December 14, 2006

Rights-Free Zones

Filed under: Uncategorized — crcb @ 1:43 am

Mood: Sporadically dignified

I’ve heard the argument many times about the Guatanamo “detainees.” (Remember when people behind bars were called “prisoners?”) “They aren’t Americans, so they have no rights under the American constitution.”

They’re in American custody. Have we no responsibility to them? Do they have any rights at all? Can the guards use them for target practice when they get bored?

Let’s reverse the situation. Suppose you, an American, travel to Znizhikistan. The country is filled with civil unrest, and you get caught up in a police sweep. The Znizhikistanis hold you incommunicado for three years, interrogate you with techniques like waterboarding, but don’t charge you with any crime. The Znizhikistan constitution says nothing about your rights. Would you be okay with this? Would you shrug it off and say, “Well, I’ve lost five percent of my life here, I’ve been isolated and abused, and I have no recourse for justice–sounds fair to me!”

I suspect many (not all) of those making this argument also believe America should be a Christian nation, based on the faith of our founders. (Let’s ignore for now the question of what those faiths, plural, actually were.) Here’s one statement of faith the founders signed their names to: “all men… are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” (emphasis added). They believed that no document or government bestows rights; they come from God. The state is merely the guardian of rights, and cannot take them away. It can, however, violate them–and presumably, violate the will of God.


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