On the Privilege of Being Offended
Lately, I have been seeing more than a few news articles about people who are upset because they find something offensive and want it stopped. I think they are being silly at best, and an extreme danger to society as a whole, at worst. Please consider the following items.
Number one: The ability to be offended is a privilege available only in a free society. In a totalitarian state such as those that exist in much of the world, if you say or do something that offends someone in power, you may lose your possessions, your freedom, and even your life.
Number two: We must learn from accurate history. If we erase the visible traces of history we deem offensive, then we have blinded those that follow to the very reason we find them offensive in the first place.
Most Americans deplore that Taliban when it destroyed the giant Buddha carved from a mountain in Bamiyan. The same with the ongoing destruction of ancient sites by Muslim extremists in the middle east and north Africa.
So I ask, what makes that different than the current call for the destruction of the Confederate civil war carvings on the side of Stone Mountain, just north of Atlanta? The same question applies to those who have removed statues of Confederate civil war veterans in New Orleans as well as those requesting the removal of Confederate plaques from veteran cemeteries all around the eastern United States. Regardless of the reasons, I submit that the people behind these acts are no different than the foreign extremists we decry. Do I admire slavery? NO! Do I want it wiped from history books? NO! The fact that our ancestors put a great deal of thought, finances, and labor into creating a monument should serve as an education for those that come after.
We All Have Choices
Should someone say something you personally find offensive, you have several choices.
Number one: Ignore them.
While this is probably the most common response, it does nothing to remedy the situation.
Number two: Become angry and return the offense in some manner.
This only escalates the issue and leads to violence.
Number three: Remind them that you find it offensive.
Sometimes this is all it takes to embarrass someone and make them more sensitive to how their statements effect others.
Number four: Critically examine their statements.
Here are the ten commandments of logic.
Thou shalt not attack the person’s character, but the argument. (Ad hominem)
Thou shalt not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make it easier to attack. (Straw man fallacy)
Thou shalt not use small numbers to represent the all. (Hasty generalization)
Thou shalt not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (Begging the question)
Thou shalt not claim that because something occurred before, it must be the cause. (Post hoc/False cause)
Thou shalt not reduce the argument down to two possibilities. (False dichotomy)
Thou shalt not argue that because of our ignorance, a claim must be true or false. (Ad ignorantum)
Thou shalt not lay the burden of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (Burden of proof reversal)
Thou shalt not assume “this” follows “that” when there is no logical connection. (Non sequitur)
Thou shalt not argue that because a premise is popular, therefore it must be true. (Bandwagon fallacy)
Number five: Become part of an educational process.
Take a few minutes to question the person offending you. This may offer a chance for a reasonable dialogue where you may come to a meeting of the minds.
The Privilege of Being Offended
I see things that offend me on a regular basis. In some cases, they remind me of why I feel offended, and in some cases, they force me to examine and evaluate the logic behind my feelings.
“Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never harm me.” We should all pay attention to that bit of ancient wisdom.
A final warning that I first heard from my step-father back in the early 60s. “The ends never justify the means!”
While I enjoy the larger-than-life comic book characters that are a part of popular culture these days, I am dismayed that so very many of them justify their actions by “the ends justify the means”. A truly evil and murderous character is executed on the spot by a caped crusader and we all cheer. But is this right? We are no longer on the slippery path, I’m afraid. We appear to be helpless riders on a very long roller coaster.
I’ll leave you with the foundation of the our freedom.
The Amendments to the Constitution
The following information and commentary is from the US Senate website.
Amendment I (1791)
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first ten amendments comprise the Bill of Rights. The first amendment protects religious freedom by prohibiting the establishment of an official or exclusive church or sect. Free speech and free press are protected, although they can be limited for reasons of defamation, obscenity, and certain forms of state censorship, especially during wartime. The freedom of assembly and petition also covers marching, picketing and pamphleteering.
Amendment II (1791)
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Whether this provision protects the individual’s right to own firearms or deals only with the collective right of the people to arm and maintain a militia was long debated until the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the amendment protected individuals’ right to possess firearms unconnected to any service in a militia.
Amendment III (1791)
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This virtually obsolete provision was in response to anger over the British military practice of quartering soldiers in colonists’ homes.
Amendment IV (1791)
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Applying to arrests and to searches of persons, homes, and other private places, this amendment requires a warrant, thereby placing a neutral magistrate between the police and the citizen.
Amendment V (1791)
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Indictment by a grand jury requires the decision of ordinary citizens to place one in danger of conviction. Double jeopardy means that when one has been convicted or acquitted, the government cannot place that person on trial again. The self-incrimination clause means that the prosecution must establish guilt by independent evidence and not by extorting a confession from the suspect, although voluntary confessions are not precluded. Due process of the law requires the government to observe proper and traditional methods in depriving one of an important right. Finally, when the government seizes property to use in the public interest, it must pay the owner fair value.
Amendment VI (1791)
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Defendants in criminal cases are entitled to public trials that follow relatively soon after initiation of the charges. Witnesses must be brought to the trial to testify before the defendant, judge, and jury. Defendants are also entitled to compel witnesses on their behalf to appear and testify.
