bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Sun Oct 30 01:53:36 PST 2005
Perhaps I could put it another way to avoid condemnation and admonition
for serving up non-academic footwear which one does not need to don
unless it comfortably fits.
Using modern examples:
Attorney, later Justice, Thurgood Marshall, felt that the formula of
Brown II, of "All deliberate speed," used to ascertain when public
school integration would be implemented, meant "never." "Never" was
social conservatism in action. Marshall felt that the ruling in Brown I
(1954) meant that his clients, the black public school children, had
rights to equal protection of law that meant NOW (I don't mean to
shout). Social conservatives ("massive resistance") felt that blacks
shouldn't push the matter of equal treatment, especially in the public
schools "too fast." That meant that the people who supposedly enjoyed
the newfound constitutional right would have to wait awhile longer,
which might be decades.
Rosa Parks, who in 1955 refused to give up her seat on a public bus
despite the law of Jim Crow in Montgomery, Alabama, passed away a few
days ago. Her remains are now scheduled, by action of Congress in
recognition of the blow that she struck for freedom and equality, to lie
in honor in the rotunda of the Capitol Building. Pierre L'Enfant was
the last civilian so honored, I've heard. Social conservatives in 1955
had Rosa Parks arrested. The young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 26,
organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system that developed into
what we now honor as the Civil Rights Movement, a revolution, which was
resisted all the way by social conservatives.
"Social conservative" may mean different things, for all I know. It may
denote a reluctance to tolerate social change. It may be a cover for a
refusal to recognize new claims of human rights, which I rather think it
is. Social change is no doubt difficult to accept for many, as old
truths are sometimes shown to be no more than devices for depriving
individuals of the right to participate fully and be accorded full legal
respect by our most powerful institutions.
In Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy declared that gays were
entitled to the full respect of the law. Social conservatives have a
problem with this, as I understand it. Perhaps they look to the bible
for their authority. In American Constitutional Law terms, this smacks
of an establishment of religion issue. Gays are still discriminated
against in the U.S. military. This smacks of an equal protection of law
violation. It smacks of a Palmore violation, if the constitutional law
professors, below, reported that case correctly in their Lawrence
brief. I thought Lawrence vindicated their argument from Palmore.
In the Lawrence case, these few dozen professors of constitutional law
signed an amicus brief that cited Palmore v. Sidotti, the Florida 'Marry
a black, lose your baby' case, for the proposition that it held that
while government might recognize that discrimination on invidious
grounds often exists in society, government may not bow to it.
The same may be said as to some conlawprofs, as well as other learned,
and less learned people. It is one thing to recognize that bigotry
exists, but quite another to succumb to it. Please do not don this
shoe unless it quite fits, please, I say in the interest of avoiding
rustling feathers further. In this regard, I might point out that if
constitutional law were not worth getting exercised about, it wouldn't
be very fundamental, would it. And further that constitutional law
generally starts with a shout, not academic nicety or a law review
article, and when it does start in academia, as in Prof. Zachariah
Chafee's contribution to First Amendment law, it still starts with a
shout in the streets.
Social conservatives dislike Lawrence, it appears. See the Scalia
dissent, in which he predicted with accuracy that gays would next demand
an equal right to marriage. This drives social conservatives up the
wall, some anyway. Are they motivated by some useful principle which
we all should learn, and if so, which? Or is the label "social
conservative" simply a handy, useful, 'respectable' label to denote that
they are bigoted or prejudiced against a group they regard as second
class citizens because of a defining characteristic they despise. Which
useful principle, I ask in seriousness, do list contributors suggest we
use to distinguish respectable social conservatism from cases of
As it happens, I've been sort of a mixed bag of "I hate to change"
myself over the years. A little conservative here, and a little
liberal there. I try not to get too lopsided either way.
"Why are these people insisting on all sorts of things I wasn't brought
up to believe or respect," I've sometimes wondered.
By virtue of the insight afforded by reviewing various historical
accounts as well as the daily news and a few Supreme Court decisions,
and the responsibility involved in teaching constitutional law, I
decided that perhaps some of my ideas needed changing. Once my eyes
opened to the idea of equal rights for people whether they were or
appeared more or less superficially different from me in some manner, or
occupied some social category that existed since before I was born, I
found it possible to consider and accept equal rights for people of
other races, gays, etc. I found that I was happy to do so. It was no
skin off my back and they, and I, felt better. I prefer to think of it
as growing up a bit further. It is better for the country.
The label "social conservative" covers too many sins historically, and I
suspect at present, to pass without challenge.
Kindly forgive my throwing a little lighter fluid onto the barbecue.
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