The American Constitution is an interesting document, and one that seems to be in disuse or abuse. Ray Zinn and his wife DeLona discuss why societal acceptance of the letter and intent of the constitution is important.
Guy Smith: Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of the Tough Things First Podcast. My name is Guy Smith, I’m your guest host today, and we’re going to take a little bit of a different angle today. We’re going to be talking about the United States Constitution. You may have some quandary as to why we would be bringing this subject up, but when you think about it, the government is an organization.
Our perpetual guest managed the company he founded for 37 years, a large organization. There’s a lot to be learned about the way things do work and the way things don’t work, and with everyone believing that Washington is not working at the moment, some people are claiming that the Constitution itself is not working. So, I think it’s an interesting topic. For me, somebody who’s studied constitutional law on an amateur basis for longer than I care to admit, it’s always interesting to me.
So, we also have a special, special guest today. Not only do we have Ray Zinn, but we have his charming wife, Delona, with us. Good morning to the both of you.
Delona Zinn: Good morning, Guy.
Ray Zinn: Hi, Guy. Sure good to have you back with us again.
Guy Smith: Great to be here again. So, let’s jump right into this. I’m fascinated that we have people in this country who believe that the United States Constitution as a whole is obsolete, that it’s not functional. Let’s start with you, Ray. What is your take on that basic notion?
Ray Zinn: I agree with you. I think that far too many of our citizens believe the Constitution is obsolete because it doesn’t match their viewpoint. In other words, if something is not in accordance with their view, they’re going to object to it, whether it be a state law, or a federal law, or a community rule or whatever, homeowners association. If it’s something they don’t agree with, they’re going to say it’s obsolete or it’s obstructive.
I mean, you have multiple parties. You’ve got the Republicans, Democrats, you’ve got the environmentalists, you’ve got all these different … The Liberalist, as you [crosstalk 00:02:50]-
Delona Zinn: Libertarians.
Ray Zinn: Libertarian, yeah. Libertarians. You have all these different people with all these different viewpoints, and if the particular law or the particular Amendment doesn’t match their viewpoint, they’re going to think it’s obsolete.
Delona Zinn: Or it’s restricting their freedoms.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. Restricts your freedom, right.
Delona Zinn: Right.
Guy Smith: That angle I’ve always found interesting because the Constitution itself seems to be very wide open and put very few restrictions on anything. So, to my mind, somebody complaining that the Constitution is restricting freedom means that they haven’t actually read the document yet.
Ray Zinn: Or understand it.
Guy Smith: Or understand it. True. True.
Delona Zinn: Right. Or they’re just not thinking straight.
Guy Smith: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: Which is probably the case.
Guy Smith: Yeah. You know, with some of the recent past events, some people are not maybe beating up on the entire Constitution, but they’re looking at specific parts of it and complaining that this part is outdated or that part is outdated. But, we have the Amendment process. We’ve executed it 27 times. We even executed it once and then several years later said, “Oops, that was a mistake,” and backed that one out with yet another Amendment.
So, what are they missing? I mean, is the obstacle of doing an amendment to the Constitution so high that they automatically get frustrated and say it can’t be fixed ’cause I don’t have enough votes on my side to fix it?
Ray Zinn: It could be. I mean, our country is a democracy, at least speaking to the people who live in the United States. We have a democratic country, and that’s ruled by the majority. So, the majority defines whether or not there’s going to be a particular law or rule that we have to live by.
Delona Zinn: It’s interesting to me that you have all of these people from all of these other countries that have their eye on the United States, that want to come here because they like what we have, and yet when they get here, they seem to not want to uphold what we have, you know?
Ray Zinn: Well, that’s because, again, they’ve become now part of the country, if they’re here legally anyway.
Delona Zinn: Right.
Ray Zinn: They want to be part of the country, and so they want to modify it or move it to the area that they would like. So, again, it’s a me, me, me or selfish view. In other words, we’re not trying to get along in a democracy where the majority rules. It’s that I want my way, I don’t care what the majority says.
Guy Smith: Well, you know, it’s interesting, the immigrant experience. One of the happiest people I’ve ever met in my life was a taxi driver in San Diego, and I noticed that he had an accent I wasn’t quite familiar with. It was East African as opposed to West African. He had this perpetual smile on his face, and you could tell the song in his voice, he was very happy. So, I just said, “Whoa, you’re very happy,” and he said, “Oh, yes. I’m always very happy.” I said, “Well, where are you from?” And he said, “Oh, originally Somalia.” I went, “Ooh.” I said, “Which part of Somalia?” And he said, “Mogadishu.” I said, “Really?”
He told me the whole story about winning the immigration lottery, but he had to leave his mother and his sister back there, and he has never heard from them since. A lot of hardship and tragedy, but he had made it here and he figured that it doesn’t get any better than this.
Delona Zinn: I’ve run across many people like that too. I mean, they’re so grateful to be here and to have the ability to better themselves and to make something of their life, where in their own country, they never had that opportunity. I think it’s interesting. I think that you’re not hearing enough from these particular people because they’re so busy in their own life and making a living and providing for themselves. They don’t have time to go out and be a part of a group of people …
Ray Zinn: That are protesting.
