Constitutional interpretation and entrail reading
by Joanne von Spanien
This is a day late, BUT…
So think what happened yesterday in the US Supreme Court is absolutely wonderful, yada, yada, et cetera.
But am I the only one who thinks constitutional interpretation is a bit like reading entrails? Or at least an honorable game of “now what do you think the connotation of this word/phrase is? Well, I don’t know, but I’m thinking of a number between one and ten…”
The writers of the Fourteenth Amendment most certainly did not have yesterday’s ruling in mind when they wrote it.
And yes, I know there’s this idea is that the US Constitution is supposed to be flexible and all that, but even so, I guarantee you every one of them would have freakin’ hated this court ruling.
So, I don’t know. Not sure I have a point other than that the constitution seems vague enough that it can justify anything from net neutrality (or not), same sex marriage (or not), NSA spying (or not) depending on the zeitgeist of whatever time we’re in…
Calling it a sacrèd document is most certainly an unconscious noble lie.
I think any interpretive discipline involves a certain amount of divination, not just deciding what the Constitution means. It works the same way for all law, religion, medical diagnostics, astronomy, criticism in the arts, political polling, psychology, falling in love and other things too numerous to go into in the space of a comment.
Humans ascribe meaning and significance to things that may or may not turn out to be what we perceive them as. We gather partial information and craft documents and make decisions about “what it all means”. Other animals aren’t as interested in symbolism.
The reason the meaning of the 14th Amendment has expanded is because we changed our minds about who is included in “equal treatment under law”. Runaway slaves was too narrow an interpretation. Our culture became more inclusive.