Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"WE THE PEOPLE" and Glenn Beck's Look at the U.S. Constitution

In an editorial posted on CNN, TV political pundit Glenn Beck argues that America needs a Twelve Step Program to rid itself of certain faults. Of interest to this 'blog's area of study is his first step, which proposes a reading of the United States Constitution based primarily on visual cues in the manuscript.
Step One: Admit we are not powerless.

Take a look at our Constitution. Not just a transcript; find an actual picture of it. The first three words, "We the People," are at least four times larger than the others. Do you think that was an accident? Of course not. Our framers chose those words, and made them that size, because they knew they were the answer to any problem we would ever face.
Claiming to know the framers' intentions is a common move in interpreting the Constitution. Beck's use of that move here is reminiscent of the second assumption of the four that James L. Kugel identifies as common among readers of the Bible in his How to Read the Bible: "Interpreters also assumed that the Bible was a book of lessons directed to readers in their own day. It may seem to talk about the past, but it is not fundamentally history." For Beck, the choice to magnify those first three words signals an important timelessness and relevance transcending the document's 18th-century definition of a nation.

He is, however, curiously silent on the almost equally large "Article 1" that follows the Preamble.

1 comment:

C A B Spoeneman said...

"On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the
time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested
in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out
of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in
which it was passed."

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823