Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rights: A Distant Memory

Stop what you are doing right now and read Nat Hentoff's latest commentary in the Village Voice.

Yep, that's right. The U.S. Supreme Court has, in a big way, lost its jursidiction.

Now people who have suffered some of the most vile and horrid abuses at the hands of the state cannot even gain access to the highest court in the land.

But, frighteningly enough, that is not the worst part.

This even extends to violations of the writ of habeas corpus.

Yes, that most fundamental right that has been a standard in English common law since the thirteenth century, inherited into our common law since the time of the colonies. It is simple, basic and fundamental to the functioning of a free, just and open society.

And now, because of legislative doubletalk and desire for power-without-consequence, this right may be denied to those who should have it the most.

Hentoff makes a special case of the Gitmo detainees, who are doubtless the reason for this bit of legislative detritus.

Think, for a moment, about the implications of a decision like this.

In one fell swoop, one branch of government limited the access of the citizenry (supposedly the granter of power to any government) to another branch of government-the one that should redress grievances of abuse by private parties and the state alike. What is worse is that the limits were placed, voted on and approved BY THE BODY WE ELECT!

I have always been suspect of the Supreme Court, its unelected membership and their ability to affect long-term change without input from the people. One need only to look at the allegations being leveled at Samuel Alito and his now-famous memo to see that these people wield entirely too much power. Now the legislature, who are supposed to be accountable to the people on occasion, have done it. I have never respected many of the people mentioned in the Hentoff piece, and over the past few years, my respect for John McCain has been slipping significantly.

What this proves conclusively, for those who have not yet noticed, is that the legislature and indeed the entire government does not care about the rights of the citizen-even rights as basic as being told why one is being put in prison.

To paraphrase William F. Buckley, I would rather live in a country governed by the first 535 people in the Washington D.C. phone book than by the U.S. Congress. How much worse could they do?

The Bill of Rights and the rights guaranteed by common law are slowly but surely dying in the United States. When we remove the scales from our collective eyes and realize this? We elect these people year after year without thinking of the larger implications of giving such people power. WE are the source of that power, the governed. We give the government power over our lives. They have taken too much and it is time to take it back.

To conclude, I am not sure what can be done. I do, however, take some inspiration in the words (not exactly literally) of Thomas Jefferson:

The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

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