Amendment VII (1791)
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Mistrustful of judges, the people insisted on the right to jury trial in civil cases. The minimum level, $20, is so low today that it would burden the federal judiciary, so various devices have been developed to permit alternative resolution of disputes.
Amendment VIII (1791)
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Neither bail nor punishment for a crime are to be unreasonably severe. The “cruel and unusual punishments” clause has been the basis for challenges to the death penalty.
Amendment IX (1791)
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Failure of the Constitution to mention a specific right does not mean that the government can abridge that right, but its protection has to be found elsewhere.
Amendment X (1791)
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The federal government is the recipient of constitutionally delegated powers. What is not delegated remains in the states or in the people.
Amendment XI (1795/1798)
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
When the Supreme Court held in the 1793 case Chisholm v. Georgia that a state could be sued in federal court under Article III of the Constitution, this amendment was rapidly adopted by both houses of Congress. It provided that states could only be sued in state courts. Ratification was completed on February 7, 1795, when the Amendment gained approval of three-fourths of the States. Official announcement of ratification came on January 8, 1798.
Amendment XII (1804)
The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;—The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;—The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President—The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.
After the disputed election of 1800, this amendment required separate designation of presidential and vice presidential candidates, each of whom must meet the same qualifications for eligibility as the president.
Amendment XIII (1865)
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to slavery in the states that had not seceded. To abolish slavery entirely, Congress proposed this amendment, which also gave Congress specific authority to enforce the amendment by legislation. Under these provisions, Congress has legislated against slavery-like conditions, such as peonage.
Amendment XIV (1868)
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
In the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Supreme Court had said that African-Americans were not citizens. This amendment declared that every person born or naturalized in the U.S. was a citizen. The amendment’s “due process” clause has had enormous constitutional importance, since the Supreme Court has used it to apply most of the Bill of Rights to the states. The amendment also establishes that all citizens are entitled to “equal protection of the laws,” the provision which the Supreme Court cited in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, ruling school segregation unconstitutional.
Amendment XV (1870)
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This amendment was designed to protect the right of African-Americans to vote and has served as the foundation for such legislation as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Amendment XVI (1913)
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
In 1895 the Supreme Court had declared a federal income tax law unconstitutional. This amendment reversed that decision and authorized a tax on income.
Amendment XVII (1913)
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
The original system of having state legislatures elect U.S. senators began to break down with the growth of political parties in the mid-19th century. Disagreements between and within parties produced deadlocks that delayed state legislative business and left states without their full Senate representation, often for lengthy periods. This amendment provides for senators to be elected the way members of the House are—by direct election of the people.
Amendment XVIII (1919)
Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
The “noble experiment” of Prohibition was instituted by this amendment, only to be repealed 14 years later by the 21st amendment.
Amendment XIX (1920)
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The Constitution has never prohibited women from voting and for many years before the adoption of this amendment women did vote in several states. The 19th amendment established a uniform rule for all states to follow in guaranteeing women this right.
Amendment XX (1933)
Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.
Section 3. If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
Section 4. The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.
Section 5. Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.
Section 6. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.
This so-called “Lame-Duck” amendment reduced the previous four-month period between the November elections and the March 4 starting date of congressional and presidential terms. This ended the custom, when both terms expired on the same day, that required outgoing presidents to sit outside the Senate chamber waiting to sign last-minute legislation. Also, under this amendment, if a presidential election were thrown into the House of Representatives following a deadlock in the January 6 counting of electoral ballots, that decision would be made by a newly elected House rather than one set to go out of existence on March 4.
Amendment XXI (1933)
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
In repealing Prohibition, this was the only amendment that the states ratified by conventions rather than by legislatures.
Amendment XXII (1951)
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.
George Washington established the custom of presidents serving no longer than two terms. Following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election to third and fourth terms, this amendment set a future limit at two terms.
Amendment XXIII (1961)
Section 1. The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:
A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
In authorizing the creation of a federal district as seat of government, the Framers made no provision for the suffrage rights of persons who resided there. This amendment for the first time, effective with the 1964 election, gave District of Columbia residents the opportunity to vote for three presidential electors.
Amendment XXIV (1964)
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The poll tax was the last surviving instance of a property qualification for the suffrage, and it was in effect, at the time of the adoption of this amendment, in only five States. The amendment was offered as a removal of another obstacle to the right to vote.
Amendment XXV (1967)
Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
This amendment clarifies the Constitution’s previously ambiguous language about presidential succession, explicitly confirming the long-standing custom that when a president dies in office the vice president becomes president, rather than acts as president.
If the vice presidency becomes vacant, the president may nominate a new vice president, subject to the confirmation of both the House and Senate. The amendment also provides procedures for replacing a president who becomes incapacitated.
Amendment XXVI (1971)
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
During the Vietnam War, this amendment lowered the voting age in federal and state elections to 18, the same age at which young men could be drafted for military service.
Amendment XXVII (1992)
No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
More than two hundred years after it was proposed as part of the original Bill of Rights, this amendment prohibited members of Congress from receiving an increase in salary until after the next election had been held.