would have to provide a title for the proceedings. The temptation would be too great. Maybe, “Anew Constitution for a New Time!”
   Who would be the media “voice of the Convention”? Walter Cronkite is gone. Besides, objectivity in journalism would not be important. As Paddy Chayevsky predicted in his film “Network,” the entertainment division long ago took over the news division in most television networks.
   With Voter ID laws and Republican gerrymandering out of control, the delegates chosen could be scary. Pressures from corporations and from tea bagger groups would be tremendous, although most voters would not share the views of those interests.
   Perhaps Sarah Palin would find another niche, this time as “outspoken maverick leader of the delegation from Alaska.” We would be treated each evening as Palin expounded the latest proposals made. Her ignorance of the duties bestowed by our present Constitution upon the office of Vice President—presides over the senate, assumes the duties of President in the event the President either is incapacitated by illness or dead—would pose no barrier to her writing several entire chapters for that office.
   Michelle Bachmann would stare, bug-eyed, into the cameras each night to report her latest revelations about how this country was created by the will of the supreme deity she worships and why, therefore, she has pressed for a provision that provides “true” religious freedom—the freedom to worship her supreme deity in the specific ways she learned back there at Oral Roberts University.
   Others would work behind the scenes to provide text too incomprehensible for others to understand. Legal verbiage would be used to hide the ways in which squirreling away money offshore have been declared protected by some concept of “rights.”
   Not only would “personhood” be incorporated in the “New, Improved Constitution,” so that a fetus and, perhaps, an individual sperm and egg are “protected” the same as fully developed human beings, but corporations would have greater protections yet. As Orwell wrote, all people are equal, but some are more equal than others—and corporations would be even more greatly equal.
   The Article devoted to the judiciary, now Article III, would be carved and gutted. Judges would be appointed at the whim of the President. “Just like that great Christian delegate in 1787,” the constitutional scholar Michelle Bachmannn would say, “Thomas Jefferson believed.” She would be deaf, of course, to anyone who pointed out Jefferson was absent from the Convention, in his capacity as Ambassador to France—and that he was skeptical of Christianity, and wrote of the wall of separation between Church and State.
   What is now the Second Amendment would be boosted by steroids and tens of millions of dollars given to lobbyists. The right to “keep and bear arms” would be expanded to include automatic weapons, hundred-round clips and a prohibition of background checks of anyone for any reason.
   Rick Perry would write the section devoted to Federal agencies. He would eliminate them all, with a catch-all phrase “for any agency not remembered at the time of this writing.” The EPA—a creature of Richard Nixon’s years in office—would be eliminated. Corporations’ rights, including to “introduce into the air and waters, in the course of those corporations’ sacred roles as job creators, byproducts of their job creation,” would be sacrosanct. Human beings could be fined or imprisoned for filing of lawsuits against corporations.
   Corporations, otherwise not recognized as citizens, would be given full status of citizenship as long as one member of a corporation’s board of directors is a natural-born or naturalized citizen of the United States. Each corporation would be entitled to one vote in a general election for each million dollars in general revenues for its latest fiscal year.
   Debtors’ prisons would emerge, but as “debtor re-education camps,” where inmates would be taught how to work with their hands in the manufacture of goods for market by foreign corporations.
   The final signing of the Constitution would be a drawn-out affair. Commercial time would be at a premium, with all profits going to the corporations who advertise.
   America, as we know it, would be dead.
   The idea of a constitutional convention today is a very bad idea. It makes for even worse TV.

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