So, the other day Mike ordered some socks on line. He was running low on athletic socks which are all he wears any more. He ordered 4 pairs of socks, or at least thought he did. When they arrived he found 4 bundles containing 6 pairs of socks each. I think Mike doesn’t always read things carefully. He now has a lifetime supply, unless he gives 2 or 3 bundles away, which I think he should. Pay attention, Mike!
While on our walk this morning, Mike got to wondering, as he has on and off for the past 60 or more years, about why the Bill of Rights was not a part of the original Constitution. He never took a college course in history, and his high school education was abysmal, partly through poor courses and teachers, and partly because of his lack of effort. This is off-topic, but there is a reason that his teachers were sub-par. Mike grew up in Chicago and went to South Shore High School, which was in the next neighborhood south of Hyde Park. Some years prior to Mike’s attending South Shore, the Hyde Park neighborhood was transitioning from a white to a black population. South Shore High opened in 1940. By the time Mike got there in 1956 the (all white) teaching staff was comprised of a great many older teachers from Hyde Park High School who got the positions based on seniority, not merit. He says some of his teachers were average, some were below average and a very few were outstanding. Over the past many years South Shore has undergone several changes, and is now a college prep magnet school. Less than 1% of the students are Caucasian. During Mike’s tenure at South Shore High there was not one black student, based entirely on the boundary lines for the schools. At that time, and possibly still today, Chicago was one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. Another factoid: James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA with Francis Crick, attended South Shore High School.
So, back to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Mike says that the reverence for the Constitution that one often hears expressed is somewhat undeserved, given that it legalizes slavery and denies women the right to vote, among other things eventually corrected through a combination of war and the amendment process. It turns out that unsurprisingly, the original 13 colonies were not uniform in their political preferences, and many individuals in the colonies had their own agendas. So, like everything else, a resolution was accomplished through negotiation and compromise. The agreement was that the constitution would go forth as originally written, and that a bill of rights would be added. In 1789 James Madison introduced a bill of rights in Congress that consisted of 12 items, 10 of which were included in the final Bill of Rights which were ratified in 1791. One item never made it, and the 12th, which regulates the compensation of members of Congress, wasn’t ratified until 1992 (!!) as the 27th Amendment. Mike gets irritated by politicians who hold themselves out as strict defenders of the constitution, because the constitution didn’t do much to protect the rights of women and it legalized slavery. It is true that it included a process for amendment which did fix some of the more grievous omissions, but not others. It took a bloody civil war to be won by the North in order to pass an amendment to delegitimize and ban slavery. Much of the Constitution is constructed to prevent the abuse of power, such as had been experienced by the colonies courtesy of the King of England. Abuse of power is nothing new (vide infra).
This week’s Torah portion contains the core of the ethical behavior expected of the Hebrews. Found in the physical center of the Torah, Leviticus chapter 19 contains such pearls as giving to the poor, protecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, not mocking or abusing the physically disadvantaged (don’t curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind), avoiding gossip, telling lies, holding grudges, judging a case in a biased fashion (abuse of power), and failing to render assistance to someone in need. It is also where the Hebrews are admonished to love their neighbors as themselves. None of this would have been necessary if people behaved properly in the first place. The fact that this section occupies the physical center of the Torah suggests that it is central to Jewish belief and obligation, an interesting point made by Rabbi Holtz in Mike’s Torah study yesterday. It is extremely difficult for people to not advocate for their own self-interest, even when it diminishes that rights or opportunities of others. Our country is engaged in a great struggle of this type right now. May God Bless America, and may we arrive at a just and equitable structure where everyone has equal voice and opportunity. Every week I ask people to pray for world peace, but really peace needs to start at home, and it has to start with loving each other and doing the right thing including using power fairly. A good example of the unfair use of power was when Senator Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority leader failed to act on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, an effective but shameful move supported by all 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary committee.
Out walking this morning, we had time to muse upon and discuss local matters as well. For one thing, I let Mike know that the cat he called Ruff, one of Big Fluff’s posse, prefers to be called Amaryllis. So, Amaryllis it is. We said hello to a lady walking 2 medium sized dogs, one of which has a heavy coat thanks to its Saint Bernard mother. She said Bernie doesn’t tolerate the hot weather well, and Mike suggested a shave. I think a lion cut would be perfect. Well, I am for now running out of momentous proclamations and opinions. Stay tuned, as there will be more, I am certain. Until next time be well, be safe, count your blessings, love your neighbor, and pray for world peace. We love you all! So long from Happy Meadows.