After 266 years, can the Constitution improve?

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A professor elaborates on his call for a new U.S. Constitution.

By Cory D. Hill

The Constitution’s preamble begins with three words, “We the People,” but it was not till the introduction of the Bill of Rights that any individual rights of the people were mentioned.

Sept. 17 marked the 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, the oldest written constitution in the world today. No country has kept the same document as long as the United States.

Political science Professor Asslan Khaligh said Oct. 9 in an interview that he is unsure if keeping a constitution for 226 years is a good idea.

Khaligh said the addition of amendments, such as the Bill of Rights, is good but when the “main ingredients” of the articles in the Constitution are read, human rights and personal liberties are lacking.

“Even though the document is good, the issue of individual rights or human rights is still up in the air,” he said. “The contradiction is that on one hand, we emphasize anything new in this country, but for some reason we hold on to the old documents.”

Khaligh asks people to look at the Constitution as a whole before the 27 amendments were added. The first 10, the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1789.

“If you look at the U.S Constitution, people are still considered three-fifths and so forth,” Khaligh said, referring to the value the founders placed on slaves.

Khaligh says that the Canadian Constitution and Swiss Constitution emphasize human beings and individuals, not the government.

“When you read the Swiss and Canadian constitutions, it forces the government to listen to the people because what the main ingredients in those constitutions are the declaration of human rights all over. That’s not true in the United States.”

Khaligh said the Constitution does not stop debates on basic human right issues such as sexual orientation, gender and race.

“We are still talking basics in this country,” he said. “The Constitution does not really give us the answers on how to manage our government properly and at the same time (the) rights of the people are still questioned,” Khaligh said.

He referred to the passage of a nondiscrimination ordinance Sept. 23 by the San Antonio City Council as an example of ways the Constitution does not address human rights.

He said if the Constitution actually prescribed human rights for everyone, there would be no need for a local ordinance.

“This should be the last thing government should be getting involved in. If the text was more clear, it would not be an issue.”

Khaligh recommends the nation convene a constitutional convention to produce a new one. “I am not saying the Constitution is bad, but the blueprint is not complete,” he said. “It needs lots of work. Personally, I think we should have a constitutional convention and write a new one.”

Talking about the government shutdown, Khaligh said the Constitution does not provide the people with any remedies or alternatives because the founders planned a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

“(The founders thought) that ultimately the politicians will implement things that people want,” Khaligh said. “This is not the case.”

He referred to disagreements between Congress and the president on raising the debt ceiling. “A democracy means inclusion, compromise, negotiation and toleration. None of this is happening in our government and when you look at the Constitution, we’re helpless.”


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