An Essay by Bobby Barrera
It goes without saying that the greatness and bravado that is the American spirit is founded upon the basic, yet fleeting, principles of freedom. These freedoms that we have been blessed with are a result of the fortitude and the foresight of the patriots of the American Revolution. Who among the signers of the Declaration of Independence could have envisioned that 241 years after they boldly penned their names to their eloquent act of treason, that we would still be quoting their lofty and poetic declaration of war? Unlike our heroes of the Battle of the Alamo who simply stated “Come and Take It”, these Shakespearean rebels wrote dramatically poignant phrases such as “When in the course of human events” and “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” and “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” Some of these same men were instrumental in the creation of what is arguably the most important legal document in world history: The Constitution of the United States of America. But even those gifted visionaries, bathing in the afterglow of a glorious military triumph and unfettered freedom, in seemingly full control of a new and free self-governance, couldn’t appease the very people they sought to free from European tyranny. It was not until 13 years later with the creation and ratification of what we know as the Bill of Rights did the American people truly feel free! Not only free from British domination, but free from the potentially abusive powers of the very government that they fought and died for.
Now, almost a quarter millenium later, the battle for our American freedoms rages on. While not being waged on battlefields drenched in the blood of American militia, these battles are nonetheless an assault upon the foundational core of our freedom, the United States Constitution. More so, these battles, waged in the halls of Congress and in our courtrooms, seek to control the ultimate arbiter for purposes of political domination and social engineering. That arbiter is the Supreme Court. For it is through the political appointees of that court that the meaning of the word “freedom” and its Constitutional dimensions are ultimately interpreted.
As lawyers we know that language is an art and, as in art appreciation, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, who would have ever thought that lawyers would be arguing over the meaning of the word “is” in the context of impeaching a President of the United States? Even some of those who haughtily opined that “all men are created equal” did not interpret the word “men” to include the slaves on their plantations. We also know that “men” clearly did not include “women” in any of those “unalienable rights” that the Creator endowed only upon “men”!
As so it is to this very day that we observe the struggles of the social engineers on the Supreme Court who interpret the Constitution in a manner that they, as unique individuals with diverse backgrounds, personally believe our America should be governed. For decades the Supreme Court struggled to uphold “Separate but Equal” as constitutionally supported by the intent and language of the “framers” in complete contradiction to the “all men” provisions in the Declaration of Independence.
In this modern, civilized and educated time of reflection, each word of the Constitution and, more so, of the Bill of Rights, is scrutinized for its subliminal and alternative meaning in the context of the very day that it was written versus the here and now. The documents, their words and their alleged meaning are bastardized to fulfill the political agendas of those who seek, albeit through “lawful” means, to subject us to their restrictive and censored ideas of a societal Utopia. The strict “constructionists” of the language therein battle with those who describe the Constitution as a “living document” (Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1987). The ultimate reality, and weakness, of the Constitution is that it is interpreted by humans who, despite their best efforts, are, well, only “human.”
One needs to look no further than the history during our lifetime to find that the Supreme Court upheld societal structuring with outrageous and conscious-shocking opinions on the basis of the same Constitution that we read today! These opinions were and are still clearly based upon the subjective interpretations of what it means to be conservative or liberal, straight or gay, Christian or Muslim, legal or “undocumented,” pro-life or pro-choice…the list goes on. Some interpretive societal “re-education” is obvious, as when citizens are criticized for “clinging to their guns and their Bibles.” Other messages tend to be couched in subliminal themes such as “Planned Parenthood” and “National Lawyers Guild.” Still others are as blatant and obvious as using “extreme vetting” and building a wall for the “protection” of the American people. The Justices of the Supreme Court clearly are chosen by the political party in power for their “subliminal” adherence to the philosophies and ideals of that specific party.
Recently, during the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, we witnessed the pinnacle of governmental hypocrisy as we watched the sharply divided Senate battle like children fighting over the last juice box in the fridge. Suffice it to say that while the battle in Washington for the confirmation of now Justice Gorsuch may be over, the war on judicial independence has just begun. The rules of engagement for political judicial nominees have just been modified to “fire for effect.” The “effect” being the promotion of the political agenda of the party in power. The term “nuclear” when used to describe the manner in which the Senate changed the rules to accomplish their political goal more accurately describes the total destruction of the appearance of alleged neutrality of the Supreme Court Justices. No longer can this third branch of government, charged with the ultimate responsibility of protecting the citizenry from both of the other branches of government, be considered independent and free of party politics. Nowhere is this more politically evident than in the commentary by one Justice who said she would move to “New Zealand” if that “obnoxious” Trump won the presidency. The sanctity and integrity of the ultimate arbiters of the rule of law now appear to have been forever tainted by the political overtones of the party in power during the confirmation hearings.
There are truths which are “self-evident” in relation to the continued attempts to restrict our freedoms by the political power brokers in Washington. Every time our government passes a law that dictates how we can live our lives, express our opinions, protect our families and follow our religious beliefs, our freedoms get diminished and our way of life gets threatened. Our only protection from our own government’s oppressive and constitutionally-violative regulations and laws is the relief we seek from nine, count them, nine men and women who are supposed to be above reproach and free from political influence in the interpretation of the Constitution. Recent political history has shown us that these allegedly “independent” arbiters may be nothing more than the architects of change for the party which controls their appointment.
If we continue on this current path, we may be destined for the complete erosion of what little trust our citizens have in the ability of our government to protect the freedoms we presently enjoy. As United States citizens who are blessed with the right to choose our political leaders, it is our duty now more than ever to exercise our Constitutional right to vote to protect our freedoms and our way of life. And while it is our right to disagree with our government and the laws which it institutes, more importantly, it is our duty to ensure that those we elect do not seek to control our “American Dream” but rather to ensure its survival. Ultimately, the Constitutional dimension of our freedom is controlled by those whom we are powerless to appoint–the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. So as Americans, we must demand that our leaders, from our local city halls, all the way to the halls of Congress, stand up and fight for “liberty and justice for all” in its purest of form–not in its political form. And we can send this message to our political leaders through the ballot box at every election. Remember, there is no such thing as a “wasted” vote–there is only wasted opportunity. May God Bless Our America and the integrity of our Supreme Court Justices.
President, San Antonio Bar Association