Loss of liberties

Dear Editor:Understandably, issues like immigration and terrorism raise intense passions. But each of us needs to have an internal alarm that warns us when we are leaving the realm of fact and reason and being swept on a tide of passion into mere rant. Mr. Kevin Myers, in a letter published April 5, wrote, "The illegal alien invaders gave up thteir rights when they broke our laws and entered our country." Well, no. Even someone who commits a heinous crime - murdering people with a bomb, for instance - has not given up his rights. He retains the right to hear the charges against him, not to incriminate himself, to have counsel, to receive a speedy trial by a jury of his peers, to confront his accusers and call witnesses, if found guilty not to be given a cruel or unusual punishment, to petition his government, to receive equal protection of law and due process. These are not rights limited to law-abiding citizens but granted by the Constitution to all persons. The idea that someone who breaks a law has lost all fundamental political and human rights is the language of tyranny. American liberty is founded on the principle that fundamental rights are "inalienable" - they cannot be forfeited or "given up." That an American citizen could so misunderstand the principles of liberty as even to think, let alone write, what Mr. Myers does is very disquieting. If we don't really believe that every human being has rights and liberties, then it will be much easier for a demagogue or an unscrupulous politician to tell us that some problem we face is so serious that we must set aside our liberties to meet it. Sooner or later, the problem will pass. But once we lose our liberty, we will not get it back. Donald Marshall Downey

********** Published: May 2, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 03