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David Vines

David Vines

Posted: December 24, 2009 03:58 PM

Upholding the Constitution

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'Twas ten nights before Christmas, 1791
the Bill of Rights was ratified, the deed it was done.
The amendments were placed in the Constitution with care,
In hopes a great nation soon would be there.

I'm sorry for the cutesy poem, as this is a serious subject. I'm really not much of a poet. I guess the Christmas spirit has gotten the best of me.

On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the eleventh state to ratify the Bill of Rights. With Virginia's ratification, the first ten amendments were officially added to our nation's Constitution.

Among the most revolutionary principles introduced by the Bill of Rights were the people's freedom of speech, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and protection from illegal searches and seizures. The Bill of Rights also granted the accused the right to a fair and speedy trial by jury.

Although you can't get Democrats and Republicans to agree on much these days, I think it's fair to say that we can all agree that it is important to uphold these extraordinary principals and values upon which our country was founded. In fact, Republicans pride themselves in being avid defenders of the Constitution--especially when it comes to Amendments Two and Ten. More recently, health care reform has been attacked by some conservative patriots as a threat to our Constitution that must be defeated in order to ensure our nation's survival.

Republicans, like Texas Senator John Cornyn, proudly fight each day to make sure the Constitution is defended. As Senator Cornyn says on his own website:

Our Constitution ensures that America will always be a nation ruled by laws, not by men. For more than 200 years, Americans have revered the wisdom and foresight of our nation's founding documents, and we must continue that proud tradition.

Why, sir, I completely agree. So, with our country facing the upcoming trial of 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, I've got to assume that Senator Cornyn would vociferously fight to uphold the Constitution's Sixth Amendment which, again, grants the accused the right to a fair and speedy trial by jury.

I'm sorry, is my sarcasm opaque? Cornyn again:

Reverting to a pre-9/11 approach to fighting terrorism and bringing these dangerous individuals onto U.S. soil needlessly compromises the safety of all Americans. Putting political ideology ahead of the safety of the American people just to fulfill an ill-conceived campaign promise is irresponsible.

I must admit this is a difficult issue, one that will put our nation to the test to see if we practice what we preach. It may well satisfy our more primitive instincts to simply dispose of KSM while making him suffer the pain and horror he inflicted on his victims.

However, that is not who we are. There is no "oh, well, except for terrorists" clause to the Sixth Amendment. And that is what makes our country so great.

Jotting down a list of ideals and laws is not enough to make a country the envy of the free world. What makes us different, what makes our country enviable, is that we abide by these laws. Though it might be a lot easier to ignore our Constitution under so-called "extreme circumstances," we must stand by the revolutionary principles outlined by our nation's founders.

When discussing this issue with some conservative colleagues, my case has often been met with the argument that since KSM is not an American citizen, the Bill of Rights, and, thus, the right to a fair trial by jury does not apply to him.

However, as beautifully outlined here by former Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne, the Constitution does not apply to "citizens," nor does it even apply to "people." It applies to the federal government. Which means that under the Constitution, our government cannot deny the accused, no matter how evil they are, the right to a fair trial.