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Arizona Erects Bill Of

Rights Monument

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Constitutional attorney David Bodney poses with the First Amendment Monument in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.
Monument To The First Ten Amendments Of The U.S. Constitution Draws A Disparate Group Of Individuals In Support Of Freedoms

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

Dec. 17, 2012 — The assembled mass of humanity that made it out on a rainy, cold December morning in Phoenix, Arizona for the unveiling of the first monument to the Bill Of Rights was, in a word, unique.

It was a collection of contrasts — from tea partiers to liberals and even to a juggler comic — that are not commonly in the same vicinity in discussions and homages to politics and governing. But on this particular December morning, they gathered together.

“This is exactly what the Bill of Rights intended to do for this country: To bring together republicans, democrats, libertarians, greens, and those from any political party or none whatsoever together for a higher purpose,” said U.S. Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema.

First, some background. In 2005, when debate was raging over public monuments to the Ten Commandments, comedian Chris Bliss — a famed juggler and comic — joked that a monument of the Bill of Rights should be placed next to the religious one in order for viewers to comparison shop. Less than a year later, Bliss approached former Arizona legislator and current congresswoman-elect Kyrsten Sinema about a Bill of Rights monument on the state capitol grounds in Arizona.

Sinema then reached across the aisle to the conservative Karen Johnson, herself a former legislator. In 2006, the bill was passed unanimously.

Bliss then went about to raise money for the monument. He got seed money from Newman’s Own Foundation, but raised more than $125,000 at a comedy concert at Phoenix Symphony Hall this past May that was headlined by some of the biggest names in comedy, including Lewis Black and Steven Wright.

With cash in hand, Bliss turned to Joseph Kincannon of Austin, Texas, who created the monuments out of slabs of limestone.

On Bill of Rights day 2012, the monuments were dedicated with the previously mentioned disparate groups of individuals and politicians. The site is in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, directly east of the state capitol buildings along Washington Avenue in downtown Phoenix.

While these groups gathered together in celebration, the differences between our political differences have only grown over the past 200 years. Republicans are the supporters of the classical state’s rights argument. Gov. Jan Brewer is one of the foremost politicians using the Tenth Amendment to enact all sorts of state policies against the will of the federal government.

To the far right of Brewer are Tea Party folks who vociferously look to the Constitution as a gift from glorified founders.

But as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said Saturday, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, are nothing more than basic rights that are still interpreted through the lens of the common sense of today’s society.

“The Constitution was intentionally a living, breathing and growing document. The Constitution was never ever, intended to be a historical document. The framers understood that our Constitution was a work in progress. The preamble states that the purpose was to create a more perfect union, no one ever claimed that it formed the perfect union from the very start and that no further development would be necessary or possible,” Stanton said. “The Constitution reflected the difficult compromises at the time. In hindsight, we see there were flaws in the original text. Women could not hold elected office, own property or even vote. African Americans were denied all rights and were counted only as three-fifths of a person for the Census and representation in Congress. I point out the flaws not as a criticism. The founders, like me and all of the people here today, are optimists. We believe and hope that future generations could improve on their wisdom and compromises and that the circumstances of each generation could shed new light on the Constitution and help create that more perfect union.”

The drive towards a more perfect union continues.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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