We The People

Image and video hosting by TinyPic“We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it…” —President Obama
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Sounds innocuous, but ever since I heard President Obama say these words during his State of the Union speech, I’ve been unable to get them out of my head. The entire passage that surrounds this statement just begs for me to take issue with it, but one particular line—“if you abide by the law you should be protected by it”—keeps bubbling up in my brain like so much raw sewage.
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Why? I have an aversion to the suggestion that breaking a law negates your privileges rights and protections under U.S. law. On the silly end of the spectrum, that’s like saying that a jaywalker gives up his right to free speech, or that a chick who catches a traffic ticket can’t press charges if someone breaks into her apartment. But it has broad implications in real life: It’s the very idea that makes it okay to take away the voting rights of inmates and ex-offenders across the U.S.; to me, there’s nothing about committing a crime, large or small, that means you have no say in electing the people who create the laws that govern the land where you live. And people across the country use this idea to justify committing hate crimes against undocumented immigrants—hey, they’re in this country illegally, right?

I’m not saying that President Obama is for disenfranchising ex-offenders or beating up immigrants, but I am saying that this very notion that the law does not protect everyone equally, is the foundation that this country was built upon (see the handiwork undone by Amendments 13 through 15, and 19) and we still have a long way to go towards forming “a more perfect union.”

Do you think we all currently enjoy equal protection under the law? Feel we still have some major work to do? Tell me about it!

—Kenrya

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Last 5 posts by kenrya

  • Diane

    Me again. Define ‘more perfect union.’ Then I’ll define ‘more perfect union.’ I bet we won’t be the same.

    And therein lies the crux of the issue- and why laws and the Constitution change with the times and minds.

    These are words – there is nothing definite, nothing specific about them. In fact, it leaves the ‘what’ left to an individual’s thoughts.

    The only way, IMO, to attempt to create a ‘truly unified’ way of living – is to be more, um, communist – where you are stripped of individuality in favor of the commonality of the cause of the masses. But still, these commonalities would be subject to what the leaders feel are best – since the masses have no say.

    Our country was first inhabited by a those who felt persecuted in their mother country. Later, as we formed into a nation, the wealthy landowners were disillusioned by having to give their wealth to their leaders across the pond. Were we built on equality or were we built by a bunch of rogues? Not that this is necessarily a negative. Add to this that only 1/3 of those living in the colonies was for the Revolution… and I ask you – where is the foundation/equality?

    It’s sort of like saying we’re a democracy. We are not. Nor have we ever been. It’s a Republic.

    It’s sort of like bandying the word ‘war’ around. Korea, Vietnam, Gulf 1, Gulf 2, Iraq, Afghanistan.

    Not wars. No act of Congress made them so.

    Where am I going with this? These are words. Being said doesn’t make them right, nor does it make them ‘what this nation is.’

    This nation was not founded on equality. You cannot be equal because you cannot get 100% agreement on what this means.

    As for the convicted: you play, you pay. You may not feel it is FAIR that they lose the PRIVILEGE to vote – but I don’t think it’s FAIR that they get fed, clothed, doctored, for free on my tax dollar. Nor do I think it is FAIR in some states felons answer your DMV calls – and all the information attached to your DMV file is at their fingertips.

    You view the Amendments as a negative, others see it as progress.

    It’s about perception – and I feel if one doesn’t allow for this – we set ourselves up for disappointment.

  • Derek

    The statement with which you chose to take issue rang some slightly different, though no less chilling, bells for me. The grievously wrongheaded notion that the Constitution applies only to law-abiding citizens (wrong on “law-abiding” and wrong on “citizens”) is being exploited wildly in this so-called Global War on Terror. A few weeks ago the Washington Post revealed that the Obama Administration has assumed the authority to assassinate US citizens that it deems to be terrorists. This passed without much comment or debate among the American people, largely because of this confusion about who gets what rights. Ho-hum. As a populace, we have come to accept that if the US government calls you a terrorist, you not only have no rights of due process, but deserve to be murdered. Just think of it for a second: No one needs to prove in a court of law that you are a terrorist; all that’s required to get you put on a hit list is the say-so of someone inside the Administration, with no oversight from the other two branches.

    Given all that, Obama’s highlighted statement (“if you abide by the law you should be protected by it”) seems even more ominous than you have indicated.

  • Julie

    yeah, this is a very tricky scary statement, who will draw lines? It seems like it means you won’t get a fair trial…