Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gay Rights, Gun Rights, Birthrights, Inalienable Rights & Other Self Evident Truths

What we most often think of as "Constitutional rights" are actually found in the Amendments to the Constitution. There are twenty seven such Amendments, and the first ten are traditionally known as the Bill of Rights.

Many of the other seventeen Amendments (after the Bill of Rights) are not concerned with basic, fundamental "rights." But five of them are: the 13th, 14th & 15th Amendments (abolishing slavery and related issues); the 19th Amendment (women's suffrage); and the 24th Amendment (abolishing "poll taxes").

The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery. It was actually proposed in Congress on January 31, 1865, just under a month before the surrender of General Lee. It became law on December 6 of that year, eight months after the assassination of President Lincoln.

The 14th Amendment (adopted July 9, 1868) has four major components:
The citizenship clause grants citizenship to everyone born in the United States (except for Native Americans!).
The due process clause protects individual rights against arbitrary government actions.
The equal protection clause guarantees all US citizens equality before the law.
The incorporation clause prohibits individual states from violating rights protected under the Constitution (yes, this was necessary!).

The 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote for all citizens.

Taken together, the 13th through 15th Amendments were necessary to extend full citizenship to former slaves. Even with these amendments there still came into being an odious system of second class citizenship, which was only possible because the 13th through 15th amendments were not rigorously enforced.

The whole bullshit argument over "States Rights" arose as an attempt (successful for almost a full century) by racist Southerners to exempt themselves from abiding by the Constitution of the United States! This is precisely the reason for the "incorporation clause" in the 14th Amendment - to ensure that no State can deny its citizens any of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The other two major "rights" oriented Amendments are the 19th, which extended voting rights to women; and the 24th, which prohibits the use of the so-called "poll tax" to deny any citizen the right to vote.

People should study the simplicity and forcefulness of the language in these fifteen Amendments. Then compare this stirring language with the (often) tortuously obtuse, mind-numbing legalese of the rest of the Constitution. In fact, the primary function of much, arguably most, of the Constitution is to carefully define and legally enshrine property rights, whereas these fifteen amendments are where our rights as human beings are addressed.

As everyone knows, the original framers of the Constitution fell far short of fully implementing the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. And the same was sadly true of the implementation of the 13th through 15th Amendments.

Even today, in the 21st century, the power of the 14th Amendment has yet to be fully realized. How can anyone claim that we have equality before the law when same-sex marriage is barred by law? In fact, how can anyone claim that we have true separation of church and state when religiously inspired homophobia is allowed to influence our laws in ways that have a direct and pervasive effect on the lives of citizens?

Some people want to monkey with the 14th Amendment. Some people want to tinker with the 2nd Amendment. Some people don't realize that Sharia Law is incompatible with equality before the law -- the same law for all citizens. Some people don't want equal protection to be applied in the case of same-sex marriage. Some people want to make a fetish out of the idea of the Constitution, to turn it into an empty symbol and a political marketing ploy. Some people think religious freedom is an outmoded idea because we should get rid of religion altogether. Some people think freedom of speech is an outmoded idea because they want to criminalize "hate speech." But mostly people just don't want to bother with trying to understand the issues and ideas that Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, James Madison, and others wrestled with and that we have to still wrestle with today.

Behemoth confirms Nergal's leukemia diagnosis

UPDATE NOV. 8TH, 2010: Good news: Bone Marrow Donor for Nergal Found:
"Horns Up!" (Nergal Update: Bone Marrow Match Found for Behemoth Frontman)

Blabbermouth, Metal Sucks, Metal Underground, and The Gauntlet have all now confirmed that Nergal (Adam Darski), the internationally renowned frontman of the blackened death-metal band Behemoth, has been diagnosed with leukemia, and that the disease is at an advanced stage.

It's not good news. Don't know what else to say at this point, except to go to those links to find out more.

Also check out the official Behemoth website for updates and news (you can select either the Polish or English version once you're there -- the Polish version is usually more up to date).