Stuart Zechman: Bill of Rights

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Stuart Zechman excepted from Jan 2013 conversation with Jay Ackroyd.

I think that the Second Amendment does matter, because the human right to resist aggression matters.


The kind of society we can be depends in part on deep public awareness of -- an entitlement, if you will-- our rights. A culture in which speech is explicitly guaranteed as a matter of rights, in which restrictions are understood to be the exception, rather than the rule, is different than the sort of place in which the opposite is widely known. Likewise it is with the right of self-defense. A consciously empowered populace is the result of such guaranteed rights --as much as  the rights of privacy or speech or a fair and speedy public trial.

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In history previous to the Second Amendment, aristocrats had the privilege of defending themselves. Common people, of course, were required to defer to their betters when attacked.  The right to resist aggression is a people's right, a right intrinsically linked to privacy and bodily autonomy, and one that we should be proud to have guaranteed for ourselves.

Movement liberals --those of us who view the expansive interpretation of the Bill of Rights as an important demonstration of progress-- should consider the importance of the Second Amendment in light of all of the people's hard-won, yet steadily eroding rights. We should remember that the right to resist aggression is a human right.

Social conservatives are the hypocrites who pick and choose their culturally-favored "rights" a la carte, as their ever-shifting orthodoxies demand. Theocrats are the dangerous perverts who would undermine the Bill of Rights in service of their twisted versions of "the public good." Establishment centrists are always ecstatic at the opportunity to impose institutional restraints (private or public) on ordinary people and our rights.

We are none of these. When centrist rags like TIME or the Washington Post burble on about public safety and the need for secret courts, we point to the Bill of Rights. When social conservatives snarl that the people's right to privacy is the construction of "activist judges," we fight them on the grounds of human rights. When the state and powerful private interests conspire to censor and restrict communications technologies according to their whims, we stand up to loudly remind the people that the right to speech is nothing without the right to freely access that which allows us to be heard. We're movement liberals, so we promote all of the people's rights in the Bill of Rights.

How did the left ever acquire the notion that the human right to resist aggression, codified in the Second Amendment, is somehow a right-wing idea?

Stuart Zechman organizes public commentary  at legacy media political blogs, such as TIME Magazine's Swampland. A movement liberal, entrepreneur and technologist, Stuart uses Twitter as a primary communications tool. He posts at Avedon’s Other Weblog and Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism. He occasionally provides short audio commentary. • Follow @stuart_zechman