Monday, 3 January 2011

emphasis added

Alternet hosts a excellent article from the younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, where he faces surely a lifelong demon in the Espionage Act of 1917, a blatant beast that has mostly been a "dormant Sword of Damocles" but could also prove very plastic and serviceable, thanks to an array of wounded egos laid bare and selective reading. What an awful burden for anyone to be yoked with--that one's parents were executed as traitors, especially considering that Americans do not believe such things happen in America. With so much constitutional steerage and political fundamentalism, recourse to original sources seems often frustrated and arbitrary, though in its argument that the Espionage Act violates the principles of America's founders, the article highlights the Constitution's own reckoning of what could be traitorous:

"'Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort' (Article III, section 3). The framers felt this narrow definition was necessary to prevent treason from becoming what some called 'the weapon of a political faction.' Furthermore, in their discussions at the Constitutional Convention they agreed that spoken opposition was protected by the First Amendment and could never be considered treason."

History is littered with countless examples of despotic regimes wielding high treason, unilaterally defined and investigated, as an effective political tool to remove inconvenient people and inopportune laws, and the people who drafted the founding documents did not want their republic to devolve in that manner. Let us hope that America never again goes down this path, and if already committed to that course, can at least be turned. Apparently, the incoming US Congress, led by those same fundamentalists and literalists, wants to open their session with an unprecedented reading of the US Constitution in chambers. I wonder how much of more choice parts will be mumbled over, or what amendments, including the Bill of Rights, will be skipped to reinforce the myth that their constitution is eternal, sacred and infallible, especially if construed to one's own ends.