Monday, October 16, 2006

Scalia and Mr. Peabody

As we take a break from Foley, the elections and the failings in US foreign policy, let's take a moment to reflect on the comments of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, President Reagan's appointee to the Supreme Court.

In a televised debate with American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen, Justice Scalia made it very clear that he doesn't expect the Constitution to be anything more that what was written and intended at the time of it's adoption. This means that, in Scalia's opinion, the right to an abortion, significant portions of the right to privacy, and the use of racial quotas for school admissions are all questionable.

Justice Scalia knows more about the Constitution than I do, but I do know one thing, I do not want to live in a country whose laws and rights are being set by a bunch of slave owning white guys who haven't taken a breath in 200 years. They couldn't fathom the societal, scientific and technological advances we've experienced since the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were first drafted. The problem back then wasn't unwanted pregnancy, it was keeping children and mothers alive. Back then guns weren't the tools of youth gangs, they were a combination grocery store and ready-made military. And back then, we counted minorities as fractions of people when we conducted our census.

The Constitution is a living document. And it's crafters recognized that it cannot identify each and every right afforded citizens of the United States. In fact, that was such an important point that the 9th Amendment actually states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The Constitution does not specifically give women the right to an abortion, but it doesn't say she doesn't. In fact, in the 9th, it says that absence of a right does not deny it's existence. This is where the gap exists between the left and the right on the political spectrum.

Scalia tries to bridge this gap by sticking to the original words and intent of the crafters. But short of jumping in the Way Back Machine with Mr. Peabody, I don't see how he can hope to determine the true intent of a group of men long dead.

Instead, I would prefer that our Justices look at the theme clearly articulated in the Constitution, the rights of the individual over the rights of the government, and balance the interests of the country accordingly and appropriately for today.

I don't think the British are coming any more, I don't think we have to worry about the military forcing me to take a roommate, and I'm quite sure that Thomas Jefferson isn't going to pop-up from the grave to tell me that flag burning and abortion are wrong. And even if he did show up, I suspect he'd spend more time riding in cars and surfing the net than he would worrying about the role of government in reproductive rights. So Justice Scalia, on behalf of those of us living today, I'd ask that you spend more time thinking about us and less time thinking about dead people.

Scalia Defends Positions in TV Debate

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