Delona Zinn: … that are protesting against certain things within the Constitution. These people embrace it with their whole heart.
Ray Zinn: Let’s get back to the is Constitution dead. I mean, is it obsolete? I think with my 80 years of living here on this earth, and 80 years as a citizen of this country, and also going back to my ancestors who came over in 1690 as a pilgrim, it was eye opening to see how long my family’s been here in this country and how much we’ve appreciated what we have. I think that’s the key, is looking for the good as opposed to the bad. In other words, what is the good about it, not what is bad about it is where we have to start as we talk about is the Constitution still viable.
I live in this country for a reason, not because I was born here. It’s because this is the greatest country in the world. I’m sure those listeners who are living in their own countries will believe that their country is the greatest country in the world, which is great. I think that’s wonderful. Where you live has got to be the best because it’s your home, and your home is where you are established. I’m a [HAM 00:08:25] operator and I speak to people all over the world, and they’re very happy. Whether they’re in Romania or whether they’re in Malta or in Portugal, they’re all very, very happy. So, I’m sure that they, like me, appreciate their life and their family. They all talk about family. They like to talk about how important family is. I mean, all over the world, it’s the same. Family is what’s important.
Ray Zinn: This country has provided me and my family a legacy of advantages. So, I think the Constitution is very much alive because I have it alive in my heart. In other words, the Constitution lives within me. It was to protect our freedoms and not to restrict our freedoms. So, I look at it as a protection, not a restriction.
Delona Zinn: Exactly.
Guy Smith: Well, that definitely fits in with the general structure, it fits in with what the anti federalists were talking about when they insisted on the Bill of Rights and things like that. So, what I’m hearing around the table is that the Constitution is not broken, it’s actually working. It’s still fulfilling the basic premise that people should be free, and out of this freedom, they’re going to … Like the taxi driver from Mogadishu and whatnot, you still have this opportunity to not live with fear and dread all the time, and you have the possibility of lifting yourself up the various social and economic ladders and making it better for yourself and for the next generations.
Ray Zinn: Well, listening to the news broadcasts anyway, the media, there’s nobody seeking asylum outside the US. In other words, nobody’s leaving the US to seek asylum, and that’s, I think, a real telltale right there, is that they’re coming here to seek asylum, not that we’re leaving to go seek asylum. So, when people feel the need to seek asylum is because they lack the freedoms that we enjoy in this country.
So, I look at this Constitution as a protection of rights, not a restriction of rights. I’ve gone through every single one of the Amendments to the Constitution, and they’re all here to protect us. Every single one of them. Even the one that seems to be the hot issue, which is the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. People look at that as it’s not protection because people are being killed with these guns, but we also have heard in England that they’re trying to restrict now the kind of knives you can have. Your knife can’t be one that you can kill somebody with, I guess. It can be a penknife or something, but not one that can kill someone. I mean, that’s restrictive to me.
Now, when we get on the airplane to fly, we can’t have any knives or anything sharp beyond two inches, or an inch and a half, whatever it is. That’s a restriction, but it’s only for temporary and to get off the airplane. So, the right to bear arms is, again, I think, one of protection, not a restriction. So, we have to use our common sense as to how we use those things that are arms, as you would, but, again, I look at that as a protection, not a restriction.
Guy Smith: You’re in very good company there. That’s been one of the fields of interest in constitutional law that I’ve always been intrigued in, and with the Heller decision of 2008, there was one curious byproduct of this that very few people noticed. That was a 5/4 decision, but when you read the written [descents 00:12:06] of the four opposing judges, none of them argue against the individual right theory. They couldn’t because the historical evidence was far against them. They argued all sorts of other things, like it should be a lesser right than free speech or whatnot, but no one actually argued against it being an individual right.
I always found that fascinating. You can look at Heller as being a 9/0 decision in terms of the individual right theory to owning arms.
Ray Zinn: But, let’s look at it for just a second, the first Amendment, which is Protection of Free Speech. We can also use that illegally or differentially, just like you can in using a firearm illegally or differentially. That wasn’t really its intended purpose. So, all these rights that we have are there to be used properly, not improperly, whether it be free speech or freedom of religion or freedom to bear arms, right to bear arms.
All of these come with the intent that they are to be used properly and within the law, not outside the law, and yet people still say … What they’ll do is, they’ll do something illegally and say, “Oh, but I’m protected because I have that right to bear arms,” or I have that right to freedom of speech or freedom of religion, I’m going to practice some Satanic thing or whatever. So, we’ve taken this protection and we’ve now turned it into a weapon, as you would. That’s not what was intended, was for these Amendments to be born as a weapon, but more as a protection.
Guy Smith: I’m glad you brought that up. There was a jurist once who was trying to explain First Amendment and said, “You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater.” But, I like to tell people, “Yes, you can.” If there’s a fire, you most definitely can say that.
If you’re an actor on the stage and the scene obviously calls for you to yell “fire”, you can still yell it. If you rent out the hall, invite people in and calmly explain to them that you’ve always just wanted to yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you’re now going to do it, you can still do it. It’s the endangering behavior is when it quits being a right.
