Opinion » Bill Cope


I bet they didn't see him coming, either

Our Founding Fathers did not envision that one day, there would be weapons capable of firing Kevlar-piercing ammo at a rate of 600 rounds a minute available to anyone with the money and propensity to buy them, so that policemen and innocent bystanders would have little chance of surviving a violent encounter with well-armed street gangs, well-armed racists, well-armed terrorists or well-armed crazy people, all of which are other things our Founding Fathers did not envision. Had they envisioned such things, or had they even envisioned the—dare I say it—creepily erotic attraction many modern American males have for their "rod," I personally believe they would have written the Second Amendment to the Constitution to be a tad more specific. Think about it, could not the Crips, Colombian drug runners and the Aryan Nation boys all consider themselves "well-regulated militias" with a generous enough interpretation of the wording?

I bring this up at this time not to set off another deluge of angry response from teeth-gnashing rod nuts—though I have little doubt I just did—but because one of our state's most highly placed ignoramuses (that would be Bill Sali, should you be confused about which of Idaho's many ignorami is the most highly placed) recently said (out loud, if you can imagine) that the election of a Muslim to Congress was not envisioned by our Founding Fathers. His line of reasoning, undoubtedly, stems from the tired and easily-punctured thesis that the Founding Fathers intended the United States be a Christian nation. (Concluding phrase of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any public office or public trust under the United States." What is so damn hard about that for Bible-thumpers to grasp?)

But I have no wish to waste time arguing with Bill Sali over whether or not our Founding Fathers intended America to be a Christian nation because, frankly, I care almost as little about our Founding Fathers' religious intentions as I care about Bill Sali's religious intentions. Actually—and this may come as somewhat of a shock to those who know my history with Congressman Sali—I am here today to agree with him. Yes, absolutely, William, you are exactly right. Our Founding Fathers certainly did not envision that the citizens of Minnesota would one day elect a Muslim to Congress. As a matter of fact, it's hardly possible that our Founding Fathers envisioned Minnesota, even, as that state joined the union in 1858, many years after the longest-lived of our Founding Fathers was done with envisioning much of anything.

Pardon me for taking advantage, but this most recent stink from Bill Sali's flapping mouth presents an opportunity to examine what else our Founding Fathers did not envision. There is not space to list everything here, so if I leave out some aspect of the last 200-plus years that is particularly dear to your heart, forgive me.

• The first and most obvious thing our Founding Fathers did not envision was that women would decide they have as much business participating in our democracy as men. Had Li'l Jimmy Madison foreseen, when he put quill to parchment, that the ladies would set off on a decades-long crusade for full citizenship, he might have saved the country a lot of bickering by making it clear that girls are people, too. And would it have killed them to invite some Founding Mothers to the Constitutional Convention?

But we should hold no resentment against them for being so short-sighted in the matter of women's suffrage. They were simply behaving as most men behaved back then. We know better now, don't we? Or would B.S. prefer that, in the full and uncompromised spirit of the Founding Fathers, his wife sit home on Election Day and homeschool the little Salis?

• Along the same lines, I can find no evidence that the Founding Fathers ever envisioned Louis Armstrong, Scott Joplin, Colin Powell, Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Jordan, Sojourner Truth, Richard Prior, Miriam Anderson, George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Sidney Poitier, Michael Jordan, Frederick Douglass, Oprah Winfrey, Ella Fitzgerald or Willy Mayes. If they had envisioned even one of those exceptional men and women, I can't imagine that it would have taken almost 80 years—from the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865—for slavery to die in America.

• I also feel safe in saying that the Founding Fathers did not envision iPhones. Or telegraphs. Or CB radios, or fax machines or even one of the myriad of speedy methods we have these days that enable us to communicate with one another instantaneously. I appreciate that in their day, they had to wait weeks for horse-based communications to bring election results through the wildernesses of Georgia and Delaware to a central place. But I simply can't believe they would have made something so absurdly anachronistic as the Electoral College a permanent part of the Constitution had they envisioned even second-day delivery from the U.S. Postal Service.

• Space is running short, so I'm going to race through a few more things I'm relatively certain the Founding Fathers didn't envision: the Industrial Revolution, trains, planes, automobiles, radio, television, YouTube, Seattle, Kansas City, globalization, Mormons, touch-screen voting, Howard Stern, Haliburton, the New West, the Old West, California, frozen foods, 7 billion people on Earth, hydrocarbons in the air, mercury in tuna fish, lead in imported Chinese toys, Walmarts—my, I could go on forever. It's been a busy, busy 220 years, hasn't it?

• Lastly, I'll bet you a Ben Franklin that our Founding Fathers did not envision that they, themselves, would come to be seen as divinely inspired prophets by those with such limited capacity for rational thought that they can't conceive of regular, fallible men creating something as extraordinary as a democracy. But the rest of us will recognize that when they put together that marvelous blueprint of freedom, our Constitution, they were responding to what they knew of their own time, not what they imagined lay down the pike. After all, they were soldiers and politicians and farmers, not Carl Sagan. It is our good fortune that what they accomplished still, for the most part, serves us well and will continue to do so, as long as we don't take certain ignoramuses (wink, wink) too seriously.