Day 1340, A Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“We the People of the United States….”
Not God: your god, my god, other gods, but We, the People…all the people. The Founders were white men, property (including slaves) owners, and Christians. They meant to distinguish themselves from a King but they used a word, “People,” that grew in meaning.
“In Order to form a more perfect Union,”
“Form,“ and “more,” are words of becoming, not completing. Watch a craftsman or artist form a chair or a statue. It takes time, planning, reconsideration, revision.
And, we are a Union that needs perfecting. We fought a civil war costing over 600,000 lives over preservation and perfection of that “Union.” Part of that process of perfection was the elimination of slavery. But a lot more needed to be done then and now.
“Establish,” means to make something firm or permanent. We’re not there yet.
“Justice,” means impartial, fair, decision-making without regard to wealth or power or gender or skin color or ancestral origin, etc. Look up the code of Ur Nammu, a Sumerian law code from over 4,000 years ago. Justice is a very old goal.
“Insure domestic Tranquility,”
“Insure,” means to protect and compensate for possible loss or damage. It does not guarantee that there will never be damage or loss. The Founders did not say, “guarantee domestic Tranquility.”
“Domestic Tranquility:” the ability to live in this country without fear of loss of life and limb due to civil strife. But civil strife happens and “insure” provides for compensation for harm. The quality and cost of insurance policies varies a lot.
“provide for the common defence,” Defence from what or whom? Foreign assault? Domestic terrorism? Microbial pandemics? This is a very broad statement and much can be legitimately read into it.
“promote the general Welfare,” means trying to improve the health, happiness, and good fortune of everyone: both genders, all melanin synthesis variants, all religions, including those professing no religion, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, etc. A Constitution is being established to promote the well-being of everyone. “Promote,” is again a word of becoming, of movement in a direction. It continues into the future.
“and secure the Blessings of Liberty….” Blessing usually refers to invoking God’s favor and protection. But, who is establishing this Constitution? We, the People. We are asserting that we can promote the “general Welfare” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty” by ourselves through this Constitution. We did not say, “ask God for the Blessings of Liberty.” We are doing it.
What is “Liberty?” Freedom from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority. The Founders did not deal with it at the time but slavery is clearly an oppressive restriction imposed by authority. Denying women the right to vote is an oppressive restriction, as are voter suppression based on race, and denying women the right to control their own reproductive lives based on one particular religion’s authority. Ruth Bader Ginzburg made most of us understand this. Her work is not finished.
Is wearing a mask to slow down the spread of a virus in a pandemic, in order to “promote the general Welfare,” an unreasonable restriction of Liberty? That assertion is just silly.
“to ourselves and our posterity:” the time of the Founders extending ad infinitum into the future. The future means change. It is always different from the present. Our posterity will have to deal with different understandings of natural facts; (infectious diseases are caused by microorganisms, not curses) and different people with different views, etc.
“do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
“Ordain,” has a connotation of holiness. But, in this case, because “We the People,” are establishing the Constitution, ordination here clearly means that something very special is being established. And, it has proven to be so.
This preamble to the Constitution tells us why it was “ordained and established.” Ruth Bader Ginzburg helped us to understand what this document meant to the Founders and what it should mean to us, and our posterity.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg, a life well-lived. We may not see her like again but we need to.