8 minute read

The Constitution Now
Thank you for a brilliant article on the relevance of the Constitution for modern times [“One Document, Under Siege,” July 4]. I read it a second time, substituting the word Bible for Constitution , and it was a liberating religious experience. Could TIME publish a similar article about the Bible, a 2,000-plus-year-old document?
The Rev. Paul Veliyathil,
Coral Springs, Fla., U.S.

TIME’s cover photo of the partial shredding of the U.S. Constitution is disgraceful, distasteful — and protected by the very document you shred. Thankfully, the Constitution will survive a dumb cover photo by your magazine.
Fred Walker,

As Richard Stengel says, the reasons to exclude foreign-borns from the presidency have long since vanished. It’s time to allow all citizens the opportunity to hold the highest office in the land unconstrained by the immutable characteristic of country of birth — which one has no control over. If the U.S. truly believes in equality, meritocratic values and the implications of the 14th Amendment, it should clearly signal so by eviscerating the clause with another amendment.
J.T. Shim,

While I enjoyed Stengel’s exploration of constitutional issues in the public eye, the real constitutional story lies in Supreme Court decisions that expand corporate influence while insulating corporations from public and governmental attempts to restrain abuses. Those decisions pave the way toward a society of inequality, in which elections are merely window dressing for the control of government by moneyed interests. The Constitution will survive disputes over war powers, debt, health care and immigration, but unless voters regain some influence over the electoral process, our democracy will become a sham.
Jim Lovell,

Stengel refers to the constitutions of the Soviet Union, Cuba, Nazi Germany and Libya. The Bolshevik-inspired Soviet constitution did indeed include a guarantee of the right of free speech, as an example, but a guarantee of and by the government; our Constitution recognizes the right of free speech as inherent to the people and not to be interfered with by the government, except in limited circumstances like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Our Constitution is unique in world history, and that fact should never be diminished.
Ronald M. Smith,
Williamsburg, Va., U.S.

There is one serious shortcoming inStengel’s appreciation of the U.S. Constitution. He does not mention the impact of the signing statement, which gives the Chief Executive more leverage in the legal process than the framers would have thought acceptable. The very system of checks and balances is threatened by it; Presidents could become kings in their own right if this practice is not stopped by Congress soon.
Arnold R. Pritz,
Salzburg, Austria

How does a renowned journalist, author, documentarian and Constitution scholar justify using Obamacare , which has essentially become an epithet? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one of the most vital pieces of progressive legislation in about a century. In an otherwise balanced discussion of the beloved (albeit often misquoted and sometimes maligned) Constitution, the insouciant inclusion of this inflammatory term was distracting, disappointing and infuriating.
John Gambardella,
Cundletown, Australia

Stengel says the framers “gave us the idea that a black person was three-fifths of a human being.” The three-fifths compromise was indeed a perverse one, but Stengel’s misleading phrase perpetuates a popular misconception: that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention negotiated an agreement to declare those of African descent to be inferior to whites by 40%. The admittedly obscene three-fifths fraction was an arbitrary number meant to indicate not the relative value of slaves but the extent to which the whites who owned them would be rewarded with additional political power. Thus it was those who treated black people as less than human who were pushing the number upward and those whose heirs would help free them who tried to reduce it. Stengel’s phrasing implies the opposite.
Glen Jordan Spangler,
Laurel, Md., U.S.

In the article, Stengel claims that the Constitution’s framers “gave us the idea … that women were not allowed to vote.” This is not correct, as any full reading of the 1787 Constitution will verify. Nowhere in the original document is there any mention of women’s suffrage, either for or against — it is completely silent on the issue. Therefore the matter was left to the discretion of the individual states and territories. Indeed, between 1869 and 1918, before the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, fully 17 states and territories had extended the right to vote to women. This would not have been possible if the Constitution’s framers had banned voting for women.
Paul Goldstein,
Vindenes, Norway

Stengel felt compelled to state the obvious: that the framers of the U.S. Constitution were not gods. Ironically, however, as with the Koran, Torah and Bible, our Constitution has so many interpretations as to make its essence more a matter of faith than fact. So better does it provide a continuous guiding light to our liberties as well as to its own preservation.
Craig M. Miller,
Lakewood, Ohio, U.S.

As a high school social-studies teacher, I often pose the question “What would the framers say?” to my graduating seniors. However, your answer, that “they’re not around to prove anyone wrong,” is literally true but figuratively wrong. I challenge anyone to read even a handful of quotes from Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson or Madison and not see timeless truths.
Darren Rosenbaum,
Schodack Landing, N.Y., U.S.

More Instructions, Please
The simulation of towing icebergs from Greenland to drought-stricken areas shows some — but not all — of the technical problems associated with this concept [“Just Thaw and Serve,” July 4]. For instance: Will it be possible to tow at greater speed than 1 knot? This seems to be quite marginal; any event could bring the assembly to a standstill. And how will the iceberg be slowed down when it arrives at the point of delivery? Where and how will the iceberg be “parked” upon arrival at the delivery point? How long does it take to thaw under varying weather conditions? Where is the fresh water being stored, given the different supply-and-demand patterns?
John van Schagen,
Perth, Australia

Just as Georges Mougin used software to simulate the towing of a 7 million-ton iceberg from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands, eye surgeons have recently also used simulation technology to understand the mysteries of the human eye. It is thanks to such simulation-software systems that scientists are able to construct, execute and experiment with objects ranging from icebergs to human eyes, to understand how they would behave in the real world.
Mahmut Dogramaci,

Mougin’s concept of towing an iceberg with its insulated skirt is brilliant. I do, however, think that it would be far more viable to tow the iceberg just out of harm’s way and harvest it out at sea using specially equipped tankers and large containers. A single tug could tow several containers to where it is needed without worrying about a 6.5 million-ton monster behind you. As I write this, I look out of the window at the floods that are starting. How I wish I could save some of this water for those without.
Allen G. Johnson,
Gonubie, South Africa

New Challenges, New Strengths
Japan’s earthquake and tsunami remind us that we are living in a country full of natural disasters — and natural crises have created the Japanese character [“Rebuilding Japan,” July 4]. As a victim of the Kobe earthquake 15 years ago, I can say confidently that the Japanese, through the passage of this crisis, will be reborn, revitalized and more efficient.
Masaaki Otani,
Nakatado-Gun, Japan

The Wright Stuff
Frank Lloyd Wright was neither “crazy” nor “womanizing” as Belinda Luscombe said in her interview with architect Renzo Piano [10 Questions, July 4]. After a 22-year marriage to first wife Catherine, Wright was married to his second love, Mamah Cheney, until her murder. He remained with his final companion, Olgivanna, for over 30 years. Though he was very pleased with himself, as most architects are, no one who knew him or wrote about him has ever said he was crazy.
Jean-Louis Lonné,
Méry-sur-oise, France

Portrait of an Artist
Suketu Mehta writes that M.F. Husain died of a broken heart after fanatics sued him for painting nude figures of female Hindu deities [Milestones, June 27]. In most countries, any artist who dared to paint nude figures of any religious entities would be lucky if he didn’t get lynched. Remember the Danish cartoonist who was the victim of an assassination attempt after his drawing of the Prophet Muhammad was published?
David Phillips,
Marangaroo, Australia

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at