To mark Bill of Rights Day and to celebrate the new look and name of this blog, here's a little something I wrote for the dearly departed Green Bay News-Chronicle for July 7, 2001 ...
July 4 festival-goers lukewarm about Bill of Rights
Americans celebrated the nation's 225th birthday on Wednesday without apparently having a firm grasp on what we were celebrating.
In a survey taken during Green Bay's Celebrate Americafest by the Libertarian Party of Northeast Wisconsin, slightly less than 60 percent said they were unwilling to support what the pollsters called the Constitutional Rights Clarification Amendment.
The problem is that the "amendment" has already been passed - more precisely, the 10 amendments of the Bill of Rights, which were printed verbatim on the petition.
Eric Christianson, vice chairman of the local party, said that only 11 of the 232 people who were surveyed realized they were reading the amendments that recognize freedom of religion, speech and the press, the right to bear arms, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, protection against self-incrimination, and the other tenets of the Bill of Rights.
Some people signed or declined without reviewing the document very carefully, but most took the time to read it through and ask questions about some of the issues, he said.
"My favorite response is from the guy who declined to sign saying, 'This would interfere with the judicial system because there's a vagueness inherent to the Constitution and this would make it black and white,'" Christianson said.
The response that Christianson said was either the scariest or the funniest was from a man who identified himself as an off-duty police officer.
"He said he knows all about the Constitution because he works with it every day," he said. "But then he handed it back and said, 'I can't sign this - there are portions of this with which I disagree.'"
Bob Collison, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin, said the results reflect his belief that Americans are not very well-informed about what is happening in politics.
"They'll parade in the name of freedom, but ask them about these issues and they really don't come down on the side of freedom," Collison said. "When you come down to it, even during the Revolutionary War a minority of people were involved in the fighting. It's always a minority that makes the changes."