by Jim Harris
There are a lot of people clamoring for their rights these days. In order to decipher who’s getting what and who’s not, I am starting my own monitoring organization, “Rights-Watch-O-Rama,” and accepting charitable donations. Here’s my first report:
As Americans, our legal rights are enumerated by the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, known as Bill of Rights, written by and for a bunch of slave-owning, powdered wig-wearing white dudes over 200 years ago. Just to keep things relevant and up-to-date, these amendments are regularly re-interpreted for us ordinary folk by black-robed political appointees.
And thank goodness for those wise, impartial black-robed political appointees. My own favorite decision by the U.S. Supreme Court over the last year was the one in which they extended the rights of senior citizens to have a complete steak dinner in South Florida as long as they show up at the restaurant before 7:30 a.m. — and don’t eat more than 10 ounces of meat.
Getting back to the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment guarantees free speech. No problems there. It’s a great time to be a fanatic. Seems like everyone alive is either shouting into a cell phone, “Tweeting,” pontificating on some website or blog, or causing a ruckus in the town square. Andy Warhol underestimated. These days, all of us can be famous all the time, not just for 15 minutes.
Of course, once you have freedom of speech, then you need the right to shoot people with whom you disagree. Thus, the Second Amendment. This right seems to be the most important one in the minds of many Americans. They claim that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is by having a good guy with a gun. Unless the bad guy is a better shot, in which case you need two good guys with guns, or one good guy with a much bigger gun. Guns are also used for protecting one’s God-given stuff and for killing defenseless animals, although the latter does not rise to the level of a “right” but is merely a “sport,” like badminton or volleyball.
Not everyone, however, believes that civilization requires guns. Some people actually want the right to live in a society free from guns. They say that if the powers-that-be can make things as ubiquitous as VHS tapes, rotary phones and analog TV disappear overnight, they should be able to similarly get rid of guns. Unfortunately, these folks have no constitutional amendment to lean on, so they’re out of luck.
Let’s see, the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizure. I guess that would be like if detectives stole money from a suspect, or if cops impounded someone’s car for having an expired registration. Welcome to Philadelphia.
The Fifth Amendment — mostly used by colorful mobsters — is designed to prevent interrogators from using intimidating tactics to get suspects to testify. And we all know that never happens in America. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a speedy trial. Okay, I guess “speedy” is a relative term.
Another rights issue much in the news lately involves the Boy Scouts of America, who were apparently not “prepared” to deal with the backlash in response to their ban on accepting gays. In a recent statement, BSA headquarters declared that they would leave the issue up to local chapters to decide. The local chapters in turn replied that they would probably abide by the national organization’s decision not to decide.
Observers are opining that the Boy Scouts will eventually expand to include gay scouts, “bi” scouts and undecideds but not atheists. Lost in all this rights-wrangling is the individual’s right to privacy, since everyone is now expected to disclose his/her sexual orientation and religious affiliation in order to participate. Not to mention, we’re all being tracked and followed by security cameras, satellites and digital devices 24/7.
And at the bottom of the heap, devoid of any rights whatsoever (drum roll, please), are the animals. Poked, prodded, poisoned and put upon unmercifully, theirs is a hopeless plight. Humans seemed determined to use their animal brethren for every unpleasant purpose imaginable.
For example, Iran just announced that they sent a monkey into space, and that they had previously sent a mouse, a turtle and a worm. Come on, was this really necessary? The Boy Scouts could send a worm into space. In fact, that’s one of their merit badges. If Iranians want to go into space, let them hop on the damn rocket themselves!
Oy vey. All this monitoring has got me burned out, like a garage band in a Viagra TV commercial or a bad case of The Mondays. I’m disbanding “Rights-Watch-O-Rama” and moving to Tahiti, but you can still send me money if you want to. I’m also on a waiting list for a monastery in France just in case the Tahiti thing doesn’t work out.