Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It’s Constitution Day!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is University of New Mexico School of Law Dean Suellyn Scarnecchia, left with UNM Law Professor Chris Fritz, center and UNM History Professor Mel Yazawa, right, after a Constitution Day symposium, Monday. Scarnecchia serves as co-chair of the Governor’s Ethics Reform Task Force.

The final draft of the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787. Since 2004, any federally funded public educational institution must celebrate the day by law.

Fritz’ topic was “The People’s Sovereignty and American Constitutionalism,” while Yazawa’s presentation was “Why the Founding Fathers Hated Democracy.”

I’m a fan of James Madison, the fourth president, who by some is considered the “Father of the Constitution.”

However, long before that he had fought hard for what would become the first amendment. In 1776, he and his political ally, Thomas Jefferson, had written the Virginia constitution that included much of what would end up in the First Amendment.

Virginians were not very inclined to ratify the U.S. Constitution, but with the influence of Madison, it narrowly passed. New York ratified, by a three-vote margin, with the recommendation that a “Bill of Rights” be added. Massachusetts also ratified by a slim margin.

One of the first acts of the new congress was the passage of the Bill of Rights.

Madison advocated that free speech was a necessary part of the public, political and governmental process. He believed in “The Marketplace of Ideas,” where all thoughts could be aired. He opposed the censoring of opinions, arguing for more speech, not less.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

This is a protest by justicewheels.org, on the mall near the Student Union Building on Monday. As part of the protest, this American flag was flown upside down, the international sign of distress. The pole was laid across the arm of a bronze statue. As I went to photograph it, a gust of wind caught the flag and dislodged it, where it then fell to the ground. I immediately picked it up and laid it against the statue. “I’m with you brother,” an older man, who was sitting nearby playing a guitar, said. This young man walked over with a ball of cord to replace the flag and to tie it down. The guitar player said that there were vets who would not appreciate this and he had been a member of SDS. The Students for a Democratic Society was a late 60s radical organization that spawned several other violent groups. I told this young man that I did not object to the use of the flag as a protest symbol, but it didn’t belong on the ground. The young man’s answer to both the guitar player and me was “God bless America.”

The great Anonymous writes in response to my last posting. However, hiding behind anonymity, the cowards of the Internet, those who spew rather than converse, boldly assert things they aren’t willing to say to your face.

Alexander Hamilton, who wrote the majority of the 85 Federalist Papers advocating ratification of the Constitution, along with Madison, who penned 28 of the articles and John Jay, all wrote under the pseudonym “Publius,” and were collectively published in respectable large circulation newspapers of the day.

Skulking on the Internet, in anonymity, scores little to no points with many, even when a good argument is put forward.

My only dig to the anonymous poster will be to quote verbatim, with misspelling, grammatical errors and the works….

“using any part of the rodney king case to prove your point is sort of like using the OJ Simpson acquittal as proof the system works... it just doesnt fit the sceme of your comments. You built a hell of a straw man there, brought tears to my eyes, then turned around and disparaged your own. Just to make a point of calling ths council criminals and in the end calling your own old dept. the same. Does that mean you are a ''gang member'' as well? by your logic it seems so.”

OK, let’s take it from the top: O.J. Simpson’s acquittal was proof the system works. Had it not been for a “Bad Cop,” Los Angeles Police Department Homicide Detective Mark Furman’s inability to honestly admit to having made prior racists remarks, for which the rest of his direct testimony was impeached, and for questions of evidence collection, handling and laboratory procedures, Simpson might well have been convicted. However, the jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite the protestations of nearly all in law enforcement, the case was rightly destroyed by just such bad police work.

As for disparaging my own, I don’t. Those I write about worked very hard to earn my comments.

City Council accepted the recommendations of its police department to reject the fundamental philosophies of the criminal justice system. They disregarded: due process, the presumption of innocence, access to the proper courts, in approving the City’s use of the red light and speed cameras, through the Safe Traffic Operations Program, also known as the STOP ordinance. My postings on these points are fairly mild.

In my web logs about gangs, I suggested that there were times that being in a gang, as defined by the Webster dictionary, was not necessarily a bad thing. Brute force by a large overwhelming power, properly applied can be a good thing. Guilty as charged, for me being a member of “that gang.” Some members of the police department, possibly many police departments across the country, have elements that meet the legal definition of a gang.

Because Anonymous and schmedlap didn’t accurately read my postings, let me try again.

It’s sarcasm and a political parody. I was poking fun at the council for passing ordinances that can’t possibly withstand court challenges, but make their constituents believe in a false sense of security. By the ridiculous gang ordinance they passed, their own definition of a gang could apply, just as easily, to them. I don’t expect people to laugh at it. They shouldn’t, it’s not funny.

Late last week, at the same spot on the mall, a musical group had placed Mexican flags on the statues as part of the ambience for their entertainment.

I don’t know what it means. However, isn’t the Constitution great?


Jessanna said...


Anonymous said...

Mark, you really have lost your mind.