By Danny Tyree
According to a new study to be published in the prestigious “New York University Law Review,” the 21st century has seen an alarming drop in the international prestige of the United States Constitution.
Fewer and fewer foreign judges cite American precedent (“*Sigh* The cat lady down the street is on vacation, so I guess I’ll have to turn to the Americans for an opinion…”), and only a miniscule number of new or revised constitutions use our treasured 1787 document as a model.
Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been quoted as saying she wouldn’t use the U.S. Constitution as a foundation if given the task of crafting another nation’s statement of principles. She prefers other documents, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (a “trophy constitution” born in 1982). According to one co-worker, Ginsberg was not exactly opposed to recommending the cheap route of using a “Mad Libs” template for constitutions.
Hand-wringing constitutional scholars have called in the big guns for perspective and solace. (“Ms. Aniston, how did you handle it when people got sick of ‘the Rachel’ haircut?”)
The general public, however, does not seem particularly upset over the declining fortunes of the supreme law of the land. This is because the average person thinks that “separation of powers” means “Oh, yeah, Superman can’t use flight and invulnerability and super breath at the same time, can he?”
And poor overstressed John Doe is constantly getting the preamble to the Constitution mixed up with the lofty ideals of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and “Lather, rinse, repeat.”
It is argued that “strict constructionists” in the U.S. have done much to alienate more liberal drafters in other countries. Enthusiasm is dampened by American legal decisions such as “Shucks! We were going to let you visit Planned Parenthood, but you forgot to wear a powdered wig and knee breeches. Tough luck! Try again — or end it all with this musket.”
On the other hand, foreigners could do just fine with our existing constitution if they had the ingenuity of some of our activist judges. (“See, if you stand on one foot and lean toward Scranton while squinting through a kaleidoscope and bathing the document in ultraviolet light, you can find penumbras that declare doughnuts cannot be consumed by the police without a lawyer present.”)
The U.S. has fine-tuned the Constitution 27 times (including the original 10 Bill of Rights amendments) while leaving the core document alone. Other nations tend to do a complete reboot, like a restart of a Hollywood franchise. (“Right to privacy, yup. Rights for the disabled, check. But we don’t want Shatner within a mile of it!”) On average, nations completely change their constitution every 19 years!
President Thomas Jefferson agreed with that mindset, insisting that the Constitution should be molded to fit each generation. This, of course, would have resulted in “insuring domestic tranquility” by regulating whom one could sit under the apple tree with, and by seeking to “form a more perfect union of polyester fibers.”
Stick with those time-tested American values. Demand a speedy public trial. Resist the establishment of a state religion. Don’t make me clean up hairballs again! (Oh, no! The international influence is coming over here!)