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Article V & Hamlet

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There's a part in the play Hamlet, where he and his pal Horatio are in a graveyard talking. And they're looking at a grave, and they talk about it maybe being for a lawyer, and Hamlet asks, "Aren't laws written on sheep skins?" And Horatio says, "Yeah, and calf skins too." And Hamlet replies, "People are nothing but farm animals if they think a law can protect them without action to back it up."

Laws are created to prevent harm: it's a law that you must come to a stop at a stop sign, so people don't injure one another. The latest and greatest law of human civilization is the U.S. Constitution. It was written by those who knew back then, what we know now--that governments can become corrupt, that tyranny will result, people will lose their freedom, and become enslaved. In this sense, the Constitution provides our rights, but it's up to us to make sure they remain guaranteed. It can be obeyed or ignored, the same as a stop sign can be.

Article V of the Constitution has a convention clause. It's a right of the people to come together, to discuss things politicians won't, and/or re-enforce the laws politicians ignore. For decades Americans have been frightened away from the convention clause by corporate politicians and corporate media elites, telling us that if we hold a convention it opens up the Constitution to complete revision, that corporate interests will infiltrate and run away with it, that we'll end up with a riddled mess, and everything will be lost. But this is completely untrue, absolutely bogus--a flat-out lie. The Framers of the Constitution did not place a self-destruct button into our high law.

Knowing history, and thus assuming the Congress would become a tyranny of the few, the Framers wrote Article V just so, protecting the Constitution from hostile forces. They were careful to set down three forbidden subjects in it:

1) Altering the arrangement known as slavery (a ban that's since been lifted both by time and war).

2) Altering the arrangement of equal representation of the states in the Senate.

3) Writing a new constitution.

The Framers were keen to avoid using the term "constitutional convention," and instead wrote, "...a convention for proposing amendments...as part of this constitution...."

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The Article V Convention is strictly limited to proposing amendments to the Constitution we have, and is forbidden to compose a new one. No matter what amendments are proposed, the structure itself remains intact. The Article V Convention can never become a constitutional convention, cannot write a new constitution, nor can it mandate new law because whatever ideas put forth, they then must garner the approval of 38 states in order to be ratified. To get 38 states out of 50 to agree to an idea is very difficult and for good reason: whatever it is--whether conservative or liberal--you'll have to get all of one side signed on, plus at least half the other. How's that for a smart constitutional principle?

The NRA, John Birch Society, and other conservative groups have always been against a convention, saying that the first thing it would do is take away our weapons. Similarly the ACLU and liberal groups have always been against a convention, saying it would remove freedom of speech. The convention can do no such thing, any delegate who put forth such an idea would be isolated, not to mention that 38 states would never agree to such nonsense.

That said, there are still those who view a convention irrationally and illogically as a bunch of chaos and disorder. First of all, our corporate elites already produce chaos and disorder day in and day out with TV and radio--with partisan issues, one after the next, never discussing the things the right and left have in common. Ben Franklin once said, "Half a truth is often a great lie." And that's exactly what our corporate elites feed us--a bunch of half-truths. Secondly where's the proof a convention today would be chaotic and disorderly? There've been hundreds of state conventions over the years, and every last one has put fetters on institutionalized corruption, and/or provided new protections against special interests. And then think about this: If you yourself were a convention delegate (and why shouldn't you be--you're here on the internet politically engaged--still caring enough about the fate of your country), do you think you'd start foaming at the mouth, and try to beat another delegate with your shoe? No, you wouldn't. The gravity of the situation would require calm, rational deliberation. It's the corporate elites who have us thinking we'd go to pieces at a convention, when really we'd be more rational and civil than they are. They're the ones who would go to pieces if a convention were called, because it would be the beginning of the end of their monopoly. While some of the negatives of the human condition are greed and corruption, one of the positives is that when people come together consensus happens. It's natural. And as soon as conservatives and liberals come together, they'll quickly realize, that while they have differences of opinion about subjective matters, we're all sick and tired of excessive taxes going to earmarks and government waste, corporate welfare, corporate greed, and the radical double-standard in our lives today between those who take and those who give.

If We The People coerced the convention call out of Congress, it means there would have to be special elections for Convention Delegates. There'd be no need for a campaign war chest, it would not be a two party mud-sling-athon, and anyone who took campaign contributions from corporate interests would be suspect. Convention Delegates would not be running on time-worn themes, like "It's time for change in Washington," they'd be championing ideas on how to limit the power of an out-of-control government, and/or how to give We The People a stronger voice. Why is that so? Because the Article V Convention is about the Constitution, not legislation, not pork, perks, personal power, and politics as usual. Delegates will have to take a stand on what they think a new amendment ought to look like, and be able to defend that position. They won't be able to have a forked tongue. They'll have to be people of integrity, respected in their communities, and once there, they won't have to worry about who to shake hands with for another campaign.

Upon convening, Delegates would get down to business, and amendment proposals would go through deliberation and debate, the same as any proposed in Congress. After a week or two, proposals of broad support would emerge, they'd be sent to Congress to be forwarded to the states, and the convention would adjourn. Delegates would go back to private citizenship, and the ratification process would begin. Do you think members of Congress, and all other elites want this process to take place? To have the whole nation engaged in how to reverse the trends most of us see as fatal?

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In terms of political science, all revolutions, and movements for truth and justice the world over, have always come down to one thing: a tipping-point. Once enough people recognize what needs to be done, the game is over for those who would seek to prevent it.

You want government as master of your life, or do you want taxation with representation? This is not only how to do it, it's the only way to do it. When a fox gets in a hen house there's an inevitable conclusion. The elites and corporate interests are not done with us, and the pursuit of happiness will narrow.

There's a phrase we all remember from History class in grade school: "The British are coming." Well, this time it's not the British, it's a big freedom and liberty-eating machine known as a corporation. It's here, and its power is growing towards an inevitable conclusion--which is the working class as the chattel, slaves, peons, of corporate masters.

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I'm a writer/artist/activist from California, with a degree in Creative Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. I've been an advocating for the convention clause of Article V since 2001.

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If you have the time of course.... by john de herrera on Monday, Apr 5, 2010 at 7:32:22 AM