Bill Murchison

Older cultures, always fluid, always adaptive in terms of membership, nevertheless saw -- and see -- tribal unity as a practical good. Not that we didn't want Irish (Italians or Slavs or Mexicans); what we prized, generally, was an orderly procedure for absorbing newcomers -- for making citizens and neighbors out of them. The porosity of the U.S.-Mexican border offends Arizonans because it subordinates Arizona's needs to Mexico's -- with the political connivance of newer culture types who want the immigrants to become grateful voters. To live in a place, yet to have to share it with the uninvited, is to know resentment and anger of a sort reflected in Arizona's immigration law, the one the government says no state has a right to pass.

Americans, with the media's help and encouragement, see judges and constitutions as part of the scenery of Mount Olympus -- high, exalted, removed from daily life. In fact, constitutions are what cultures say they are -- which is why the "original intent" of the authors never rates as highly with judges as it should.

Constitutions are in our brains, for better or worse. Marriage is a holy as well as civic enterprise, but if people stop thinking of it thus, it will become something else. Tribal unity is good until the tribe decides, aw, what the blazes?

We all have our deeply felt views on these matters. What we must acknowledge is the dynamism of democracy. Those of us who don't like what's afoot can't look to constitutions to save us. We have to out-write, out-argue, out-persuade; make the culture buy into our arguments so the judges will, too. Tough work, but that's democracy for you.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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