The United States

Constitutionally Speaking

By Kevin Cooper

Kevin Cooper is 50 years old. He fighting for his life against the false conviction for a murder he did not commit, and the death sentence he received, when he was 27 years old. He came to San Quentin State Prison, in California, in 1985, self-described as “a very uneducated 27-year-old black boy in a man’s body. I never had a real education, though I did get my GED in 1978. But it was nothing more than a piece of paper that had no meaning. It wasn’t until I got to this hellhole that I started to educate myself. Most of what I now know about life, and history, and ‘herstory’ I learned here within this cage on death row!”

—The Editors

The divided states of America are supposed to have one thing in common which keeps them united. That one thing is a piece of paper called the United States Constitution.

I am told that this piece of paper is not conservative, or liberal. It’s not Republican or Democrat. It’s supposed to be the law.

This country, or at least the people in power who are supposed to represent us all—the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Congress and Senate—say that in all that they do, they follow the Constitution. Or they interpret the Constitution as it is meant to be, because this is a country built on and maintained by constitutional laws.

So to them, things are either constitutional or unconstitutional. It’s either the law, or it’s not. There is no middle ground, no in-between. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that lethal injection, as a method of legal execution is not unconstitutional—even if it causes pain, or in some cases, extreme pain that amounts to torture to the condemned person. Justice Scalia even went so far as to state that within the U.S. Constitution there is nothing written concerning a painless execution.

The Constitution has been amended many times since it was first written. There has even been talk in the past about amending it again for such issues as keeping gays and
lesbians from marrying, or for stopping people from burning the U.S. flag. But one of the most important issues that has ever been raised in the history of this country’s
existence, which should be included and made constitutional, but isn’t, and probably won’t, is the equal rights amendment concerning women.

We all know that when the Constitution was first written, over two centuries ago, women, including white women, no matter how wealthy their families were, weren’t included within the Constitution. They, like others who were considered “property,” were left out. White males, even those without
property, were not.

Though there was the women’s suffrage movement of the 1920s and the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, which included an effort to pass an Equal Rights Bill which would have amended the constitution to include women as equal with men, the bottom line is that it never happened. So, constitutionally speaking, American women, at least on paper, are still not, in this 21st century, equal to men.

They, in a country that lives on its Constitution, which kills by its Constitution, which makes, passes, and enacts laws based on its Constitution, have not been recognized by that very Constitution as full and equal citizens. This is not the only thing not within the Constitution. The word “democracy” is also not in the Constitution. Yet we are said to live in a democracy that is based on constitutional law.

Are we missing something?