Origin and Chaos – The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s recent and interpretive decision, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA V. HELLER1, the majority ruled that gun ownership is an individual right and not just a collective right. The Second Amendment simply states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As recently as the 1990s total estimates of people in the civilian militias in this country range from 20,000 to 60,0002. These groups are chiefly comprised of far right wing groups. If the right to bear arms were limited to fringe groups like these, we are faced with an overwhelming dilemma:

Does the U.S. Constitution maintain an absolute right to abrogate itself?

Put another way,

Does the U.S. Constitution provide the right for groups, hostile to the United States and its Constitution, to destroy the country?

Of course, these particular groups discussed in footnote 2 would certainly maintain that they are protecting their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. However, is the Constitution meant as a document for multiple and widely varying interpretations or is there a process described by the Constitution for deterring what are lawful and unlawful interpretations? Of course there is, the Legislative and Judicial branches of the U.S. Government. Do individuals have the right to have their own interpretation? Yes, they do but their interpretation is not protected against the interpretation of the courts and the legislative branch. The government maintains the exclusive right to determine what is constitutional and what is not constitutional. Therefore, like it or not the individual right to interpret the Constitution is trumped by the document itself and founding structural articles of the United States.

This is logically a necessity as many individual, widely varying interpretations could never be enacted into a cogent, defensible structure. If everyone with an opinion determined the formal and authorized meaning of the Constitution, the structure of the country would be ‘no structure’, an-archy, without origin. Origin is what validates and authorizes meaning. Accidental meanings, singular and without integral cohesion, are essentially thought in the context of origin as willy-nilly, whimsical and therefore, superfluous.

This is widely divergent from popular opinion about the individuality of the will and its protections in the structure of our government. Certainly individual rights are protected in a relative sense by the Constitution but not in an absolute sense. No one has the absolute authority to destroy the United States. It is sovereign not the citizens. The absolute right of an individual or group to destroy the country is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Nor is any right given to an individual or a group to usurp the system of checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers to impose their interpretation of the Constitution over and against the will of the people given by their elected representatives and judges.

Therefore, if a citizens militia group hates our current government and is hell bent on violently and singularly imposing its constitutional interpretation on the United States, it is limited by the document itself. Even Judge Scalia writes near the end of the majority decision that,

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” See footnote 1

The majority opinion goes on to state that all laws would have to pass rational-basis scrutiny and that the constitution itself prohibits irrational laws in footnote 27. Scalia goes on to add that “rational-basis is not just the standard of scrutiny, but the very substance of the constitutional guarantee”. Certainly this would cover that case where a fringe, radical terrorist group would decide it knew the ‘true’ meaning of the Constitution and would overthrow the current U.S. Government as the blood patriots and martyrs. The Constitution and “rational-basis” is the “substance” of the Constitution. The Constitution protects the rights of all Americans not just the ‘survival of the fittest’ Americans as in the pure market place of Austrian Economic’s capitalism. There is no hope that capitalism would find a ‘natural’ protection for the rights of the less fortunate but in the U.S. Constitution, there is an unmitigated guarantee. The market place is not given the right to determine a structure for the government just as the citizens militia is not protected by the Second Amendment to do whatever they want in the name of the ‘true’ (i.e. interpretation of the Constitution).

The Constitution and the elected government are given absolute power to make all final determinations, all “rational-basis” for the standard of scrutiny. In so doing, the irrational and accidental are by the same basis co-determined. The appeal to origin, is itself an appeal to rationality and its necessary irrational determinations. Any subsequent authorizations can only be made via the original authorization of the U.S. Constitution. If these subsequent authorizations are found to ‘deviate and perverse’ by the courts and elected representatives they cannot legitimately maintain their authority. The absolute authority of the government cannot be abnegated by the very existence of the government itself, its constitution. In this way the human instinct to survive is similarly taken up in the same exercise as inability of the Constitution of legitimate its own destruction. However, distinct from the individual will to survive the constitutional ‘will to survive’ has additional caveats.

The Constitution is a written document. An individual is alive, existing not as a writing but as an excess to writing. All writing, the body of writing, is only meaningful to a human that knows language. It is in whole meaningless to animals or atoms. Therefore, writing is inherently human. Any excess to writing does not imply a fundamental difference to writing but a qualitative difference. Therefore, we think to exist, as only humans can think they exist as such, suggests something more than a certain kind of human grapheme but exactly what this more is seems to deviate from constitution, the structure inherent in writing. Writing is not non-sense, it defines sense, it defines what is possible for ‘rationality’. To deviate from constitution, “rational-basis”, is chaos. Since Christendom, chaos has largely been thought from the basis of rationality as irrational, without meaning, empty. And yet, these negative connotations seem to be dismissive of any excess to ‘constitutionality’, the writing of God and the thought of immortality. These negative connotations of chaos bring up the nonsensical as the extremist right wing militia groups which cannot deviate from an authorizing origin and are condemned to live in the hinterland of their ‘truth’, their unthought and assumed right to exist as such. They are forever held prisoner by their ‘constitutional blood of patriots and martyrdom’ and at the same time, by the same Constitution, denied their insistence on absolute authorship. They are hopelessly lost in a singularity without an excess. They cannot endure an excess of chaos. They must in futility hold on to chaos in the passion of a singular death grip on gun, God and glory authorized by an absolute denial to their Constitutional authority. In this negation without excess, their existential angst, they take up chaos without ever becoming aware of it as such. They can only rail and rally in their desperation.

What escapes these desperados cannot be given or thought in common contemporary philosophical avenues. There is a sense of excess beyond writing, beyond constitution, that ‘constitution’ essentially cannot come to grips with. When excess to origin cannot be allowed to escape the insistence on constitution, on rational-basis, without becoming yet again a pseudo-rationalism it is condemned as Sisyphus to eternally roll a boulder up a hill only to have it fall again. This is why Hegel’s System can never be completed as Kierkegaard recognized. Not because it is inadequate but because it cannot constitutionally recognize what the early Greek philosophers realized from Hesiod,

“Tell me all of this, you Muses who have your homes on Olympus, from the beginning [archê, ἀρχῆς], tell who first of them (the gods) came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽].

First of all Chaos came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽]; but then afterwards…” Hesiod



2 Right-wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort

By Chip Berlet, Matthew Nemiroff Lyons, Pg. 289, See Link