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Citizen, Judge, or Object

by on December 22, 2010

Occasionally I find information – in this instance, a case of law – at the beginning and the end.  I wrote, in July 2009, on facebook about Hal Turner, using a post of this same name.  Let me quote what I wrote then, using a First Amendment lawyer as my source.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” reads the first Amendment to our Constitution. What is free speech? In the article below a radical blogger suggested that three judges be killed for limiting the use of handguns (against the Second Amendment, after all). Is Mr. Turner allowed the right to suggest, apparently seriously, that a judge, or any citizen be killed?

Free speech and its limits are not the classic example of not being allowed to yell “fire” in a public place. Free speech means you can look at someone, anyone, and tell them “I most respectfully disagree” without being prosecuted, followed, monitored, or suspected of being a terrorist. You can even say “I hate you and am ceasing all diplomatic relations with you” and make it clear you have no intent to hurt the person, merely to disengage your social contract with them, and what you say is legal and fair. You have the right, according the First Amendment to say “I disagree with your policies”.

It is quite possible to disagree with a citizen, a judge, or an inanimate object without issuing a death threat and infringing on that person or object’s right to exist. It is not quite easy to disagree with a person and maintain favorable relations. Indeed, the impulse is maximize our gain, and minimize our loss, in all relations — and we need not learn of minimax in political and economic theory to pursue this end. What, then, of people who, seeking a short term minimax strategy, find their gain to be to issue threats against the existence of another? In short, we have failed. Yet that does not excuse the act of a person, nor their responsibility to conceptualize acceptable and unacceptable, as the state of their own social contract agrees.

We have doubtless failed Mr. Turner in his education, as we each fail or lack in necessary qualities. It is nonetheless our bounden duty to disagree, under the full protection of the law, without resort to violence or threat of violence.

“touching our person seek we no revenge, but we our kingdom’s safety must to tender that to her laws we do deliver you” Shakespeare, Henry V; in which our laws are the greater good and our person are threats only. It is the duty of the state to see that laws are followed, so that we each may maximize our gain. Mr. Turner, you do misunderstand the need for firearms. It is not for you, alone, but for our collective security.

Why mention this now, almost eighteen months later?  Well, that’s about how long it takes for things to go through our legal system, and there was a resolution.  “A right-wing New Jersey blogger has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for making death threats against three federal judges in Illinois.”

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