AN OUTSIDE CURVE
By Michael McGrath
Reply to Jim Tuck’s Bleeding Heart Liberal
Whoa back, Friar Tuck! It seems to me that in your last “Inside Straight” (Ojo, Nov. 2009), you are advocating the burning of another “witch.” We more or less gave that up as a country when we adopted the principle of freedom of speech. I say “more or less” because there has been a good deal of vacillation on the part of government lawyers as to what constitutes giving aid and comfort versus exercising freedom of speech.
For example, when Senator John Kerry returned from his tour of duty in Viet Nam, he not only joined the Viet Nam Veterans Against The War, he also gave a two hour speech against the war before Congress and then joined his fellow vets against the war in a demonstration outside the capital where all of them tossed their ribbons and medals over a fence erected in front of the capitol while making protest statements against the conduct of the war.
At the time, Kerry was still a Lieutenant J.G. in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Now he is a U.S. Senator and nobody breathes a word about his protest being treasonous. Heck, there was even talk of making him President.
I suppose it could be said that neither Kerry nor Fonda were prosecuted because of who they are. However, despite the fact that the First Amendment is both ambiguous and silent as to what exactly constitutes giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy, it is interesting to note that the punishment identified for an act of treason is clearly spelled out as anywhere from five years in prison to death. It would appear that the law recognizes a wide variety and degree of heinousness when it comes to what might be considered treason.
Despite the ambiguity in the Constitution and the law, perhaps we could make some distinctions about aid and comfort that we could agree upon as reasonable people. For instance, it would seem to me that we might be able to agree that French and German nationals harboring French resistance fighters—as many did—would very likely constitute giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
However, there might be the small problem that we would very likely agree on how wonderful a thing that was. Loyalty and fidelity to the cause of the German fatherland be damned. After all, they were the bad guys. A lot depends on your point of view. But we can be pretty certain that King George did not think of the Founding Fathers as patriots.
So it seems that the problem here boils down to a couple things. First of all there is the legitimate nature of protest. And then there is the legitimate method of protest. Both of these issues have been spoken to, acted upon and wrestled with by many who have gone before us. Perhaps we should study the past before we condemn the present and ransom the future.
“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.” - Frederick Douglass
“Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.” - Benjamin Franklin
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” - Abraham Lincoln