Rosa Brooks has a terrific column today in the LA Times. It's exactly what an op-ed column should be: incisive, wity, topical, and most importantly, correct in its analysis. Pushing back against the oft-invoked "the Constitution is not a suicide pact" argument, Brooks writes:
This Fourth of July, celebrate by rereading the Declaration of Independence, created by more or less the same crowd who brought us the Constitution, 11 years and one war later. Remember it? "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Wild stuff! To the founders, "all men" have "unalienable rights" -- not just U.S. citizens in the continental United States. (If the founding fathers were around today, Rush Limbaugh and Rudy Giuliani would pillory them as limp-wristed, latte-drinking, soft-on-terror liberals.) It was treasonous stuff too. When the Declaration of Independence was drafted, there were no U.S. citizens: Instead, there were about 2.5 million scrappy Colonists who legally owed allegiance to the king of England, George III. But they went to war -- over the little matter of freedom, law and unalienable, God-given rights. Among their grievances against King George, the rebellious Colonists complained that he ignored the will of their representative bodies, refused "his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers" and "affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power." The Colonists also objected to the denial of "the benefit of trial by jury" and the king's practice of avoiding the inconveniences of due process by transporting prisoners "beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses." (George III would have loved Guantanamo.) The founders had a word for governments that respected rights only arbitrarily and selectively: tyranny.