The Bill of Rights isn't fairing too well these days.
And noooooo... it's not ALL President Bush's fault (though he certainly hasn't helped too much)! Liberals do their fair share too.
Recently, I was writing a lengthy rebuttal to some left-wing dumbassery about Ron Paul's voting record, it was insanely long, but I had the time and it needed to be done. Essentially the complaint with Dr. Paul is that he is consistent about strict Constitutionalism - and (although he has never remotely claimed to be) not a "progressive".
Regardless, this diatribe on Paul's record was representative of modern liberalism in a number of ways - first of all, the interpretation of his record was filled with hyperbole and in many cases the same Bill was repeated multiple times... I can only guess that was to make it seem as if his record was longer and thus more horrific than it really was - either that or the person who wrote it was just kind of stupid, but I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt in that respect. At any rate, throughout my rebuttal, I found myself regularly repeating to myself the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution... That's the one that says that any rights or responsibilities not specifically stated in the Constitution are to be granted to the States or to the people - of course, this has been routinely ignored, and within the last 100 years or so, it's as if it doesn't even exist!
But this got me thinking about the rest of the Bill of Rights...
...and you know what? I came to the conclusion that they're all pretty much bloodied and beaten at this point. Think about it:
- First Amendment (Freedom of speech, press, religion, right to assembly): Between the FCC, decency laws, hate speech/hate crimes legislation, and the general public seeming to believe that speech should be free - so long as no one is offended (the irony of that is certainly lost on most people)... not doing well. Conservatives push the decency end and Liberals push the "hate speech" or intolerance end, though both despise the very essence of truly free speech. Of course, both also talk about it's importance all the time... go figure.
- Second Amendment (Right to bear arms, keep militias): Gun-control legislation is prevalent to begin with regardless of how ineffective it is, but worse than that, this amendment is attacked routinely by the left and other varieties of pacifist. Typically the 2nd Amendment is attacked on practical grounds (i.e. people with guns will shoot people!) - although those arguments are most often incredibly ridiculous, but any argument at that level misses the point of the Amendment... Quis custodies ipsos custodiet.
- Third Amendment (Protection from soldiers commandeering your house): The ONLY Amendment not under some kind of attack, and I'm betting that's only because it's just not an issue.
- Fourth Amendment (Protection from unreasonable search & seizure): The Transportation Security Administration has dutifully put a bullet in this one thanks to the Bush administration (yep, that one is his fault).
- Fifth Amendment (Right to due process, protection from self-incrimination, etc.): Another Bush administration bonus - Suspension of Habeas Corpus and illegal wire-tapping have really thrown this amendment to the wolves recently.
- Sixth Amendment (Right to a fair and speedy trial): I'll give this one a bit of the benefit of the doubt, but in many states, California for example have insanely high instances of DNA exoneration and mistrials. Failure to really abide this particular Amendment often rests more with the press than with any courts.
- Seventh Amendment (Right to a trial by jury): I'd love to blame this on Bush too, but unfortunately I can't forget about World War II and FDR's internment of German and Japanese immigrants... Trials and juries just aren't for everyone in 20th-Century America... awesome.
- Eighth Amendment (Protection against excessive bail, punishments & torture): The obvious example would be the torture of prisoners of war, although since they aren't American citizens subject to our laws, it's not quite as apt as a more fun example: This week the RIAA was awarded a $222,000 verdict to be paid by a college-aged defendant who downloaded perhaps $150 worth of music... if a fine that is 1,480 times greater than the monetary damages in the crime isn't "excessive", I'm really not sure what is. [2009 Update: And now we have ACTUAL torture to add to the resume as well! Awesome.]
- Ninth Amendment (Rights not specifically granted by the Constitution aren't to be denied to the people): Government inherently operates on the opposite side of this idea... Liberals & "progressives" especially like to use government force to affect the rights of the people which are in no way in the Constitution - imposition of authority to regulate businesses, health concerns (smoking, foie gras, trans fats, etc.), levels of tolerance, "environmentalist" concerns, etc.
- Tenth Amendment (Rights not granted specifically in the Constitution are left up to the States & the people to decide): Where to even begin... The Federal government is involved in local schools, morality, religion, sex, drugs, appropriate levels of racism, business ethics, science, art, various types of licensing, management of the economy... none of which is mentioned specifically in the Constitution...
I would note that many of the abhorrent destructions of liberty that have occurred in the United States over the last 100 years have been as a result of the ambiguity of some passages in the articles of the Constitution granting Congress various open-ended powers... of course, perhaps this wouldn't have been such a big deal if politicians were required to have read the full writings of Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Paine, Ben Franklin, George Washington and others... bonus points for also reading Voltaire, David Hume and John Locke.
I'm really not sure what can be done to revitalize Individual Liberties in America... I'm not naive enough to believe that even if we did miraculously get a pro-Constitution president like Ron Paul that would change too much, considering the executive branch has a lot less power than most people credit it with (which people misunderstand because of our desire to see only one person as a leader rather than hundreds as it actually is). The legislature would also have to suddenly and impossibly become pro-Constitution as well. This would require politicians to stop being motivated by power and for majorities to stop being interested in imposing their values on all people.... A bit unlikely?
Yeah... and by the way that's why we are supposed to have a Bill of Rights!
"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual)." ~Ayn Rand
Oh... and in case anyone was wondering, yes, I did the Bill of Rights from memory.