Friday, August 18, 2006

What do “Lovers of Freedom” Really Love? Do they even know?

We have been hearing quite a lot from the Bush administration about terrorists who want to blow up our airplanes and buildings because they “hate freedom”. I have wondered quite a lot about this. Since the Neo-Con and Christian Evangelical population of this country (hereon referred to as “NC/CE”) in this country do “love freedom”, I have been wondering what this really means. Because, from what I have been seeing, they just like to say such things and beat their opponents over the head with accusations that they don’t “love freedom”. However, I see precious little on their part that they really “walk the talk”. In fact, from my viewpoint, the NC/CE’s of this country seem to believe just about the opposite of that which they espouse.

I thought I would take a closer look at a few things about the NC/CE view of How Things Should Be, starting with the Bill of Rights (A.K.A., the first ten Amendments to the Constitution). Here’s the rundown, as well as a running tally.

The Bill of Rights

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Many NC/CE’s these days, such as Ann Coulter, think that it is a good idea to prescribe what the press can and cannot say, and maybe toss a few reporters in jail (or worse) if a story gets printed that they either don’t like or think that it might “aid the enemy”. It’s fine for the FBI to disallow peaceful demonstrations anywhere that President Bush might actually see them, and to arrest anyone who disobeys this order. That is, someone holding a sign that says “Out Of Iraq!” is subject to spending some time in jail if the Shrub sees it. Having sitting judges post the Ten Commandments in the middle of a courthouse is apparently fine with the “CE” part of the NC/CE’s. The “CE’s” feel that the federal government should give them vouchers (i.e., money) so they can send their little darlings to a Christian school but have someone else to pay for it. I doubt the purely “NC” part of the equation really care much, since Privilege has its’ own rewards like being able to send your kids to whatever school you damn well want to.

I would give this Amendment a “negative” rating in the NC/CE view of How Things Should Be.

“Oh” for one for the Bill of Rights.

Amendment II
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.

Well, let’s just say that the NC/CE’s are highly supportive of this one, although there is that pesky phrase “a well regulated militia”.

That’s one out of two.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

I haven’t heard anyone making any noise on this one, one way or the other. I suppose you would get a split among the NC/CE’s. Many, if called upon to house soldiers in their private houses including feeding them, letting them use all the facilities, cleaning up after their messes, etc., in a time of war would be more than happy to oblige. In fact, they would be honored. But I will bet you that many more would absolutely howl if the federal government said that they MUST give quarter to soldiers. “Just LOOK at what they did to the new carpet! Don’t they ever wipe their boots before they come inside?” But, to be generous, I will give the NC/CE’s this one.

Two out of three.

Amendment IV
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.

I think that this one is safe to say would be history in the NC/CE universe. If someone is suspected of being a terrorist, a drug dealer, someone dealing in child pornography, then their persons, houses, papers, and effects are fair game, warrant or not. Not to say that these kinds of people don’t deserve full prosecution under the law. They do. But I would bet that most NC/CE view warrants and “probable cause” as nuisances, not legal safeguards of the innocent.

Two out of four. O.K., .500 would be pretty good for a batting average. Not so good when talking about the Constitution.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

As we have seen by the people stashed away in Guantanamo, Abu-Graib, and God knows how many other places, the NC/CE’s feel this one should be relegated to the big Compost Heap of History. Just give someone a label, such as, oh, “Enemy Combatant”, and then it is perfectly acceptable to throw that person in some hellhole and hold him forever without ever charging him with anything. I would say that would fit into the definition of being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

Amendment Five was just Gonged.

Two out of five.

Amendment VI
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 defense.

Ditto Amendment V.

Two out of six.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Again, I haven’t heard too many people squawk about anything related to this one. I’ll give them this one. (Personally, I am wondering about the “twenty dollars” part of this. How much was twenty bucks worth back then? A lot, I should guess, in today’s dollars. Should this particular amendment be adjusted for inflation?)

Two out of seven.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Since we have a sitting President, Vice President, and Attorney General arguing for the legalization of torture as a method of extracting information, and the U.S. has a program of “rendition”, where we have been sending “enemy combatants to countries where torture regularly occurs, I would say this one is very safely in the Thumbs Down category.

Three out of eight. Not looking too good for the Bill of Rights.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Well, I would guess that I would have to have a good definition from the NC/CE about what the “other” rights not enumerated in the Constitution might be. But I can take a guess. It seems to me that certain persons would still like to have a say on who can vote. Underhanded tricks like requiring photo identification cards to vote are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the case still under investigation about the jamming of the phone banks in the New Hampshire Democratic Headquarters. That is a fact, and people are under indictment for it. I could get into the other issues of purposeful voter disenfranchisement, but many of my examples could be contested as speculation and innuendo, even though I firmly believe there is a concerted effort by some in this country to do just that. So, I will stick to known factual examples. However, I would maintain that the hardcore NC/CE of this country feel very little hesitation about doing anything in their power to ensure their candidate wins on election day. Diebold, anyone?

Three out of nine.

Amendment X
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.

Since many NC/CE pundits, in addition to the current administration, are arguing that the President should have unlimited Executive powers in wartime, I would say that the NC/CE’s are not too supportive of this one. Having the President decide which of the laws that are passed by Congress he is going to comply with by declaring his intentions in “Signing Statements”, the President has clearly decided that he can pick and choose which laws apply to him. That power is not granted in the Constitution, in my literal reading of the Constitution. And since that power is not “reserved” to the states or the people, I would say that this one is firmly in the No column as well.

Three out of ten.

The jury is in; ten minus three equals seven. Seven basic freedoms supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are openly questioned by the NC/CE community of this country, and one of the three I considered rather shaky in my classification. The only one that fully gets their support is the Second Amendment. They like to use this one to argue that anyone has the right to own as many guns as they want, even automatic weapons, without a nuisance background check. That is the one they like to use against gun control advocates as if it were carved in stone, above all questioning even though we have nothing today at all that resembles the militias that are mentioned. They feel this way about the Second Amendment even though they feel they can pick and choose from the remainder, discarding the ones that they dislike. Personally, I don’t think the rule of law is akin to a Chinese menu where you pick one from Column A and one from Column B.

I would really like an NC/CE to explain to me what they really mean when they say that they love “this country”. What is it they actually love about it? NASCAR on Sunday? Beer? Guns? What?

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