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There are no Constitutionally-granted rights

Posted on Sep 10, 2008 by in Daily Life | 2 comments

So, last time I promised a treatise on why we don’t have any Constitutional rights. After a thought-provoking incident involving a few days in the hospital, politics isn’t really at the top of my mind. (Plus … do any of you regular readers even care?)

But a promise is a promise, so here goes…

I’m fairly literate, and I had always assumed that the rights we appreciate in the United States are granted to us by the Constitution. But I had it wrong. Apparently, there’s a critical distinction that I’d been missing: Our rights are acknowledged as “God-given” — not government authorized — and the Constitution simply restates and protects them them.

For most of history, the government (usually “King”) had all the rights, and the citizens were subservient. The Declaration of Independence made it clear — for the first time, it seems — that we have a set of basic rights that supersede and preexist any government. Our rights aren’t granted by the government, the Declaration, or the Constitution. They just ARE.

Further, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights is very limiting to our federal government, stating in Amendment X “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” and also (Amendment IX) that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Why does this matter? Because we’re having an election where both candidates — and for that matter, all major candidates in recent memory — regularly trample the Constitution. John McCain, for instance, said “”the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation” — when its few mentions of religion are to clearly preserve freedom of such. (And interestingly enough, a Constitutional question of his legitimacy to run for President arises as to whether he is a “natural-born citizen” — he was born in the Panama Canal Zone in Panama.)

And Barack Obama … For a “Constitutional Law Professor,” I’m not even sure he believes the Constitution is the binding document governing these united states of ours. In saying what criteria he would use for nominating a Supreme Court Justice, Mr. Obama said “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old–and that’s the criterion by which I’ll be selecting my judges.” What? Mr. Obama’s view is that the Constitution is a “living” document to be reinterpreted as needed to suit the times. However, that’s why we have a legislature, and as Justice Scalia said, “the reality of the matter is that, generally speaking, devotees of The Living Constitution do not seek to facilitate social change but to prevent it” (by enacting their ideas into the permanent rule of the Constitution).

Anyway, this is more than deep for a photography and travel blog. But with torture; the indefinite detentions of American citizens; military commissions that combine judge, jury and prosecutor; the listing of organizations as terrorist groups based on secret evidence; spying on American citizens; kidnapping, imprisoning and torturing suspected terrorists abroad; suspending the writ of habeas corpus during our conflicts with international terrorism; and much, much more, I cannot stay silent. I have to wonder how much time we the people will continue to support this more-and-more invasive government before we decide it’s time for something new? But then again, the way things are going we’ll probably all be too uneducated (and jollified by our televisions) to care…


  1. Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
    D’you know that you can use it?

    – Joe Strummer

  2. My friends, I’ll be voting for “That One” come November, you know.
    Let me give you some straight talk..
    McInsane: will bomb, bomb, bomb Iran! You betcha!
    My friends, I believe he’ll get to fixin’ for all of us Joe Six-Packs and
    Hockey Mom’s out there, also. And the Great Ronald Reagan. Wink wink.

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