Looking at the Constitution

Dear Editor:

While I can understand where Ken Vaselaar and his letter were coming from, they were problematic in that they failed to differentiate between “rights” and “privileges.” There are a number of flaws underlying his letter that call his thought process into question.

Since the Constitution is, as Vaselaar described, a “living document whose principles must be applied to our current circumstances,” we must restrict many if not all of the rights we are guaranteed.

Since international terrorism is now part of our everyday life, we must surrender the Fourth Amendment. After all, the protections guaranteed us therein could be used to protect terrorists and their nefarious plans from discovery.

Or since the activities of criminal gangs have become so violent and out of control, the only way they can be adequately dealt with is through special search-and-destroy teams, perhaps through a newly-created gendarmerie agency that is untouchable and unobstructed to do that job. Bye-bye Sixth Amendment.

Or because of the rancorous state of affairs in terms of civic discourse, we have no choice but to rein in those demagogues who hide behind the First Amendment and whip people up into frenzies, which ultimately makes society less safe.  After all, the Founders said “freedom of the press”, which means only printing presses available in the late 18th Century and could not possibly mean radio, television, or the internet. Those media just create way too much capacity for demagogues and disinformers to cause an inordinate degree of damage to our society.

Ultimately, I cringe whenever I see and hear someone demand that those of whom they disapprove be required, through force of law and government, to get their permission to live their lives. This is what separates a “right” from a “privilege.”  If we demand that every right become a privilege, we will surely end up with neither.

As for the Bill of Rights, it protects concepts and should not be construed to exclude things simply because they are more technologically advanced. Faithfulness to it demands rejecting any efforts to introduce sweeping, wholesale restrictions along the continuum of prohibition, especially against those who have done no harm to another. After all, do we not have a Presumption of Innocence in this country?

Apparently, some political movements don’t believe so.

Matthew Rothchild
Cambridge

 

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