Tuesday, February 12, 2013
In a series of recent Facebook conversations, I have been shocked…no, appalled…at the willingness Americans have to jettison their Constitutional Rights: Flippant comments agreeing police killing a fugitive (rather than bringing him to trial), approval of searching a “bad guys house” without a warrant, a desire to arrest someone for ugly speech and to outlaw religious practices when they disagree with the theology, and a groundswell of support for getting rid of the second amendment because its ‘outdated’ permeate political discussions. It is a startling commentary on our citizen’s willingness to embrace the Totalitarian Police State (as long as it restricts someone else’s freedoms…)
In light of this scary sea-change in the American Body Politic, I decided to use this blogpost to reassert the Rights that we have as Americans – rights that we have (or SHOULD have), even when government disagrees….and especially when a majority of the American Citizens disagree.
The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to protect citizens against government…and to protect minorities against the majority.
Amendment I …Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
No Official Religion, folks. I don’t want Congressmen and Senators basing laws on their understanding of the teachings of the Bible, the Torah, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Vishna or Haile Selassie. We are a secular nation – not a theocracy. Religious teaching must NOT be the basis for any American Law. One religious set of beliefs must not be 'preserved' by the State.
…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…..
Yes, we are allowed to believe the most mundane – or the oddest things – in our religious life. My church marries gays – too bad if you don't like it. Some are highly structured and liturgical, some operate like camp meetings, some appear to be college lectures. We have the RIGHT to believe, AND TO EXERCISE our religion - even in public. If a Muslim wants to pray on a rug in public, or a Sikh feels compelled to wear a turban, or a Christian insists on wearing ashes on Ash Wednesday to work, or a Jewish man insists on wearing a yarmulke through a TSA checkpoint, or four wives freely choose to submit to one husband and wear prairie dresses…that’s their business. They have a RIGHT to be different, a RIGHT to be a minority in a diverse, secular nation.
…. or abridging the freedom of speech…
We have a right to voice our opinions, no matter how objectionable, disgusting, counter-culture, or inflammatory they may be. (And that includes 'symbolic speech' as well as the spoken word.) Ours was a nation that believed in ALLOWING the free flow of ideas and discourse, in the hopes that the marketplace of ideas would sift through the crap.
You don’t like “hate speech,” or Westboro Baptist protests, or talk-show hosts spewing the craziest of dishonest tales? Neither do I. The response is for a free people to respond with speech of their own – not to use the police power of the state to stifle opinions with which they disagree. (And please, don’t resort to that old, “What about shouting-fire-in-a-theater?” crap. That phrase was used to justify the jailing a draft protester…and was overturned by a subsequent court decision).
“ or of the press…”
The Press includes more than a NY Times reporter with a press pass; it includes every blogger on their laptop, every Tweeter on their iPhone, and every citizen on their Android. I have a right to film police and other public servants in the course of their duties, without obtaining permission or being threatened with arrest...and to report what I have found without being branded a 'terrorist' or troublemaker by the government that exists to serve me.
“… or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Notice it doesn’t say, “As long as you protest here, or there, and have a permit, and insurance, and get permission and clearance and pay for a police watch.” It says we have a RIGHT to assemble, to protest, to petition our government – and that should not be accompanied by the State ‘kettling’ protesters, or pepper-spraying, tear-gassing, or tazering the citizens while clad in riot gear.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
This is not about Hunting. It’s not entirely about Self-Defense. And it’s definitely not about the National Guard, or authorizing "regulation" (The word meant something entirely different when it was written). More than 220 years of Constitutional history, as well as previous colonial history and state parallels, make one thing very clear: the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to permit the People to Arm themselves against Their Government. No, we probably will not prevail in an all-out insurrection...but the Right is not meant to be a guarantee that we will prevail against our government, just as freedom of speech doesn't mean you will win the support of the majority…but it does exist to help the People fight their own Police, a right, if exercised, which may have resulted in different results for the Lakhota Sioux at Wounded Knee, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, interned Japanese-American citizens, and countless others who saw ‘legitimate’ governments turn to tyranny under the excuse of "national security."
Yes, we have a right to semi-automatic and automatic rifles. No, we don't need ‘permission’ or registration to exercise a right.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No, Officer, you do not have a right to shove a sobriety test in my face for no reason, or to ask me where I’m going and where I’ve been. No, Mr. Homeland Security Bureaucrat, you do not have a right to examine my bank transactions or Library selections. No, Mr. Sheriff, you do not have a right to walk through 400 homes in search of a fugitive, and No, you do not have a right to search thousands of properties with drones without a warrant.
We have the right to be secure. In our banking. In our doctor-patient relationships. In who and how we love. In how we enjoy a party. In what we download or repost from the Internet. It’s none of the Government’s damned business unless there's "probable cause" for a criminal charge.
No person …. shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Mr. President, your Death-by-Drone attacks against United States citizens is a flagrant violation of this amendment, as is the IRS confiscating the assets of accused (not convicted) drug dealers, and the Supreme-Court ‘approved’ taking of private property (New London vs. Kelo) for *private* use.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The detainment of Human Beings in prison camps conveniently arranged on foreign soil, without charge, or trial, or the ability to confront witnesses, and the state-sponsored censorship of their own attorney's documents, is an unconscionable violation of this clause. Guantanamo Bay must SHUT DOWN.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Waterboarding. The forced, naked isolation of Bradley Manning in a frigid stone cell. The Destruction of families, livelihoods, and neighborhoods via 20 and 30 year federal sentences for mere drug possession. The Jailing of HIV Positive men for having sex (*after* divulging their status, and with the consent of the other adult, and without transmitting any virus), with sentences longer than those given for murder in Iowa.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
And fortunately, there are other identified rights which have been added by amendment, or developed based on these first ten: the right to privacy; freedom of association; to travel unhindered; to equal protection before the law regardless of race; for women to vote on an equal basis with men; for home education; for Jury Nullification.
The history of our nation has been one of expanding rights, not restricting them…but based on what I hear the current generation saying and writing, they would toss many of those rights out the window without a second thought…all because it doesnt seem to affect ‘them.’