“Politics, regardless of your side or views, should not trample the freedom at play of the right to congregate and eat dinner. There is a time and place for everything. Disturbing the dinner of all of our customers was an act of selfishness and void of decency.” — Statement from Morton’s, after protesters gathered outside the D.C. steakhouse while Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh ate there
Oh, this is embarrassing! The right to congregate and eat dinner is actually not to be found anywhere in the Constitution. I have been studying the Constitution very carefully, including the emanations of the penumbras, and I can see why people might think there was some inherent right to dinner. Eating seems so fundamental: Whether or not you want to have steak inside yourself seems like something you ought to be able to determine on your own behalf. Eating and chewing, alone or in the company of others, feels as though it ought to be up to the person most affected, and protected from abridgment of any kind, even by the states.
But actually, there is a higher authority to whom we must answer on this question. The Bible (technically not the Constitution, but there are people working to fix that!) relates that Adam and Eve ate dinner, once, in public, and this was such a grave offense that they were kicked out of their home immediately and hassled with flaming swords. Mankind was then forced to develop farming and wear pants.
God was very clear on the subject: Dinner is a sin. How could there possibly be a right to it? Jesus ate a nice dinner with 12 friends upstairs in a restaurant one time and he was sent to die in a horrible manner. He who eats dinner will get his deserts, afterwards.
Some argue that even if this made any theological sense, theology should not hold sway in the governance of our country, where there is (or at any rate, used to be) something called the establishment clause that separates church and state. To this, the Supreme Court responds, “You have hit adulthood, and you still believe in Establishment Clause?”
Besides, it is not merely the Bible that suggests you have no right to dinner and are naive and wrong to think that you do. Why, didn’t the philosopher Pythagoras believe that fava beans contained souls, and therefore avoid eating them at all costs? And where are fava beans served but at dinner? (Lunches and dinners, I suppose, if you are creative — but that is not very originalist.)
Can we update our thinking on this point at all, given that Pythagoras was operating in the 6th century BCE and the bean thing sounds made up? No. Tradition is the bedrock of all jurisprudence. To those who would suggest that we evolve, or that we not impose our religious or leguminous beliefs on others, I say, “HERETIC! HERETIC! TORCHES, QUICKLY!”
I understand that all this may seem counterintuitive to Justice Kavanaugh, as a person who lives in the present time and is accustomed to thinking of himself as an entity entitled to respect and endowed with the power to make choices for himself and his family.
He might want his old freedom back, or ask for someone to escort him through the gantlet of protesters who want him to feel bad about his choices, which after all don’t affect anyone other than millions of people whose lives are going to be fundamentally changed and whom he is consigning to a status lower than that of full person with the bodily autonomy and right to direct their lives that this entails.
He might say, “This is a horrible constraint to put on me! I am just trying to live my life, with my family, according to my own lights! I just want to have dinner, like a person!” And I sympathize! I would love to find that this was a right. But there is no right, however seemingly basic, that cannot vanish away like a ghostly mist the second someone remembers that there might be a medieval text, somewhere, out there that disagrees. And the Bible. And the beans. I’m sorry! My hands are tied.