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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rights & Values

Some friends and I were discussing this and I thought it might be interesting for the very slightly wider audience of Prophetic Progress.

Consider the following:
Dixie Chicks being attacked for speaking out against George Bush
Miss California being attacked for speaking out against Marriage Equality
An employer requiring employees to submit to random searches without cause
Non-Americans being held in a prison of foreign soil without charge

The first three certainly don't violate the U.S. Constitution, and I'm not sure, but the fourth might not either. (Seems to me that the Bill of Rights only refers to people.)

But even if none of these things are unconstitutional, are they unamerican? I'm conflicted about this because I am the first person to want to see there be consequences for making outlandish remarks--when they don't match my views. But, shouldn't we encourage people to speak; shouldn't we answer bad speech with good speech? Likewise, we push back when our employers want us to submit to searches without cause?

1 comment:

Matt Dick said...

The Dixie Chicks thing is the proper workings of the American system, legally, constitutionally and socially: They weren't censured, the government left them alone and people voted with the dollars. This is how it's supposed to work. To the extent that individuals said the DCs should not have the right to say what they did... well those individuals are wrong, but the DCs effectively just lost some audience as a result of a decision they made to say something. So that's all good.

Miss California had a more-or-less corporate employer threaten to fire her over her views, which is not "how it's supposed to work". Again, legally and constitutionally it's all good, but it hits that jarring "unamerican" note you were alluding to that an employer (or an almost employer, I don't know how that relationship works) would deny her the right to hold and express a point of view.

An employer requiring searches seems fine to me--assuming the searches have some real purpose, like a tech company searching bags to stop the theft of leading edge tech secrets, for instance.

I have almost no feel for the problems with holding the people in Cuba. I have this knee-jerk reaction to say we need to bring them to the US and charge them in our normal court system. People need to get over the NIMBY issue for imprisoning, we imprison horrid insane murderers all the time, we're pretty good at that. And then I think the court system is a great system, really; except for the backlog we can do this pretty well. The only problem, and it's a really big problem, is that we can't start in the middle of a proper domestic criminal proceeding... these guys were not arrested in anything approaching a manner the court system can deal with. How does a Virginia criminal court answer the charge that one of these detainees' weren't read their Miranda rights? What role do Miranda rights play in such a case? What about chains of evidence? Evidence at all? What is hearsay in this case? There are just too many new things to deal with all at once for the system we have. So I am not settled that there is any way to deal with this in a real practical sense.

To get at the heart of the thing: if we want Miss California to be for gay marriage, we just have to get over our neediness. She is who she is. We need to attack this problem at the social and institutional level and leave individuals out of it.