"The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived. "
- James Madison, 4th President of the United States.
More than anything, that quotation should go down as the ultimate
definition of democracy. And more than anything, it is the people of
the United States who are failing to honour this remarkable
declaration. America today is in a downhill spiral on many fronts,
most of all its democratic eminence on the world political stage. Its
Constitution is not far behind in tracing that same path. The
trajectory of the United States Constitution, designed to serve the
people to uphold the Right of the individual and seek justice for all
concerned, is failing. Those magic attributes are coming under
constant strain as the political elite's institutional partisan
approach to governance is continuously undermining its legitimacy. Aided and abated by a biased judiciary headed by a
Republican-inspired supreme court. Strange as it may seem, as often
happens in America, these combustible dynamics fall under the
influences of the Evangelical movement. The Church is increasingly
engrossed in right-wing politics, putting it ahead of its religious
As I see it, three issues are tearing American culture apart today. In that endeavour, I need to unpack my opening paragraph to outline what is proving most contentious, to show a widening gap in moral relativism in American society. Many believe the Anti-abortion movements are supported by the Constitution's fourteenth amendment, Gun control and vigilantism are shielded by the second amendment, but both are guided by the Supreme court deficiencies. With the Republican majority of the Justices on the bench, the present Judiciary is drenched in right-wing conservative bias, determined to undermine the values of precedence long rooted in the legal system. Such evidence of a failing system of political-cultural discrimination is increasingly seen as an ethical aberration by the rest of the world.
In 1973 a landmark ruling took place in the case of Roe v Wade. An issue where the supreme court set out the benchmark of up to 24 weeks legal to carry out an abortion allowing planned parenthood and giving the Right to liberty. See my blog post here. However, in the recent case of Dobson v Jackson, the state of Mississippi has appealed to the supreme court to water down the ruling bringing the legal limit to 15 weeks, effectively weakening the precedence. In consideration, the majority of the nine Supreme court members have so far sympathised with that judgment, ready to review it. Their argument rests on the absence of explicitly expressed rights of abortion in the amendment. A recently leaked document shows U.S. Supreme Court may even overturn Roe v Wade, passing on rights of decisions to individual States. The result is a patchwork reading of the Constitution and a medley of interpretations. For example, justice Clarence Thomas, a Republican, asked the abortion rights counsel, "What constitutional right protects the right to abortion?". But when advocating to carry guns, he never asked where it says for the individual to carry a concealed handgun in the Constitution.
Briefly, the amendment states: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property". If leaks are confirmed, the judge's ruling would automatically remove the individual's Right to freedom on a broad scale. Many see it contravening the Rights given under the Constitution and Human Rights recognised by International Courts of Justice to which the United States is a signatory. Such rolling back of precedence taken on a personal level rather than a consensus of opinions by experts in science, humanities, and legal professionals can undermine public trust and confidence in the Judiciary, if not the Supreme Court itself.
Based on such prediction, some southern republican states have competed as to who would be the most pro-life state. Oklahoma has outlawed abortion outright, and Texas has both criminalised abortion even in cases of Rape and Incest. That includes self-induced and the morning after pill. Contraceptives are not on the table just yet but may soon be. Any party that helps in the process in any way would also be liable. Other states have outlined laws ready to trigger come June 2022 once the supreme court sets out its final ruling on the subject. They have also outlawed anyone who aborts in so-called sanctuary states, such as California, where the law is likely to remain more relaxed in sympathy with the old ruling. The law would go so far as to attempt to extradite a doctor engaged in abortion in an outlawing state but living in a foreign country.
The wild West is alive and well in America, where the Right to bear arms is a fundamental Right. Most states have virtually unrestricted rules for the concealed carrying of guns outside the home. The Right to bear arms at home or in public, concealed or otherwise, triggered or with safety catch on, are all subjects to each state to decide for itself. Another handful of subjects polarising American society today. Centred on how to interpret the second amendment. In brief, it reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In translation, it has taken on a patchwork and degrees of interpretations by individual states. Many states do not see the amendment confine itself to a military meaning but it translates into the public domain of Self-defence. That of course can also encourage vigilantism which is what is happening more often across the country. The overreach here is; in making every citizen a soldier and every soldier a citizen. If that 'soldier' outside or inside the home kills in self-defence the second or fourteenth amendment can see him right, and who can also find sympathy with his action in the supreme court.