Ray Zinn: Well, you know, and HAM, as a HAM operator, one of the FCC rules is, is that you can’t play music over the radio, over an amateur radio. Again, that’s not a restriction, that’s protection, because you’re trying to prevent, not violate somebody else’s rights through that activity. The music can be played if it’s incidental to the communication. In other words, if you’re talking to the space station or something and, incidentally, there’s music being played, that’s not in violation, it’s when you’re intentionally trying to play music over the air in violation of their rule.
So, again, the rules are here to protect us, not to restrict us. But, some people have looked at it as a restriction. Why can’t I just play this music? Well, because you can’t obstruct the rights of other people in that process.
Guy Smith: Well, it’s the copyright. I mean, we have many complicated international laws about preserving copyrighted songs, and one of the things that they came up with was as long as the radio signals don’t really leave a national scope, then we’re managing the copyrights inside the country, and the moment you play that on the HAM radio so that somebody on the other side of the planet’s picking it up, no one’s in control of that copyright, licensing and royalty payment anymore.
Ray Zinn: You’re back to that one Amendment that the Supreme Court changed on transportation across state lines.
Guy Smith: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ray Zinn: Holding what you can do with commerce, in other words. So, people tend to use that to their advantage too, and not as a way to protect, but to restrict. There’s all kinds of ways that we can view the Constitution if we look at it negatively, but if we look at it positively, that it’s here to protect us as opposed to restrict us, I think that all of these Amendments we have are here to help us.
That brings up the 28th Amendment. I’m going to pitch this at Delona first, ’cause being a mom, she probably had to manage a lot of sibling squabbles around what was equal and fair treatment. She’s giggling like she still has the scars to prove it.
So, being banded about in various circles is a proposal for the 28th Amendment, and it just simply says “Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the senators and/or representatives”. So, let’s talk about a broken Constitution and a fixed Constitution. Are we in a state of where the Constitution is not providing equality now because the senators and Congress people can carve our exceptions for themselves, and do we need a 28th Amendment?
Delona Zinn: You know, I think that’s been one of the biggest sticking points with … Like, the healthcare. The government was dictating that the citizens had to follow a certain program, and yet the President and the Congress, they were exempt from that same thing. So, that’s where the big up cry came within the United States, with the citizens, is that they did not think that that was fair. And it wasn’t fair. It’s not fair. I mean, if they’re going to carve out laws that are going to affect the citizens, then they should have to abide by the same laws. If they can’t, if they think it’s unfair, then they should re-look at the whole thing and see if maybe they’d better come up with something better.
Ray Zinn: That’s why the proposal, it’s a proposal, not an actual law.
Delona Zinn: Yeah.
Ray Zinn: Because, again, Congress cannot pass a law that they’re not willing to abide by themselves. So, this is a universal law around the world, in every country, is that the government shouldn’t be able to pass a law that only the others have to follow, but they don’t have to follow that law.
Delona Zinn: Yeah. You see that in a lot of the foreign countries that we have, in the third world countries, where the people have to abide by a very strict set of rules and yet the leaders of the government are so corrupt and it doesn’t matter.
Guy Smith: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I have a Muslim friend from the Middle East and he said it’s kind of interesting because if you’re Muslim and live in a Muslim country, you can’t buy a drink, but if you go to the palace, they’ll serve you up one right away.
Delona Zinn: I know that when the kids were growing up, there was this, “Well, that’s not fair. He got more than me,” or whatever. You know, sometimes things aren’t fair. Things aren’t always fair. We know that in society, and I think that that’s one of the big issues that the children need to learn in the home, is that things aren’t going to be fair, but you have to be able to not think of just yourself. There are other people you have to think of.
Guy Smith: One of my favorite episodes was the author [PJ O’Rourke 00:19:50]. One of his teenage daughters threw a tantrum one day and said, “Life isn’t fair,” and he said, “You’d better hope that it doesn’t get fair. You’re a white female in America, in an upper middle-class family. You got it good.”
Delona Zinn: Yeah. That’s true.
Ray Zinn: Well, again, the Constitution, in my mind, is not dead, is not obsolete, and I’d like everybody to leave their cotton picking fingers off of it.
Delona Zinn: Exactly.
Guy Smith: Well, I want to thank you both. This has been a fun discussion. It’s one of the topics which I thrive on. When my wife first met me, she came over to the house and she noticed this three inch thick book on my nightstand. She picked it up and she said, “Seriously? This is your light bedtime reading?” It was a book called “Constitutional Law and Politics, Volume Two”.
Delona Zinn: Oh, volume two.
Guy Smith: It was one of those thick, little tomes, which went through all the Supreme Court rulings and analyzed them down to a gnat’s eyelash, and she kidded me about that for years.
So, anyway, thanks again. This has been fun. For all the people in the audience, if you have not grabbed Ray’s books … I’m going to say plural “books”. There’s Tough Things First, that was his first book. That’s his management and leadership manifesto. Then the Zen of Zinn. This is Ray’s shorter, pithier 21st century [mean 00:21:16] driven book about what life, business, entrepreneurship, society is all about, and the ways that all those different parts are supposed to be working together.