Rights As Banners In The Culture War

Opinion

Brett Kavanaugh
Brett Kavanaugh

Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court is but the latest shot fired in the war over American identity that we’ve been fighting since our inception.

Kavanaugh’s position on gun rights is a cause for hope, given his opinion regarding the D.C. ban on semiautomatic rifles and requirement that firearms be registered, while the future of the rights protected by Roe v. Wade or Obergefell v. Hodges is in doubt.

The subject of rights, as with so much else, is more often treated as banners in the culture war, as identifying badges for team players, rather than as a common possession of all of us. Where a person stands on abortion, gun control, religion, privacy, or speech is treated as signs of political affiliation without any expectation of a consistent guiding philosophy. This lazy thinking even has its own cliché: litmus test.

Human Rights
Once the exercise of a right is lost, getting it back is a hard fight that presents many more chances to fail than to succeed.

But let’s try a coherent system of thinking about rights. It’s important not to be confused into believing that there is a single enumeration that covers everything, though this view afflicts both sides in the debates over any right. The Bill of Rights avoids this error, as explained in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. One problem is that these amendments are often seen as either vague or obvious and are therefore passed over in arguments about the constitutionality of laws, but they inform us that the framers knew that while some rights were in danger and needed specific protections, there cannot be a comprehensive list of all rights.

This is because the concept at the heart of rights is personal autonomy, the question of whose authority it is and what another person is doing. If my actions involve you, you get a say in what’s going on. If what I’m doing affects “society,” I’ll ask for details, but that can mean that I am bringing someone into my choices. But if I’m minding my own business, it’s fair for me to suggest that others should do the same.

This does not take us immediately to a conclusion about all questions regarding rights, of course—abortion will come to mind here. But it provides a basis for starting the conversation. Consider privacy as an illustration of this. We can debate the ranking of various rights and the protection that one gives to the others, but the ability to draw a line between ourselves and the world, to close the curtains and lock our papers—or flash drives, since I must acknowledge the advance of technology—in a safe that the general public does not have access to is essential to maintaining a distinct sense of self. And here is an area in which Judge Kavanaugh should trouble all of us across the spectrum, since in his view, the indiscriminate collection of data about the telephone calls of Americans “is entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment.”

To be sure, James Madison never made a phone call, but he also never shot an AR-15, and if we accept that the 1791 text doesn’t really apply in one aspect of modern life, what’s to say that another will not be declared to be beyond the pale tomorrow?

After decades of the culture war, we all should understand that making rights a partisan issue and picking and choosing which we’ll support or oppose on that basis is a bad idea for the whole country. This makes each right dependent on elections, and while power trades back and forth between the parties, once the exercise of a right is lost, getting it back is a hard fight that presents many more chances to fail than to succeed.


Greg Camp
Greg Camp

About Greg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.

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A.X. Perez
A.X. Perez
3 years ago

Unless a person views the Bill of Rights ((including the 13th and 14th Amendments, as well as the guarantees in the main body of the Constitution) with religious awe and ecstasy they are unfit for SCOTUS, POTUS, or Congress. We are ruled by people unworthy of the office they hold, but even though they are jerks most are doing the best they can, and better than most would (I consider some to be exceptions to this big time. Lrd have mercy but they are horrible.) Kavannaugh is flawed, the question is, is he the best we can do?

Wild Bill
Wild Bill
3 years ago

Kavanaugh, wrote, in his now famous opinion, included: “… Heller’s protection of semi-automatic handguns that semi-automatic rifles are also constitutionally protected and that D.C.’s ban on them is unconstitutional. (By contrast, fully automatic weapons, also known as machine guns, have traditionally been banned and may continue to be banned after Heller.)” That is neither the law nor the tradition. Traditionally, machine-guns were designed and produced by civilians. Citizens bought machine guns long before the government did. The machine guns that Teddy Roosevelt took with him to Cuba in 1898 were purchased by civilians for him. Americans, in spite of the… Read more »

Oldmarine
Oldmarine
3 years ago
Reply to  Wild Bill

Old Marine >>> Wild Bill
I concur, The Man is completely ignorant of Natural Law. Anytime natural Law is ignored then there will be trouble. The closest thing to natural Law is the Constitutional document. I consider anyone who ignores Nature as OTL and on the level of children. Well said Will Bill good logical thinking. Old Marine

tomcat
tomcat
3 years ago
Reply to  Oldmarine

and Wild Bill Those were my first thoughts about Kavanaugh and they haven’t changed. Knowing he worked under Kegan and Kennedy brought up my first reluctance of him. He may rule strictly to what he interprets the Constitution to say but as you say natural law might not get a place at the table. We can only hope he is not scared by those ugly black guns.

hoss
hoss
3 years ago

His position concerning the 4th amendment should be more than enough to disqualify his appointment to the SCOTUS.
When a person thinks that national security renders the 4th amendment null and void, I have a problem. It seems he doesn’t feel the law of the land pertains to him when he disagrees with it.