Three years ago I watched a movie titled “The Pelican Brief” (1993) starring Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, and Sam Shepard, that was made from the third novel by John Grisham with the same title, “The Pelican Brief,” published in 1992 (an excerpt from the book is available at this link). There was a line in the movie that ended up being the inspiration for a blog post that I wrote on May 4, 2013, titled, “Threats to Liberty” (available at this link and reblogged in part below). The other day I ran into a hardback copy of the book at the local library for sale in their bookstore for $1.00, and since I don’t have a permanent address since I am still living in a hotel for reasons I have previously explained (and I can’t check out books from the library as I can’t get a library card with a temporary address), I decided to purchase the book to see how closely the movie follows the book. The main plot and story line are the same, but the movie is, obviously, a “quick version” of the book, with a little license thrown in. However, in reading the book it brought back the passion I felt after watching the movie three years ago. In fact, I think I’ll watch it again. . . .
There is a line stated very early on in the movie that inspired my blog post three years ago that was stated by Thomas Callahan (played by Sam Shepard), a Tulane law professor who teaches Constitutional Law to his students. The line is as follows:
“Passion and self-interest are threats to liberty.”
And they still are threats to liberty today, so I thought I’d repost the main part of that blog post titled, “Threats to Liberty,” published three years ago as a reminder of what is at stake:
On July 4, 1776, these words were written by representatives of the original thirteen United States of America in Congress as part of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness . . . .” (quote source here).
America was founded as a “republic” and not as a “democracy” (as it is commonly referred to), and there is a major difference between the two. “The difference between a democracy and a republic is not merely a question of semantics but is fundamental. The word ‘republic’ comes from the Latin ‘res publica’ — which means simply ‘the public thing(s),’ or more simply ‘the law(s).’ ‘Democracy, on the other hand, is derived from the Greek words ‘demos’ and ‘kratein,’ which translates to ‘the people to rule.’ Democracy, therefore, has always been synonymous with majority rule” (quote source here).
“The Founding Fathers supported the view that (in the words of the Declaration of Independence) ‘Men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.’ They recognized that such rights should not be violated by an unrestrained majority any more than they should be violated by an unrestrained king or monarch. In fact, they recognized that majority rule would quickly degenerate into ‘mob’-ocracy and then into tyranny. They had studied the history of both the Greek democracies and the Roman republic. They had a clear understanding of the relative freedom and stability that had characterized the latter, and of the strife and turmoil – quickly followed by despotism – that had characterized the former. In drafting the Constitution, they created a government of law and not of men, a republic and not a democracy” (quote source here).
America is governed by laws and not by majority rule. Does that come as a surprise to you? It’s true. American citizens have the right to vote for their representatives in government, but it is the laws created and passed by that government that rule over America and its citizens, starting with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers “recognized that such rights should not be violated by an unrestrained majority any more than they should be violated by an unrestrained king or monarch” (quote source here).
The Founding Fathers “recognized that such rights should not be violated by an unrestrained majority any more than they should be violated by an unrestrained king or monarch.” In other words, “an unrestrained majority” or an “unrestrained king” (in our case that would be the president), or both, have no right to trample the rights of any citizen in America as long as that citizen is a law-abiding citizen and has done no harm to anyone nor violated any laws. And as citizens of America, the Declaration of Independence clearly states that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That means we are all equal. No exceptions. None.
In America, we all have the right to“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and that means every single one of us. When that right in trample on and/or gets taken away from even one of us, all of us lose out. There’s a line in the movie, “The Pelican Brief,” (1993) by Thomas Callahan, a Tulane law professor (played by Sam Shepard), where he states to his class, “Passion and self-interest are threats to liberty.” Let’s look at the definitions of these three words from Dictionary.com:
Passion: “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.”
Self-interest: “regard for one’s own interest or advantage, especially with disregard for others.”
Liberty: “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc., power or fight of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice; freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint: The prisoner soon regained his liberty.”
If we allow the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (not to mention the right to privacy) to be taken away from even one American citizen who has done no harm nor violated any laws because of hatred, greed, and/or self-interest by any person or persons, majority, or government official, liberty no longer exists for any American citizen, and that is a slippery slope we will never recover from. And if it is allowed to happen to even one citizen, it can happen to all of us.
And let’s take a look at the “right to privacy.” Did you know there is a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”? It states that a right to privacy is explicitly stated under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
The following quote comes from Wikipedia.com (link here):
The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the Constitution implicitly grants a right to privacy against governmental intrusion . . . . An article in the December 15, 1890 issue of the Harvard Law Review, written by attorney Samuel Warren and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and entitled “The Right To Privacy,” is often cited as the first implicit declaration of a U.S. right to privacy . . . . Most states of the United States also grant a right to privacy and recognize four torts based on that right:
- Intrusion upon seclusion or solitude, or into private affairs;
- Public disclosure of embarrassing private facts;
- Publicity which places a person in a false light in the public eye; and
- Appropriation of name or likeness.
Do we as citizens of America take seriously the threat against allowing any person or persons, majority, or government official(s) to take away our basic human rights and rights as U.S. citizens? Do we just sit back and ignore it because it’s not happening to us at the moment? Well, it WILL happen to us eventually if we allow it to happen to even one U.S. citizen who had done no harm or no wrong to anyone nor broken any laws.
And if we don’t think it can ever happen in America, think Nazi Germany, and read that history. “Under Hitler’s rule, Germany was transformed from a republic into a dictatorship using the process of Gelichschaltung (coordination)” (quote source here). Systematic coordination . . . . Germany was transformed from a republic (which is what we are) to a dictatorship, and it was done systematically over a very short period of time (1933-1945).
So, if we don’t care what happens to our own citizens as long as it isn’t happening to us at the moment (and if we are so ignorant as to believe that it won’t happen to us), don’t be surprised when we wake up one day to a transformed America where we have no rights at all anymore.
It’s a wake up call, folks. So do we just hit the snooze button and roll over one more time? Well, one more time might be too late. The following YouTube video is the same song I posted three years ago on that blog post mentioned above, and since I love the Doobie Brothers. . . .
Here it is again. . . .
Enjoy. . . .
YouTube Video: “Takin’ It To The Streets,” by The Doobie Brothers: