Forget the 5 Ws

The Tragedy of Hamlet
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It's not about the Who, Where, When, What or even Why

It's Not About the Who, What, Where, When or the Why, but the HOW.

Enter the extant indolent modern media--be they electronic, broadcast, narrowcast, or old school inked paper--who, in their old school dance around the macabre, still cling to that classic journalistic formula and, in the habitual process, can only pretend to play at public prosecutorial investigator thereby missing the postmodern point of any violent story: the means which enabled perpetration.

So, then, in the case of THE international story of this era--Islamic terrorism--the never-ending phalanx of experts, talking heads, commentators, public intellectuals is reflexively trotted out to stand horizontally and otherwise scores deep behind podiums and/or microphone stands to utter the nauseatingly predictable palliatives unto the loved ones/relations who have thusly become bereft at the hands of not simply the often look-alike perps but, most grievously, by their presumptive governmental protectors.

And despite all these official 'hearts and prayers go out to xyz' litanies, the whole thrust of the matter gets lost in these too-frequent ritualized outpourings of more and more routinely ineffectual platitudes about staying free and strong so that the terrorists don't 'win'.

With malice toward none in particular issuing such prayerful impotence it must be said clearly and emphatically: enough after-the-fact collectivized hand wringing.

Of course, Philip K. Dick had the luxury of both keen often paranoid imagining and fictive license in describing any notion of 'precrime' detection--no such anti-libertarian fantasy is proposed or even desired; besides, as was artfully said in radio's ancient days, 'who knows what darkness lurks in the hearts of men' given that science still has no clue as to what the thing called 'consciousness' could possibly be.

What is warranted, however, is a no-nonsense (by that is meant apolitical) policy whose execution involves preemption of the sort contemplated by (in the case of America) the Constitution. In this regard, it is of seminal importance that two propositions at law be both distinguished from one another and seen clearly for what they were intended to be. Of course, these two relevant concepts are privacy and self-defense.

First, privacy; nowhere in that august document is it addressed insofar as literal terminology. Rather, from papers & effects to reproductive biology, what (and to what extent) these rights are and are not.

The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy. The Bill of Rights, however, reflects the concern of James Madison and other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information. In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the "enumeration of certain rights" in the Bill of Rights "shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people." The meaning of the Ninth Amendment is elusive, but some persons (including Justice Goldberg in his Griswold concurrence) have interpreted the Ninth Amendment as justification for broadly reading the Bill of Rights to protect privacy in ways not specifically provided in the first eight amendments.

The question of whether the Constitution protects privacy in ways not expressly provided in the Bill of Rights is controversial.

And, so it goes--even as to their very words so often clung to by strict judicial interpreters--the little-discussed Ninth Amendment (at least in those public airwaves or publications) leaves enough doubt so as to paralyze even much-needed policy; in Hamlet's famous quandary about existence itself such dubious expressions: 'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.'
[Hamlet, Act 3, Sc. 1]

Second, self-defense/defense of others; here, there is even greater muddling. Putting aside the fact that guns are specifically mentioned (as against the implied/inferred atmospherics of privacy), there is specific language limiting those guns---the 'How' at the center of this piece concerning Islamic terrorism---i.e., 'a well-regulated militia'. There is little space here for the endless (and endlessly suicidal deferred action to address it with pragmatic policy) debate of scholars and jurists; suffice it to say that the lead prosecutor at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, declared decades ago that 'the Constitution is not a suicide pact'.

'No liberty is made more secure by holding that its abuses are inseparable from its enjoyment…The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact….

Justice Jackson wrote this in a First Amendment case. Yet while many may disagree over how to apply his principle to questions of free speech, the issue should be clear when it comes to access to firearms.

Speech is used to express ideas. Firearms are used to kill over 30,000 Americans every year and wound another 80,000.'

To sum up, then.

The question, dear public/those who chronicle its world, is not unlike Hamlet's: to be or not to be so foolish as to enable effective suicide, the 'how' of it being (pun intended) about not the trigger-puller given his/her disregard for their own lives, much less the rule of law, but, rather the gun and/or bullets and ease of access to them.

America, choose life, part of that quaint Jeffersonian phrase, else, join these savages and passively witness our joint demise.

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Updated Jan 2, 2019 12:27 PM EST | More details


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