Thursday, June 3, 2010

Indelible Ink

I sometimes stop to wonder what the founders would think of the United States today, were they granted the power to travel through time. Some would no doubt be shocked at the madhouse it's become, and regret parenting such a wayward progeny. But they might also be amazed, and perhaps even pleased, that the U.S. Constitution remains as relevant and in-the-news now as it was back then.

Take, for example, this recent piece in the Los Angeles Times, which poses the question of whether inking tattoos is a constitutionally-protected form of free speech -- and, by extension, whether one town's ban on tattoo parlors tramples the First Amendment. It's hard to imagine where Jefferson or Madison would stand on this admittedly odd question (assuming they weren't enraged by the trivialization of such momentous issues). I imagine that zoning laws and tattoo parlors would be alien (and probably abhorrent) concepts to both of them. But they might be amazed to find that they're still a party to the debate.

While it's probably true that their "original intent" has been twisted and distorted into something they wouldn't recognize, or approve, the mere fact that we're still trying to settle such disputes by consulting the Constitution, several centuries later, shows that it continues to function as a beacon and guidepost, despite the passage of time -- and the fog that we're stumbling through.

We've obviously gone a little crazy. But how much crazier would things be if we didn't have the indelible ink on The Constitution as a touchstone?

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