Progressive Writers Bloc

A No-Brainer

By Daniel Lee

On December 18, 2003, America witnessed what could arguably be the greatest victory for democracy in over 228 years. A landmark court case decided the outcome on what would undoubtedly seem, to the founding fathers, to be a no-brainer issue: That the president of the United States does not have the power to arbitrarily strip a person of their Constitutional rights, without Congressional approval or demonstration that his actions are in the least bit justified. The court decided that the president cannot have a person arrested and held without charges, trial, or access to a lawyer or his family. This would probably seem obvious to anyone familiar with the unique American legal system; it's simply the way that the proud and the free preserve their precious liberties -- by maintaining the rule of law, even above the rule of the current politicians in power.

Yet, in spite of all this, there are no parades in the streets. The talking heads on TV aren't carrying on their usual annoying tirade about the importance of this event -- although, believe me, it is very important. In fact, it's almost as if nobody has noticed.

Noticed what, exactly? Noticed that democracy has been reaffirmed in America, the birthplace of modern freedom? Or perhaps noticed that rights that everybody should have assumed that they already had were given back? Did America not notice the fact that, by this court decision, we have become free again?

Maybe the reason there wasn't much commotion over it was because people just assumed that this is the way things should be. That's perfectly justifiable, too; it is the way things ought to be. However, what of the truly outrageous fact: That, before this court decision, the presidency had been maintaining that it had the authority to detain, indefinitely, American citizens without charges, legal counsel, or a speedy and public trial?

The bulwark of democracy holds true and strong. For now. But it is a bit disturbing that nobody raised a fuss over the fact that, before December 18, 2003, anybody in America could, at a word, be shut away from the eyes of the world without any kind of due process whatsoever. A part of me rejoices, but another part of me is sickened by the fact that that case ever had to come to trial, and that nobody, including me, was crying bloody murder over the fact that, for more than two years, the Constitution was, in effect, suspended.

What good does our legal system do if it can be switched on and off at the will of one man, or even multiple men, or even at the behest of an esteemed group like Congress? Our security lies in our ability to fight against the government when they do not fight for that. Long live America, long live freedom, and long live our ability to exercise it.

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