Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s call to have “activist judges” arrested at his direction was reminiscent of a scene from Shakespeare’s King Henry VI.
In the play, there is a revolt brewing when the treacherous “Dick The Butcher,”says: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Gingrich hopes to restore American values and the powers of the commander in chief to act absolutely by abolishing the “radical” judicial branch. In making that suggestion, he reduced himself to a villainous stock character out of a Shakespearean play.
His statement comes as the nation recently celebrated the 220th anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights. And it’s a reminder of why we need lawyers and judges: to ensure that fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion and separation of powers enshrined in the Bill of Rights and U.S. Constitution are safeguarded.
Grassroots movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street make the elites nervous. In reaction to these movements, there has been an effort to centralize power and homogenize thought.
In the vein of Gingrich’s comments, there are two recent pieces of legislation that have civil libertarians furious.
The recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would “allow the use of the military inside the United States, against U.S. citizens and residents, and allow their indefinite military detention based merely on suspicion of being engaged in hostilities against the U.S,” according to Kevin Zeese, attorney and organizer of Occupy Washington.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in a recent Huffington Post Op-Ed called the NDAA “unacceptable” and “inconsistent with the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the system our Founders established.”
Then there is Stop Internet Privacy Act (SOPA), which technology leaders disapprove of because of its potential to impede tech innovation. Some activists are concerned that the legislation would undermine free speech and reduce the ability to organize on the Internet.
This may be exactly what Gingrich and his supporters want.
Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and blogger. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC.
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