This weekend, I watched a re-run 2005 episode of Nova on PBS which chronicled the conservation of the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence. The painstaking restoration of our nation’s founding documents was a worthy subject of documentary, and I’m glad I watched it. As with most documentaries these days, the narrator gave the viewer a “moral of the story” in the closing comments. I found these words very telling (emphasis mine):
Over the next 200 years people will view the documents; and the documents, in their new encasements of glass, aluminum and titanium, will look out on a very different world. One thing is certain, though the words remain the same, their meaning will continue to change, evolving, adapting to new times and circumstances, to a world that we, and their authors, can scarcely imagine.
Ironically, the meaning of these words from a 2005 documentary hasn’t changed a bit in the two years that have passed since they were first uttered. It still means today that the show’s producers are of the mistaken notion that words do not have (and hold) meaning.
It’s not surprising to see PBS pushing a postmodern view of interpreting texts. It is, however, alarming that the writers so blatantly take it for granted that every one thinks this way.
Then again, maybe they didn’t mean what they were saying.