Monday, February 7, 2011

#38 / Constitution

My dictionary says that "Constitution" means, in the first place, "a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed."

Another definition for the word is "the composition of something; the forming or establishing of something."

Applying the -ion suffix produces a noun that denotes a "verbal action." The word "Constitution," like the word "institution," includes within its meaning the action of creating, or composing, or "constituting" the very thing that the word also recognizes as the product of that activity, and as an object or artifact.

It is "we the people" who have created the fundamental principles that guide, and that actually create, the political world we most immediately inhabit. To my mind, this fact - the fact that our Constitution should properly be understood as a "verbal action" - imbues its words with life and movement, and contradicts the claim (sometimes called "Originalism") that our Constitution means only what it "meant" at the time it was first put on paper.

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