...the books we cherish, which deserve the name of classics, feel essentially humane to us, despite their limitations, even their bigotry. "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not," W. E. B. DuBois said. We feel that the exclusion of whole classes of humanity from the author's imagined audience — which means, from his idea of the fully human — is due to ignorance or carelessness; that if he were to think and feel more freely, more deeply, he would acknowledge that all people are equally human.
This is also the promise of American history, and above all of the Constitution. Unlike Twain's novel, that classic American text was written in the expectation that it would be corrected. And it needed correction, or amendment, for the same essential reason: the framers' imagination of the people they led was not full enough. It took a devastating civil war, whose sesquicentennial we are now observing, to revise the Constitution in the direction of justice. When the House readers decided to skip the parts of the Constitution that reveal its original limitations, they were minimizing that history, pretending that our founding document was flawless from the beginning.
No, Congress may not go "beyond its powers granted in the Constitution," as Representative Goodlatte insisted. But to believe that American institutions were ever perfect makes it too easy to believe that they are perfect now. Both assumptions, one might say, are sins against the true spirit of the Constitution, which demands that we keep reimagining our way to a more perfect union.
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