Heard but not Read

For shame but true, I’m for the first time in my life reading the US Constitution. More precisely, I’m reading The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution: A Fully Annotated Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Amendments, and Selections from The Federalist Papers, and it’s disconcerting how brief the annotations are. I’m shocked by how behemoth issues like free speech, the right to bear arms, the “due process” clause are summarily summarized in a sentence or two after the full text of the First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendment are given. Kudos to Mr. Beeman (the author) for having the chutzpah to sign on to such a project!

I’m also a bit disconcerted that I’m reading the Constitution outside of any formal, regimented institution. What? No class is riding on this? No quizzes? No nightmarish essay to trip over? It feels . . . frivolous, and not a bit disrespectful to read the Constitution (the Constitution!) for fun. The Constitution isn’t for fun; the Constitution is serious. One shouldn’t be reading the Constitution before bed time; one shouldn’t lug the Constitution into the bathroom; one shouldn’t be reading the Constitution without taking copious notes and feeling very, very stressed about that essay, that brief, that government betrayal of our fundamental rights (fundamental rights!), or something, right?

Yet here we are, the Constitution and I, snuggled in bed together. (Mr. Beeman obtrudes sometimes, but that’s another matter.) The comfort of my bed brings me to ask an intimate question. How many of of you want to fess up to not having read something that you feel that all self-respecting, snooty literati should’ve read? Come on, that little dirty secret can be the Constitution, Remembrances of Things PastWar and PeaceDas Kapital  or whatever else you’re lulled into confessing to.

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