Keeping a registered pistol, shotgun, or automatic rifle (depending on the length of the barrel) with a safety pin is lawful and enough as a self-defence measure in some states. The Supreme Court ruled otherwise, meaning to keep the firearm loaded and unlocked for immediate self-defence. The judges ruled it is unconstitutional for a State to prohibit people from keeping and bearing arms "to deprive the United States of their rightful resource for maintaining the public security", conveniently dismissing the military meaning of the amendment. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is an individual right, not associated with the militia.
In the case of New York, where state law requires individuals to get a license to carry a concealed gun outside the home. Here is what Justice Kavanaugh (Republican) has to say: "On the standard of particular to them, [...], why isn't it good enough to say I live in a violent area and I want to be able to defend myself?" commenting on difficulties obtaining a gun license. Justice Samuel Alito (Republican) wondered how the New York law was not "consistent with the core right of self-defence." Surely immature questions: "keeping and bearing Arms" is not the same as hiding them on your person. Imagine a densely populated New York where most carry guns in public, making it easy to take the law into your own hands.
Incidentally, these judges setting out these guidelines contradict their earlier definition of the constitutional Rights expressed in earlier cases. The U.S. Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents repeatedly assure the American public they respect precedent, do not decide crucial constitutional questions based on their own policy preferences, and are not legislating from the bench. However, a simple change in court personnel should not dramatically alter the rule of law. Unfortunately, time and again, that is proving hollow. Mass shootings in recent weeks in Indiana, Georgia, Colorado and California have become routine; the public is almost immune to the news.
Controversy arose in two crucial cases, highlighting the absurdities of the mishmash of enacting independent State law and the political bias expressed by the Jury. The Arbery case is a racially charged shooting of an unarmed black young man out jogging in a quiet neighbourhood. An affluent area in Atlanta, Georgia,(Democrat), where recently there have been some robberies. He was followed by three white men and was shot dead on suspicion of committing a crime. Lawyers for Mr Arbery's family have called his death a "modern-day lynching". The men argue that they were defending themselves (self-defence), while trying to make a "citizen's arrest". Instead, they were found guilty of murder.
While in another case, a young white man was cleared of all charges relating to two Black men he shot and killed during unrest in Wisconsin (Republican). Armed with a military-style semi-automatic rifle, he roamed the streets, telling the police later that it was his job to keep the streets safe. He was found not guilty and set free. One of the charges brought against him was possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. It was later dropped when his lawyers successfully argued state law allowed for someone under 18 to possess the firearm.
If the second amendment is not enough to free you, try the fourteenth. When you are finished with the amendments, your fortune is dependent on the bias of the Jury. Like members of the public, they can be orientated by the effect the current socially trending climate is having on society. They look at justice through the woke goggles of today, assessing their verdict on the life of the victim and the liberty of the living.
In between all this, the question of interpretation centred on the individual's Right and the atomisation of liberty. It boils down to the question of Rights and freedom of expressing those remains dependent on a State's political climate. The result is a pixilated understanding or a confused interpretation of the Constitution. Setting a cultural dividing line in a politically highly charged US of A, where, unfortunately, moderation can land you on the wrong side. Interpretation of the U.S. constitution is like the interpretation of the bible; it generates different opinions and interpretations. In politics, that line of misunderstanding gives rise to egregious dynamics toward divisiveness. Never before have I experienced the power and influence of words; that can not only divide a country and society but assume a cultural ideology. The Bill of Rights, enshrined within the Constitution, is not referred to as the Rights of Man. It is a point of reference, a defensive and an attacking tool. In both cases cited above, vigilantism is allowed to live well in the United States; the wild West was not much different. It is down to the Supreme Court, the principal body and source of decisions that lay the grass-roots of American society, but under a conservative trajectory, it suffers from myopia. Tragically, Republican chauvinism defines American justice, ensuring personal interest and public desires do not coincide, allowing the former to overlap the latter. But quashing long-rooted balanced precedence, the United States judiciary undermines its credibility. While saving the life of the unborn, the Supreme Court remains numb in saving the life of the living.