Tag Archive: constitution


Who Gets to Speak?

Do you know what gets me going, makes me into a raving lunatic willing to commit heinous crimes besides child rapists and murderers?

Picture by Jppi

People who sit around thinking only they have the right to an opinion that can be said or written out loud.

This past weekend I saw a story in my local paper about a teen in Cherry Hill, New Jersey being threatened by people because she challenged Michelle Backman to a debate on the Constitution. Minnesota representative Bachman is a tea party favorite and irritating in the way a one-note candidate can be.

People saw the girl’s letter and called her a ‘whore.’ People have anonymously made death threats against her which the police are not taking seriously.  You mean you can’t tell the girl she is wrong and move on? You have to call her names that are not fitting to the situation to make yourself feel better?

I have been sitting on this outrage since bin Laden was killed and some felt that we should not have given the terrorist as much respect as we did show him after his death. God forbid you should state something like “I don’t want to celebrate that man’s death.”

I got hit by a friend on facebook for agreeing to that comment. That same conversation got hit by a military person trying to shame the original commenter. That military person later told me in a private message that you have to “earn the right” to free speech.

Really? Really?

So just who does have the right to free speech in this country. If it is only the military because they have ‘served’ how far is it to say only those who have been in combat or only those in leadership? Not too far in my opinion.

Mayflower Harbor by William Halsall, 1882; Image from Wikipedia.

Who else might have the only right to free speech in this country? How about only those people who can prove that they are related to the people from the Mayflower? That leaves us in a conundrum. Presidents Adams, J.Q. Adams, Taylor, Grant, F.D. Roosevelt, Bush and G.W. Bush (on both sides) are all descendants as are Sarah Palin, Hugh Hefner, Richard Gere and Alec Baldwin.

Remember when Alec Baldwin said he was going to move if G.W. Bush was re-elected? If you go by the rule that only Mayflower descendants can have free

Joseph Smith, Founder of the Mormon Church and descendant of a Mayflower passenger; Image from Mayflowerhistory.com

speech, Baldwin has the right because he is descended from John Howland as is the Bush family, Dr. Spock and Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church.  

Websites state there are millions of descendants to the original Mayflower families and people simply do not know about it. Maybe it is you. I doubt if it is me because my family members came during the late 1800s till the 1910s. Some of my family have served in the army but I have not.

Does this mean I do not have the right to free speech? I hope that is not the case because I actually take time to vote in every election. I have missed only one in the last thirty years and I still feel guilty about it. Perhaps voting should be the only criteria. It requires effort to go to a voting booth and to register beforehand. You have to get off the couch and leave the cheese doodles for the dog.

Personally, I think only those people who actually vote should get the right to free speech because they are actually participating in the government that our forefathers created when they wrote the Constitution. Ah, the rub. It is in the first amendment stating that all shall  have freedom of speech. 

U.S. Constitution; Image from Wikipedia

Granted, there would be legal wrangling what is free speech. It would take a while before women  received the right to vote and all persons would be granted to right to freedom from persecution that would prevent them from voting. But it is there – giving all of us the right to free speech.

You can be the most sensible person, the most faithful, the most obnoxious person in the country (Fred from Kansas, please stand up) or whatever mix you create. No one outranks anyone else. No one can ever be made nobility in this country. That means no one else has the right to free speech over another person NO MATTER WHAT.

It is all there in the Constitution. Try reading it some time.

Getting on My History Wonk!

I hinted at cool information I learned about Alexander Hamilton yesterday. Today I plan to share the rest of the story.

Picture by Alvimann

If the name sounds familiar, you might have actually looked at a ten-dollar bill lately. That’s his visage on the bill. He is there because he was the first Secretary of the Treasury. This man set up our financial way of life over two hundred years ago and it has remained quite close to what he created.

That is pretty cool, you might be thinking. Is there more to this guy?

Actually there is. He might be the original rags-to-riches-to rags story in American politics.

We have to start in the West Indies where he was born to a Rachel Lavine and James Hamilton. James was the fourth son of a Laird in Scotland and made his living as a trader. Rachel was a divorced woman and not allowed to marry again. Sadly, their common-law relationship would be  over in less than ten years. James simply left and Rachel would die a few years later, leaving her sons, James and Alexander, penniless orphans.

Alexander was smart, taught at home by his mother and received some schooling at a Presbyterian school before a benefactor paid for his education at King’s College (later known as Columbia) in the colonies. The young boy did that, published political pamphlets anonymously by the age of 17 , directed a battalion by 18 and was an aide-de-camp to Washington by 20.

He wanted to see more fighting and would – after bickering and badgering Washington. By now in his early twenties, he beseeched a friend to help find him a wife – pretty, wealthy and a christian but not a lover of saints. That is when he met Elizabeth Schuyler, a member of the Albany, New York Schuylers and Van Rensaleers family. They were very wealthy and very well-connected.

