a letter to the editor

This past week I wrote a letter to the editor and they published on Tuesday, a few days ago. It was a response to someone who was complaining about the Supreme Court ruling that said detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, or anywhere on American soil, were endowed (they didn't use that word, but since it's in the Declaration, I'm going to use it) with certain rights that we're all endowed with. Although I'm an atheist, I take the notion that we are endowed by our creator, as Jefferson put it, to mean that by our very existence we are endowed with certain rights, that these rights are intrinsic to our being. These ideas come to me, of course, through the things I teach, which means I get to enjoy to some degree a "life of the mind" which isn't often appreciated or desired by many. Thankfully, though I'm hardly what one might refer to as an academic in an ivory tower (plus my office is on the ground floor, though I do get some nice indirect light) I get the opportunity to think about these sorts of things as part of my job.

My letter is a response to a letter written by someone else decrying the Supreme Court ruling. My thoughts were that since these rights are inalienable, that everyone has them, not just American citizens. The writer complained about the "rogue judges" of the Court granting rights to people who don't deserve them. I think a lot of Americans don't buy this the idea that everyone deserves these rights, but that's not my problem. Here's my letter, printed in the Spokane Spokesman-Review on Tuesday, June 24.

'Rogue' judges like founders

I agree wholeheartedly with letter writer Stephen Jon Taylor ("Liberal judges lead rogue court," June 21): "This country needs judges who will rule as the Founding Fathers intended." While our unalienable rights are not enshrined in the Constitution but in the Declaration of Independence, we need judges who will uphold such rights as endowed by our Creator.

Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the founders promulgated the notion that all men are created equal as part of the declaration's appeal to the "powers of the earth." Clearly these rights were viewed by the founders as belonging to all mankind regardless of nation or state, whether that be Stephen Jon Taylor, Donald Rumsfeld, Salim Ahmed Hamdan or other "detainees" held in Guantanamo. The Supreme Court affirmed such a view.

Yet the court fell short in affirming that these unalienable rights apply only to those on American soil. As surely as the words of Thomas Paine rang true with the Founding Fathers, that "the cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind," they ought to ring true today, promoting unalienable rights for all mankind. Sadly, as Taylor's letter indicates, such truths are no longer self-evident. Thank goodness for rogues, then and now.