Dingus of the Week: The Constitution

That little collection of papers is failing us

Hi! Welcome to the Weekly Dingus, my Friday newsletter, where I round up my internet reads, share a drink, and yell about a dingus. Is that dingus a politicianA boat in a canalMy dog? Or maybe it’s just pants. You can read about past weekly dinguses in the archives.

Hear me out on this, but looking around at our nation, I’m beginning to think that maybe a document that a bunch of drunk, white slave owners wrote isn’t that great?

With all due respect to Alexander Hamilton et al, I really liked their rapping and everything, but I’m not sure this is working out for us.

Over the past couple of decades, American conservatives have launched a concerted effort to stack the judicial system and overturn Roe v. Wade. How do I know this? Well, thank you for asking. I grew up Evangelical conservative, going to the rallies, hearing this exact plan laid out by conservative lawyers and pastors. I was encouraged to go to law school and help take back the courts from the “out-of-control liberal agenda.” And I am 38, so that was a little bit ago.

I did not go to law school, thanks to a family tragedy that involved the sexual assault of my sister and also my own assualt, which forced me to go to a Planned Parenthood for Plan B. 

And anyway, the plan worked. Last week, Texas effectively overturned Roe v. Wade and instead of using the other branches of government to right this wrong—for example, making the ERA the law of the land or perhaps codifying Roe into law—the Biden administration sued. Which, great. Okay, so that will end up where? At the Supreme Court? The very same place where all this mess started.

Great system of government you got there. Shame if it absolutely failed on you.

Listen, the U.S. Constitution was created by a bunch of white slaveholding men, who were drunk out of their minds, and they didn’t think it was that great. The whole plan was: This is good enough; it will need amendments.

And since then, things have happened, like as a society we’ve agreed that Black people are humans and women can vote and oh, look, now we have cars and technology. It’s an entirely new world that our founding fathers would have never imagined. But now all of our rights are tied to this. And originalists like to sit around and pretend that a bunch of white dudes in 1787 figured it all out for the rest of our lives.

Last year, Jamelle Bouie laid it out when he asked exactly which Constitution is Amy Coney Barrett defending? In his argument, Bouie points out how the Constitution is a living, breathing document that has changed and been amended as America has been changed and amended. Pretending that it’s an immutable text sent from God without faults and flaws, means that our lives and our rights are tied to a limited view of the world. A view created by a bunch of white drunk guys. Bouie ends his column with this piece of wisdom:

As a matter of history, the Constitution is neither fixed in meaning nor in structure; the men who wrote and ratified it disagreed as much about what it meant as we do today. But even if it had a singular meaning, you would still have to make a choice about which Constitution to adhere to, either one written to secure the interests of a narrow elite or one written for the sake of us all.

So here we are, with other branches of government limp in their efforts to check the absolutely out-of-control judicial system. If only we had a document ensuring the checks and balances of all of our systems of government.

If only.

What I Am Reading

So, I finally finished Anna Karenina and it makes me so sad, how her whole life was tied to men. Her husband, Vronsky, her son. Even the free women in the book are not free, but must make their lives in service to something — serving the sick or holding to their religion. I wonder if that was just the limits of Tolstoy’s mind or the limits of the world. And I also think that all too often the smallness of our worlds reflects, not the space we live in, but the smallness of our own minds.

I am also reading Jo Ann Beard’s Festival Days and loving it. Everyone in the book seems to be in a place of decay, dying, ending. In the middle of the collection is an essay about writing and she argues that learning to write comes from reading. And I always find that as I write big projects, I rely on books and articles of writers to teach me, once again, how to write and how to think and how to see the world. 

For those reasons, this week, I read some old articles:

I read this essay by Miles Klee about the “average guy” and Brett Kavanaugh. I also read Anne Helen Petersen’s essay about Armie Hammer and this epic essay on Tom Cruise and YouTube and fandom. I believe that what we think about celebrities says more about us than it says about those celebrities themselves. *Stares intently at John Mulaney discourse.*

Which reminds me, Jessica Grose wrote this about parasocial relationships, and I find it interesting, both because I have parasocial relationships. But also, because other people have parasocial relationships with me. They aren’t bad. They are just part of life. Especially modern life. But they can be toxic when we feel like celebrities owe us their lives and we forget that they too are human beings.

Also, I feel like it’s worth noting that this weekend marks the anniversary of 9/11, and my little brother joined the Army because of 9/11. And honestly, I am very proud of him. But also, the jingoism, the bloodlust, and the racism of that time is something we have not fully grappled with. And I find myself stuck often in a place of cynicism and love. And so, I have nothing else to say. Except, that this is where we are, doing our best to muddle through here in a world that is fraying around its edges. This is not an especially profound thing, but it is a thing.

What I Am Drinking

My ’Rol and Ryes last week were a huge success. And this weekend, at the prompting of my editor (okay, I asked her because I am out of ideas), I will be sampling the Gold Rush Cocktail.

Also, thank you to the kind person/persons who purchased my drink the other night while I sat and read in my favorite bar. My drink was a very peaty, mossy scotch, the name of which I can never remember. But you know who does remember? The bartender. Anyway, that was just a relentlessly nice thing to do, so thank you.

Men Yell at Me is a newsletter about the places where our bodies and politics collide and yes, the occasional yelling man. Learn more about it and me (Lyz) here. You can sign up to receive the free weekly email, which includes interviews, essays, and original reporting. The Friday email is a weekly round-up of dinguses, drinks, and links. On Monday I have a subscribers-only open thread where we discuss politics and our bodies and more.