“The idiocies of original intent.”
For several decades, right wing ideologues and lawyers have argued that the U.S. Constitution must only be interpreted according to what they call original intent—or according to how the Founding Fathers would have intended.
But assuming this were so, how do we know what they intended? In short, we don’t, but in some cases, we do. Thomas Jefferson only wrote one book during his lifetime entitled “Notes on the State of Virginia.” But Mr. Jefferson was a writer of letters, and there gave freely of his opinions. In his letter of 24th June, 1813, to John W. S., Jefferson wrote, “The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.”
Thomas Paine was a talented writer whose pamphlets and books steered a nation into a war against the king. His book, “The Rights of Man,” published 1791, argued that no generation is sound by the words of the past. Pain wrote: “Every age and generation must be as free to act in itself in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man. Neither has any generation of proper and the generations which are to follow.” Thomas Paine, American revolutionary.
As for Jefferson. Guess who actually wrote most of the U.S. Constitution? None other than Thomas Jefferson himself.
The idea of original intent didn’t come from the Founding Fathers. It came from people in our lifetimes in a political project designed to turn the clock and strip people of their rights. It is an idea based on idiocy.
With love, not fear, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.