Sunday, March 25, 2007

In Defense of America

The United States comes in for a lot of bashing, and I can't say that I haven't indulged in it myself. Given that their public face to the world is an imbecile, and their foreign policy has in the present and in the past left a lot to be desired, its easy to "Satan-ize" the land of the free.

Given that, I think its important to remember why they like to call themselves the land of the free in the first place. By a stroke of luck, fate or unnatural intelligence, very early in the life of their country they managed to draft a document of such simplicity and beauty, that it has only been amended 27 times in its 300 plus year history. They've got this constitution of theirs, that many nations including ours have tried to copy. Its very short, with seven articles, and ten of its amendments outlining the bill of rights. It is, by word count and sans amendments, shorter than the insanely long document outlining the rules of debating that the National Law School of India University provides for its collegiate debates. And therein lies the beauty. In contrast, we have a behemoth of a constitution with countless articles, and amendments who's only prerequisite to be passed seems to be bearing the surname Gandhi.

The meat of the matter is this. Outlined in their bill of rights is something our and every country wishes to aspire to. Human rights, or general rights accorded to the citizens of land. Free speech, expression, public property, you get the drift.
Okay, but the serious difference and indeed the difference why one is nice and concise and the other is practically unreadable is the philosophy. The land of the free basically says, okay do what you like, and we the state specifically cannot interfere in so and so things. So their article doesn't say, "Hey, we're giving you the freedom of speech and not much else", it says "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."
See, that's it. That's what it takes articles 12-35 to outline in ours, and it comes along with numerous caveats.

And that's why its the land of the free. It might sound naive, but the superstructure that a state creates for itself affects the fortunes of its citizens greatly. So, if the constitution allows the creation of laws in India that allow the state to basically stop us from doing whatever the hell we want to, well those are the kind of laws that we'll get (and have gotten!).

On the other side of the world, The Supreme Court of the United States is probably going to rule to allow a high school student to display a large banner supporting "Bong Hits 4 Jesus". The issue of it "offending religious sensibilities" itself would have stricken down the same in India. It was censored as being "against the educational mission" in the States, that is, against their continuing message to kids over there to not do drugs. Their court of appeals disallowed that kind of censorship, saying that it wasn't a good enough reason to go against the right to free speech.
So, here's a state that's saying that its okay to speak against our state sponsored education message in a public space, and I have to stand up and applaud that. There's a lot of noise about a culture of fear being created in the western world, but appreciate judgments for what they are. These are people who know that putting up a banner like that is childish, immature, inflammatory and stupid, hell I bet even the kid who did it knows that but a large majority of the people also support his right to make that statement.

That's the kind of country I'd like to live in.

1 comment:

GettingThereNow said...

I'm very late to comment but I will.

Oh, what the heck! I can't think of anything intelligent enough to go with this post, so I'll just say "I agree!!"