According to literary critic, Harold Bloom, the best poets, novelists, and playwrights feel the influence of writers from previous generations, but go through a process of reinterpreting the canon of literature, what he calls misreading, that expresses their own creativity. This is a process of making the traditions of culture their own.
Sadly, misreading is no guarantee of greatness. Many times, attempts at creative interpretations just get things wrong. An example of this is to be found in a series of articles on The Huffington Post by Justin Curmi, titled, “A Revision on the Bill of Rights.”
Revision is a telling start to things, since desires to update or change the protections of basic rights so often fall short of the version currently in force. In the first part of the series, Curmi asks us to evaluate the Bill of Rights in terms of what he calls the five aims laid out in the Preamble to the Constitution. These are to promote justice and general welfare, ensure domestic tranquility and common defense, and secure the blessings of “our Liberty and Posterity.” That last part is a revision, one that changes the meaning of the original text’s “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Children are a consequence and can be a blessing, but the language of the framers expressed an intention to protect freedom for future generations.
Within the context of these five aims, Curmi asserts that the Bill of Rights “give certain powers to an individual and withhold certain powers from the person.” In this, he takes the common confusion among gun control advocates and compounds it. I have challenged such people many times to point to any word like “give” or “create” that is associated with the enumerated rights. The Bill of Rights in fact treats rights as something that are pre-existent and are being protected, but not created by the document.
Curmi seems to think that domestic tranquility, for example, limits the exercise of rights in the third part of his series. To this, he adds the claim that an act of self-defense denies an attacker the right to a fair trial. This bit of revised interpretation is bizarre. The right to a fair trial is a limitation on government power. Law enforcement and prosecutors are obliged to present evidence that can be tested if they seek to fine or imprison someone.
By contrast, an act of self-defense is not a trial. It’s also not an assessment of the attacker’s character, and it’s not a commentary on what the attacker is doing. Self-defense is solely an act done to stop a violent attack on an innocent person. It has to be proportional to the attacking force, and it is only justified while the attack continues. In many cases, a claim of self-defense will itself be tested in a trial. Curmi’s assertion that self-defense denies a right to a trial, though, is a category mistake, confusing proportionate force to stop an assault with the deliberate judgement employing government authority in a court.
These are only some of the curious revisions that Curmi seeks to make to our understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. His misreading has some value in that we have to go back to the founding principles of those documents to see what he gets wrong, but given the choice between his conception and that of the framers, I’ll stick with the latter.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.