Well, I imagine that's how the Bill of Rights would feel today, if, indeed, it were the living, breathing document its framers believed it to be.
You see, the Bill of Rights has taken a beating lately. Not just in this monster of a health care bill, but over the last 30 years, and most notably, since that fateful day of September 11th, 2001.
By my account, the Bill of Rights is currently comprised of three amendments, not the famous 10 we wax poetically about. At least, that's the number that I would say remain unscathed by both Republican and Democrat attacks.
Let's go down the list ...
- The 1st Amendment -- Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion
- I direct you to Exhibit A, otherwise known as federal Hate Crimes Legislation. Need I say more? Now, for Exhibit B. Well, too many to list, but for example, how about the Stafford, Va., reverend who was told he could not hold an outdoor baptism at a public park because some might find it offensive?
- The 2nd Amendment -- The Right to Keep and Bear Arms
- How about the Brady Bill, legislation that prevents those with conceal carry permits from carrying a gun on college campuses. The right for responsible citizens to bear arms has been so abridged that a year after Hurricane Katrina one U.S. Senator introduced a bill guaranteeing that police could not take guns from Americans during federal emergencies -- just in case people needed reminding about the 2nd Amendment.
- The 3rd Amendment -- No Quartering of Troops
- We are officially one for three now.
- The 4th Amendment -- Protection from unreasonable search and seizure
- So, does the paradoxically-named Patriot Act ring a bell? Let's see here -- unwarranted wire taps? unwarranted searches? bills passed under W that allow the government to eavesdrop on private emails, texts, IMs between an American and someone in another country? And let's not forget the so-called Sneak-n-Peak warrants, which let authorities search a property without immediately notifying the target of a probe. I could go on here, but you get the picture.
- The 5th Amendment -- the right to due process (shall not be deprived of life, liberty, property ... without due process)
- How about Red Light cameras and those cute little Redflex vans down the street? or the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, which allows the government to seize your assets because they think they might have been used in the commission of a crime.
- The 6th Amendment -- trial by jury, speedy trial
- I point you to the case of hacker extraordinaire Kevin Mitnick, who was held without an indictment, without bail, without a trial for more than four years. Mitnick, such a threat to society, is now one of the highest-paid security consultants in the country.
- The 7th Amendment -- the right of trial by civil jury
- We're almost hitting .300 now, though some would argue with my take that the protections derived from this amendment remain relatively in tact.
- The 8th Amendment -- prohibition of excessive bail
- While there are countless examples to choose from here, I need only turn to a recent one involving former high school teacher Larry Callier Jr., who faces three child pornography charges. Callier has not been charged with murder or rape, or any act of violence, and is being held without bail because prosecutors told a judge that "based on the technology today ... there's nothing we can do to truly protect children..." from Callier.
- The 9th Amendment -- The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
- This is kind of a grab bag of Constitutional compromises, but for the sake of brevity I'll offer few examples -- the right to do as you please with your land, the right to travel where you want when you want (think Cuba), the right to spend or invest your money where you want when you want (trade embargoes, etc.), and, finally, the right to buy whatever health care plan you want.
- The 10th Amendment -- States Rights
- Where do I begin? Well, I'll start with something an old political science professor used to tell me about States Rights -- Assistance, Encumbrance, Extortion. In English, it means -- the federal government offers states money, say, for highways; the federal government then allows the states to come to depend on this money; then, the federal government threatens to take said money away unless states comply with the federal mandates.
Now, typically, this is where I end the column with something uplifting, thoughtful, or, oh so witty. Well, after writing this sobering piece of journalism, I got nothing folks. Maybe your responses will inspire me.
Lou Rom, an award-winning journalist, with over 2,000 articles published, hosts Lou Rom Live weekdays from 4-6 pm on KVOL1330. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org