One of the things my son had to do for his next rank advancement in Scouts was discuss the rights and responsibilities of being an American citizen with someone versed in the subject.
Lucky for him, he lives with me and I could talk about this stuff for days.
Oh, and before anyone goes calling me a hypocrite about the BSA/gay situation, I KNOW. We belong to an inclusive Troop sponsored by an inclusive church and wouldn't for one second tolerate any gay bashing. When the vote came down about allowing gay youths in BSA, my son's said this, Cool. What about the adults?
If the kids in scouting can figure out the problem with inequality, why can't the adults? But I digress.
Anyway, I had to give him a quick and dirty lesson on the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The responsibilities are fairly straightforward. We are required to follow the laws, pay taxes and show up for jury duty. Simple enough, right? Well, not really....but this was the quick and dirty version and I knew it was going to take longer to talk about the rights portion.
And I knew I was going to get angry.
I present to you today, the quick and dirty version of the Bill of so-called Rights.
1st Amendment - It protects the freedom of religion, unless it's a religion we deem dangerous or threatening. Practice those, and you'd better believe that someone is keeping an eye on you. It protects the freedom of speech, unless you are a reporter working for the AP, use a cell phone or the internet. Last week, a few in Congress wanted to strip the right from bloggers, but then retracted that. It's supposed to protect the freedom of association too, but you might as well kiss that one goodbye too since the federal government is tracking all those phone calls and emails. And scrutinizing some organizations more based on political affiliation. And all that. Don't worry though, if you're not a threat, they aren't watching you....so it shouldn't bother you that they are collecting and storing all that information. It's fine. Big brother is here to protect you. And if you believe that....
2nd Amendment - Originally designed to ensure the right of the citizenry to form militias, it's been morphed somehow into a blanket permission to own whatever kind of gun people want to own. We live in a country where a federal database stores information on who buys cold medicine, but the mere mention of such a system for guns or ammunition sets off a firestorm. While we're all too busy talking about whether laws restricting ownership would work, thousands of people are dying every year....including the six dead in Santa Monica from last week. Except we're all too desensitized to it at this point to even notice. We've just accepted gun violence as normal.
3rd Amendment - This one has to do with quartering of soldiers and really isn't an issue. Until and unless it is....which hopefully won't happen. But you can bet your sweet ass that if an entire suburban neighborhood can be evacuated and properties opened and explored looking for one dude hiding in a boat, I'm gonna guess this could happen too.
4th Amendment - This is the one that is supposed to protect us from unreasonable search and seizure, the one that is supposed to require probable cause. I'll give you a moment to stifle your laughter. This one has been stripped of most of it's meaning these days. The Patriot Act made sure of that, and whatever the NSA is doing with PRISM makes it more disturbing. The trouble with living in the digital age is that everything we do is online, sure to be stored in some data warehouse somewhere, just on the off chance we might be a terrorist. Isn't this the point, though? The whole point of terrorism is to alter the way we operate, to disrupt our system, to make us give up the freedoms that the rest of the world resents, and we do so willingly, all in the name of so-called terror. The terror that killed far fewer Americans last year than weapons wielded by citizens. Figure that one out, then try and tell me we are winning some war on terror.
5th Amendment - The one about due process. So this is the part where we ignore the fact that at least four American citizens have been killed by drone strikes, where some remotely guided weapon served somehow as judge, jury and executioner. (maybe that's even painted on the side, for good measure) In this country, one of the most basic tenets of our freedom is that we are innocent until proven guilty...unless you find yourself in the sights of a drone. Then fuck it. Bill of Rights, schmill of rights. Oh, and there's that pesky rule about self-incrimination. We can't force you to testify against yourself, but if you're accused of terror, you don't get your Miranda rights and all your digital communications are already sitting somewhere else in a gigantic computer. So you can't be forced to incriminate yourself unless we want you to.
6th Amendment - The speedy public trial, right to be represented, right to a jury, all guaranteed by the greatest law in the land. Except when it's not. Drones are speedy, and seem to hit people out in public. Two out of four ain't bad. (.....and you know I'm being sarcastic, right?)
7th Amendment - This one guarantees a right to a jury trial in civil cases. Which is awesome as long as you have enough money to pay a lawyer to work on your case for.fucking.ever. because the court system is so backlogged it takes longer than forever to get a trial. You'd better hope you aren't suing (or being sued by) some corporation with deep pockets because they can keep shit tied up in litigation forever, and are pretty adept at getting their way in the end just because they have the finances to do it. Oh, but corporations are people now and get pretty much all the same rights, even though they are legal fictions. FICTION CAN BE FUN!!!!! Just seriously don't try to take on a Kraft or Monsanto or Exxon. We all know they are polluting the world and poisoning us, but we'll just sit here and take it because no one has the resources to fight them.
8th Amendment - This is the one that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, but is interpreted in such a confusing way that states are pretty much left to their own devices to figure this shit out on their own. The Supremes said a few years back that even under this amendment, there is no right to an insanity defense, even though they had previously held that the insane cannot be executed. Riddle me that. Accordingly, several states have since abolished it, making it perfectly legal to hold crazy people criminally liable for crimes they may not have appreciated at the time. The law is extremely contradictory here. So, if you're going to go nuts and kill some people, choose your state wisely.
9th Amendment -That blanket protection of all other right not specifically enumerated...except for the ones we don't want to give you.
10th Amendment - Where whatever isn't supposed to be determined at the federal level is preserved for the states to decide. So, if you are gay, you can have rights in some states but not others. Again, choose your state wisely.
Are you angry yet? Good.
Let's be angry together. And assemble and speak and shit.
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