The Constitution used to require only a simple majority for the U.S. Senate to pass a bill – 51 votes when the senate is fully complemented with 100 senators.
To the everlasting joy of a handful of senators, We The People seemed to have become convinced the Constitution has been amended to require 60 votes. It has not.
Rarely given more than passing mention in the evening news or network blabber-fests is what actually happened: a group of senators arranged to circumvent the Constitution they so often raise up as the guiding light of the nation. They arranged to have a rule established that prohibits a bill even being voted on without the approval of at least 60 senators.
Thus, if 41 senators oppose a bill, they can block it even coming to a vote – even though 59 senators would, were a vote allowed, vote in favor.
Had there been a constitutional amendment with similar effect, it would have gone through discussion and vote in Congress, and thereafter required approval of two-thirds of the states. There would have been plenty of discussion, had the 60-vote requirement been exposed to the light of day.
It is tricks like that that bother me most when I think about the meaning of Hot Dog & Beaches … uh, Memorial Day, and the service millions of warriors and their families have given to protection of the Flag and the Constitution for which she stands.
I spent 20 years in the military service, my first wife a couple years fewer. Some people have spent a lifetime, cashing in their chips in lands most of us knew of only because Grandpa, or Dad, or Brother or Sister, died there.
For a few years, we were not permitted to see our dead returned home from the most recent, and still, unpleasantness. “Family privacy,” it was called. It was an attempt to hide the cost of war.
That prohibition has been relaxed some, and I’m glad. Less than one percent of our population serves in the military, and only a fraction of that serves in places where enemies use real ammunition. No one in my neighborhood, if I count only the few blocks around my home, has died in the recent battles.
But allow me to suggest that the neighborhood is larger than that. We all pay part of the price of war, whether in blood or treasure. Memorial Day should be more than a day to raise gas prices and glasses to the beginning of summer, or to attend a few memorial parades.
Somewhere in nearly all our histories is at least one somebody who offered, if not gave, his or her life to protect the Constitution we all take for granted. It’s one thing to argue in favor of individual interpretations, to adopt laws in furtherance of our views.
It is something else to subvert the foundation that makes everything else possible.
I once was asked by a newspaper reporter whether I thought people standing on the sidewalks of my town shouting Bible verses should be silenced.
“No,” I replied. “If you tell them to shut up, you have to tell me and everyone around me to shut up.”
“We refuse to be told to shut up.”
In a way, we’re like brothers and sisters: a united front outside the family, but inside – not so much. Too many of us are silencing ourselves voluntarily, allowing people in power to tell us what they are doing in our name is keeping us safe – without actually telling us what they are doing.
What keeps us safe is that 236-year-old piece of paper, and the millions who have sacrificed since to support it.
My dad was a Marine. My first wife was a sailor – offspring, before she died, of a soldier. My second wife’s dad was a Marine.
Photo by Celine Aussourd
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