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March Madness: Facebook & Virtual vs Actual Democracy March 25, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Abortion, Immigration, Law, Ethics & Society, Mindfulness, U.S. Constitution.
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Middle Eastern uprisings sparked by  Facebook connections, public employees protesting in Wisconsin, Arizona’s reaction to protests over its immigration laws, and South Dakota’s new abortion law….March is a compelling month for the study of natural rights and the democratic process.

According to John Locke and our Founding Fathers we are all born with inalienable rights….or more simply stated…We are free and should only be constrained by  a democratic government in which we give up certain rights in exchange for the protection of our fundamental rights–a social contract.  Somehow, a number of dictators around the world didn’t get that memo…Despite that fact, the human spirit remains strong and with the advent of technology, we have seen a new version of democracy in action–the use of Facebook, Twitter, and texting as a means of revolution.

Groundbreaking, history in the making, and certainly worth noting and contrasting with our open society.  Why?  Because democracy is sometimes messy, often adversarial and down right unpleasant. However, underneath the unpleasantness remains the fact that we have a system that is to be cherished as the best method that human beings have been able to create to support fundamental freedoms.

The people of Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries have been able to use technology to accomplish uprisings against governments under which our brand of democracy does not exist.  By contrast the Wisconsin public employees “simply”exercised their constitutional rights to protest government imposed limits on public employees’ labor rights. The ongoing dispute with the state legislators is now headed for the state’s supreme court.

Arizona has developed a reputation as having some of the harshest immigration laws on its books and a governor who openly supports a tough stance.  There have been protests, media coverage and social media discussion criticizing Arizona’s recent laws , including on this blog.  It appears that all the criticism is not good for business as Arizona has lost tourist and other revenue, so recently five newly proposed restrictive immigration laws failed to muster the necessary votes  in the Arizona state legislature.

Finally, South Dakota, a state without a high incidence of abortion, but with a high percentage of republican legislators, has passed legislation that requires “women who are seeking abortions to first attend a consultation at such ‘pregnancy help centers,’ to learn what assistance is available ‘to help the mother keep and care for her child.'” It is probably unnecessary to explain the furor that this has caused in this controversial area….Planned Parenthood has indicated that it will move the debate from the legislature to a courtroom where the interpretation of  a woman’s constitutional rights in this area will be argued and decided upon once again.

Emotionally charged disputes in fundamental areas of society–employment, immigration, pregnancy–controversy abounds. However, regardless of how one feels about public employees’ union rights, immigration rights, or abortion, we can embrace the fact that we live in a country in which we have a right to publicly dispute these issues and a government that has a process by which to revisit and resolve our disagreements.  It might sound like a huge piece of American pie, but given what is transpiring in the Middle East, it seems worth taking a moment to pause and savour the sweet taste of democracy.

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Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones, But Guns Can Always Kill Me: Rhetoric & Violence in Tucson January 11, 2011

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Criminal law, Gun Control, Law, Ethics & Society, U.S. Constitution.
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There is little to be said that has not already been said about the tragic shooting in Tucson that killed 6 and wounded many others including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  The media and internet is inundated with analysis attempting to explain/blame the impact of the vitriolic, hyperbolic political rhetoric that has become the mainstay of many politicians, bloggers, and media coverage.

However, regardless of the sociological debate about the ability of words to incite violence in an already unbalanced human being, one simple, bare fact remains true.  If it weren’t so easy to purchase a semi-automatic pistol that holds 30 rounds of ammunition then maybe 20 people would not have been shot instantaneously.

As Robert Dallek writes, “Only one thing seems certain in trying to understand the gap between rhetoric and action in our national discussions about violence in America: the ease with which perpetrators can acquire the means to commit mass murder. However often we lament the horrors committed by deranged killers, we seem incapable of reining in the capacity of the murders’ ability to acquire the handguns, automatic weapons, and rifles they use to create such mayhem.”

In fact, the New York Times reports that, “Arizona’s gun laws stand out as among the most permissive in the country. Last year, Arizona became only the third state that does not require a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The state also enacted another measure that allowed workers to take their guns to work, even if their workplaces banned firearms, as long as they kept them in their locked vehicles. In 2009, a law went into effect allowing people with concealed-weapons permits to take their guns into restaurants and bars…

In the last two weeks, two bills were introduced relating to the right to carry guns on college campuses, one allowing professors to carry concealed weapons and one allowing anybody who can legally carry a gun to do so.”

Query: Even if the Founding Fathers envisioned that the Second Amendment would ultimately permit citizens to own hand guns for use beyond the needs of forming a state militia–which is the subject of vehement debate in our country–does any private citizen really need a concealed weapon that holds a 30 round magazine?

 

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