A New Oath of Office

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution which was enacted to constrict the sale and consumption of alcohol resulted from decades of activists who saw the consumption of alcohol was the result of the actions of activists. 

The result of the Amendment was the opposite of what was intended. Lawlessness gained a foothold in many cities as organized crime used restrictions on alcohol to increase their influence.

Significant police resources were devoted to cracking down on illegal activities with limited success. Something more needed to be done. A decision was to reduce the consumption of alcohol by adding a toxic additive to the main source of alcohol used by bootleggers. 

By mandating the use of a toxic additive to industrial alcohol, officials reasoned that industrial alcohol could no longer be used to produce illegal consumable alcohol. As it turned out, bootleggers continued to use industrial alcohol, as any thinking government official would have predicted. On one day in 1927, 41 people died from alcohol poisoning in one hospital in New York. Deaths continued until the 18th Amendment was repealed. 

The President, members of Congress, and Supreme Court Justices take an oath of office which affirms that they will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” But what happens when the actions taken to uphold the oath of the Constitution lead to the deaths of citizens? 

And what happens when the inactions of our governmental leaders, justified by their political interpretation of the Constitution, lead to deaths which could have been avoided? How do we weigh modern realities facing the citizenry of our country with the vague words written in a document over 200 years ago? 

Just imagine if the oath of office had these words: “nurture, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States.” How might that change the way we view the challenges faced by our society today? Might that prohibit actions being taken by the government which are reasonably expected to harm citizens? And more importantly, might that place a greater burden for our leaders to take actions to protect citizens even though those actions may run counter to a political interpretation of a 200 year old document; vaguely written.

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“Put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath.” – Solon

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