I love the framers of the U.S. Constitution as much as anyone.
I have a degree in political science. I spent more than a little bit of time learning about this great document they wrote and how it helped create a matrix within which this nation rose to power and remained powerful – both difficult feats.
But if you think the exact verbiage of the constitution has anything to do with your life today, you’re crazy. They could never have imagined how we live today.
That is what makes our founding document both amazingly relevant and, at the same time, irrelevant.
In the same sense that you have to understand how society in Biblical times worked to get the full effect of Bible stories, you have to look more at what the founding fathers meant than what they said.
When they wrote that we had a right to bear arms, they weren’t talking about shooting deer in a tree stand the first weekend in November.
They were talking about the right to protect themselves against the country from whom they had very recently separated and anyone else who wanted to pick a fight.
They were talking about black powder rifles, muskets and single shot pistols. I would love to hear Thomas Jefferson and James Madison debate the legality of the AR-15.
The same goes for free speech. For the framers, a ballpoint pen would have been an incredible technological advancement.
Now we are using the First amendment to decide if a “like” on Facebook is free speech covered by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. I’m sure when the framers debated this facet of the law, George Washington grabbed his iPhone and performed a Google search on Supreme Court rulings about free speech. Wait, there wasn’t even a Supreme Court yet.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that clicking “like” on Facebook is in fact constitutionally protected speech and is the 21st Century equivalent of a political yard sign.
The framers of the constitution didn’t even have yard signs.
Some employees were fired for supporting the political opponent of Hampton Virginia’s Sheriff. Their support was clearly demonstrated by choosing to like a page on Facebook.
According to the ACLU’s Ben Wizner, "This ruling rightly recognizes that the First Amendment protects free speech regardless of the venue, whether a sentiment is expressed in the physical world or online. The Constitution doesn't distinguish between 'liking' a candidate on Facebook and supporting him in a town meeting or public rally."
Page 2 of 2 - How could the framers of the constitution have distinguished between online and physical speech. They didn’t even have electricity for light bulbs yet.
I get so tired of the strict constructionist view of the constitution.
The framers were intelligent in what they said, but brilliant in what they did not say. Setting a base from which to operate has allowed our country to grow and develop and the constitution remains viable even today solely because they did not try to be too detailed.
Their generalization allows interpretation of ideals to span generations.
We have laws banning texting and driving. But in a few years, kids will start driving who have never heard of a text message because some new form of technology made the practice seem antiquated.
I believe in the constitution.
But I don’t believe in it because Thomas Jefferson knew that Myspace would fade away and Facebook would take over before Twitter and Vine and Kik and who knows what I am missing made emails seem slow.
I believe that the framers knew what they didn’t know.
So don’t tell me the framers wanted to protect “likes” on Facebook any more than they wanted to allow AR-15s in every house or the right to kill our enemies with unmanned drones.
Is a like constitutionally protected speech? I think it is a form of communication so it should be. It fits under the umbrella of the First Amendment as well as a blog, a talking head on the radio or a bumper sticker.
None of these were around at the time the constitution was written, but because of what the framers didn’t write, the concept still works.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org