Image from Wikipedia

Hamilton studied for the bar and passed his exams. When he was not working as a lawyer, he was a statesman. He wrote parts of the Constitution, including parts about citizenship. This is verified in letters from him to Washington. He also wrote Washington’s Farewell Letter.

Now it is rumored that the citizen portion was written in such a way as to make it impossible for Hamilton to ever become president. That does not make sense as he wrote it. And considering you had to be living in America at least 14 years by the time of your candidacy at the age of 35  or up, Hamilton could have qualified easily. He arrived at the age of 13, after all.

What is true is that he had an affair with a Maria Reynolds in the early 1790s. Her husband threatened to blackmail Hamilton so he did something that would be a career-ender. He admitted to the truth to his wife and country. She forgave him and it did help in some respects.

Hamilton caused his own problems by not being a saint in other dealings. He was known for running things behind the scenes and could be quite duplicitous. It was rumored that he took part in some treasonous actions with his father-in-law and Benedict Arnold. This I cannot verify.

His relationship with Aaron Burr could be described as friendly as they worked together for many years as legislators. But Hamilton never trusted Burr who seemed to change political philosophies with the wind. Hamilton thwarted Burr’s chances again and again, including the governor of New York and Presidential office. Hamilton may have hated Jefferson but he believed the man to be principled, therefore backing Jefferson against Burr and leaving Burr as the vice-president.

the Burr-Hamilton duel, image from Wikipedia

Now at some point in the story, Burr believes that Hamilton has besmirched his honor. Hamilton might have said something to the point of  “what an idiot” at a dinner party and it got back to Burr. So Burr challenges Hamilton to a duel. Burr aims at Hamilton, Hamilton shoots the tree. Hamilton lasts a day before he dies. The saddest part is that his son had died three years earlier after a duel in the same exact spot in Weehawken, New Jersey. 

The Grange, Alexander Hamiltons only home. Image from the National Park Service.

Hamilton died poor, his wife was left with seven children and she lost their house for a time. Upon her father’s death, an inheritance allowed her to buy back their home. The Grange is still standing and lives in a park in New York City. It would take her another 30 years to get his pension for serving in the Revolutionary War that Hamilton initially refused.

See what I mean? Hamilton is the American dream, the American immigrant story that encapsulates all of the myths and realities of the revolution and country-building of the late 1700s.

In the end, he is seen as a brilliant man, mostly self-taught. He is a nationalist, giving much to his country. But his quick temper and machinations undo all that is great about him. He is a bit of a jerk that makes it hard to work with him. And yet his wife loved him whole heartedly, passing that love on to children who would follow his footsteps to Columbia, the military and the law.

Michael Douglas as President Alan Shepherd once stated “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, because it’s gonna put up a fight.” Whatever Hamilton did that was not the best of actions was because he believed in this statement, even before it was written.

 His life work was creating a country. That is what makes him great. It is his sins and foibles that make Alexander Hamilton  interesting.

Looking for Justice

Last week, the Supreme Court made a tough decision is regards to the legal case against the Westboro Baptist Church.

Supreme Court Building, picture by K. Conners

Albert Snyder sued the hateful Christian church for protesting at his military son’s funeral. We have all heard about these people who protest at the funerals of military dead, stating that this is how God is showing his displeasure about the tolerance of Gays in the U.S.

The vicious church follows the law in publicizing where they are protesting and staying out-of-bounds of the private funeral. But they have been known to print out flyers and post on websites about the sexuality of these soldiers without regard to the truth.

Snyder’s first case was a victory but since then court after court has overturned the ruling. Last week, the Supreme Court supported the lower court overturning of the initial case, stating that while what the Westboro church was doing is offensive and repellant it is still allowed within the parameters of the First amendment.

Which means we all still have the right to gather and protest. And that also means we have the right to have our own churches. Imagine if this church would have lost the case. What would have been the consequence for the rest of us? Does that mean anytime a union would choose to picket, the owner of the property would have the right to have the picketers arrested?

What about any form of protest? The anti-war groups, the anti-abortion groups, the anti-government groups, the million man/woman march people? If that ruling had gone the way most of us would have wanted it to go, then many of the other forms of protest would suddenly be seen in a different light.

Now it is time for some smart legal beagle to figure out how to shut these people up. I would look at potential libel or slander suits because they do that all of the time about the people who’s funeral they are protesting.

Meanwhile, I will try not to get too much perverse joy out of this bit from Saturday Night Live. After all we are told in the book of Romans, verses 12:17-21 that we are to…

Picture by Xandert

 

“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That means I need to show the Westboro Baptist Church some kindness should they ever come and protest in my neck of the woods.

Which is harder – to make a Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing the rights of an abhorrent group of people to protest or show Christian love to that same group of haters as dictated by our God?

Right now either action is looking pretty difficult.