Occasionally, Jabberwockracy will share submissions from guest contributors who want to join the conversation. Today’s contributor, Sam Bishop, is a cadet at Georgia Military College. Anyone looking to submit a letter to the editor for consideration is welcome to do so here.
The Supreme Court has done a fine job on infringing upon the Bill of Rights. Usually, it happens in such little ways that many Americans are blindsided by the bus of government control and restraint.
Let’s start with how the federal government decided to punish states that suppressed voting with poll taxes and tests by keeping a veto on any election-related law those states passed. Yet, states are allowed to infringe and tax my Second Amendment rights. What is the difference between a state taxing its citizens to vote and taxing them to own a gun? They both both stand as barriers to Americans exercising their freedoms. Are you really prepared to make the case to me that our founding fathers were not intelligent enough to realize that A. Technology would advance but more importantly B. that our founding fathers didn’t already realize that weapons can be used for evil just as easily as they can be used for good. I say to New York or California if that is your justification, what makes you any different from people who told the poor that they couldn’t vote. There is no justification for restricting the freedom granted to every American under the Bill of Rights in any circumstance.
Now, here is something more applicable and relatable to this nation’s thought process. If I brought in front of the Supreme Court a case proposing an idea that every voter has to watch a video informing them about candidates before they are allowed to vote, wouldn’t they find that to be voter suppression? If you can’t call it that, certainly they would strike it down based on the fact that the would be government overstepping its bounds by attempting to sway the voters. I mean, if you can’t campaign in front of a polling place, why would we allow it inside of the polling place? Yet, every day, states are doing this to women seeking abortions. The Supreme Court says the Bill of Rights grants women the right to have one, but some states say that women are “too stupid” to make that decision and have to watch a video first. Would any state get away with saying that you have to watch a video about a subject before you can speak about it and exercise your First Amendment rights?
Furthermore, Citizens United is so outrageous it is a struggle to find words to explain the absurdity of it all. It is not the job of the Supreme Court to interpret the U.S. Constitution when it comes to the first 10 amendments. It is not written in a different language. Even the most straightforward translations or interpretations from one language to another results in a loss or gain in the original meaning. In language you find words that most closely match what you are trying to say. We can’t have that luxury with our rights. Our Founding Fathers put no stipulations on the Fifth Amendment. We have no choice but to think the way it is written, as this is the way it was meant to be carried out. Just as we cannot violate someone’s Fifth Amendment rights because we have substantial new evidence in a case, we cannot violate it because of the type of war we are in. Interpretation leads to a change in the meaning. The Supreme Court must halt its interpretations and yield to what is actually written. Now, in the case of Citizens United, you have a stretch of the First Amendment. Since a political action committee is an economic entity, it only makes sense for economic freedoms to apply to it. Social freedoms should never be brought into the equation. This mistake comes from a very fundamental misunderstanding of our constitution.
I’m not proposing a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. I won’t tell you that the Air Force is unconstitutional. I will tell you, though, that very basic and simple things are overlooked on a daily basis in the name of interpretation. In today’s world, we may be the least free Americans to ever hold the title of being Americans. Whether we are talking about the Patriot Act or the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the examples are countless and outrageous. I think that it is in our best interest as a country and as world leaders to abide strictly to those sacred words and to never infringe a single inch on them.
The Supreme Court says that states can “regulate conduct in and around the polls in order to maintain peace, order and decorum there.” I want to know why the court has decided that democracy must have peace, order, and decorum. We saw during the Arab Spring that democracy is everything but that. Democracy is inherently a battle between opposing sides. I’ll give you that there must be rules to war, but the fact still applies that democracy is everything but “peace, order, and decorum.” Democracy is messy. In our America today we aren’t debating the torturing of political protesters by our own government like Egypt was, but there is no way to say that we won’t ever be debating that. If we are, there is a need to have a lack of decorum. In order to protect our country, we must have no compromises on our liberty.
Maybe if we had Supreme Court justices that weren’t legal experts, things would be different. They’ve been taught from their first days of law schools about how the status quo “makes sense” and no one seems to be up in arms! People are up in arms about career politicians in Congress doing business as usual because they keep the status quo, but the same problems arise with Supreme Court justices who by definition are career.
My intention is not to make a slippery slope argument. I actually propose the opposite. I don’t think that by letting the government infringe just a little bit that this country will become Oceana from 1984. The government will go as far down the slope and come up just as much as they deem necessary. I want to prevent them from being able to deem anything a necessary evil at all. The necessity will come and then go, but the lack of freedom will likely outlive its necessity. I think the Founding Fathers built a wall atop the slope and intentionally told our government not to pass it; yet, the institution we charge the most with upholding the sacred words scribbled on parchment is guilty of doing its best to ignore the wall and to break it down.
There is not a single right that should ever be infringed upon to any degree by local, state, or the federal government. To infringe upon any right is to say that the Bill of Rights was a flawed document. Any amount of reason should tell you that anything flawed must be fixed therefore we must dramatically overhaul our Bill of Rights and restrict our freedoms to reflect the current laws of the land. To anyone who agrees with that approach I must point you to Ben Franklin who stated, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I look at the Bill of Rights similar to how Winston Churchill viewed democracy. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” I believe our forefathers looked at each part of our Bill of Rights individually and decided between the lesser of two evils in each case. Our Bill of Rights is quite possibly the most perfect thing that man has yet to create. It combines the simplistic beauty of the Mona Lisa and the genius of Albert Einstein. It is the cornerstone that made this great country different from any other. To encroach upon our rights is to deny all of that.
As Patrick Henry once said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”