Cook: ‘To insure domestic tranquility’ vs. the Second Amendment
The Constitution of the United States is more than a piece of parchment that lays in state in the National Archives or the pocket-size edition that We, the Old People, sometimes carry sandwiched between our Social Security and Medicare cards.
Our Constitution was written with the broad strokes of a feathered quill pen that left ample space for future debates through the decades. It is a blueprint for America.
Like silversmiths hammering silver and gold, statesmen debated and compromised until the document melded the liberty of the individual into a collective responsibility. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union …”
Written in the summer of 1787, our Constitution reflected the philosophy and interests of its authors … privileged, white, male, property owners who protected slave owners and rejected the rights of women.
In this Land of the Free, cotton and tobacco landowners continued to grow wealthy on the sweat of slaves and established a culture where buying and selling of family members was as customary as sipping sweet tea on the front porch. Over generations of families being bought, sold and split apart, slaves had no choice but accept a life of learned helplessness.
A mere 65 years later, seven states with cotton based economies facing the end of slavery declared their secession from that Union established under our Constitution. They imprisoned ministers who preached against slavery.
They took up arms.
The Civil War was the deadliest war in American history, with 750,000 American soldiers dead in four years time. Deadlier than the Revolutionary War that prompted the new nation. Bloodier by far than World War II, the Vietnam War, and Iraqi War combined.
Americans shot and killed their own. Americans killed Americans.
The new Constitution had replaced the Articles of Federation with a new government that established and strengthened a strong central (federal) government with a chief executive, courts and taxing powers.
Over 150 years later, instead or working toward forming a more perfect union that balances a central government with the interests of individual states, voices are once again raised against the threat of the federal government.
In the past six years, there is an almost fanatical focus on “the document” and our loss of liberty. How is it that We, the old people, are able to recall every statesman from 238 years ago, but our memory diminishes when it comes to the real loss of liberty suffered by Americans in this country within our own lifetimes?
In the 1960s, the Southern states fought integration in the schools. Black citizens in some states could not sit in the same areas on buses or in drug stores, or use the same drinking fountains. Adults were stopped at the voting booth by state troopers with batons.
That’s loss of Liberty.
Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy … assassinated for their political views and calls for social justice in their speeches.
That’s loss of Liberty.
Today, the central Constitutional challenge in America is not the suffering of citizens whose lives may be impositioned by the amount of ammunition in clips they can purchase at one time or the possible threat from illegal immigrants coming across our borders in search of work.
While we secede into our own State of Paranoia, our bifocal glasses bent toward the borders, our grandchildren are being slaughtered in their classrooms.
The real and present danger has proven to be the threat from within: the Second Amendment right of any individual to bear arms opposed to the good of the larger community … the sake of something greater.
There is an explosion in gun and ammo sales throughout the country.
More Americans have died as the result of gunfire since the assassination of Robert Kennedy, than all the wars in this country’s history since the Battle of Lexington, according to the Congressional Research Service and Centers for Disease Control Prevention.
There is an unmistakable pattern of unarmed black teens shot and killed by armed citizens and local police.
How far will the arc of the moral universe bend in search of justice? In 2014, it bends with the brilliance of candlewicks that illuminated the first drafts of the Constitution. It grows in strength and brilliance with the lanterns of the Civil War and the torches of the Civil Rights era when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 followed by the Voting Act in 1965. It now casts its laser beam on the cold, lifeless bodies of innocent children who were not protected by the Second Amendment.
Our legislators need to pull up their big boy breeches and stand up to those forces that fight legislation promoting gun safety and responsibility.
The Preamble of the Constitution declares the pledge to insure domestic tranquility. It is time that we turn our debate toward the relevance and consequences of the Second Amendment in the year of the Lord, Two Thousand and Fourteen.
Cheryl Cook, who lives in Nevada City, is a member of The Union Editorial Board.
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