Musings on the Third Amendment

August 1st, 2015

The third amendment in the Bill of Rights: The third amendment to the U.S. Constitution has always been the most oddly specific one. The rest of the first 10 involve broad, sweeping principles. A wide, flat foundation upon which you can build a coherent and consistent set of laws. But the third amendment seems targeted at one specific issue.

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.

No doubt, this was a direct response to the Quartering act from the British Parliament. But because it is so narrow in its scope, it has been one of the least cited and most rarely used entries in the bill of rights.

But I believe that this amendment hints at a larger, much more significant fundamental right that’s held by the citizens. Let’s explore the edges of this amendment with some thought experiments:

Suppose you owned a house in Alaska. During the winter, some members of the national guard came by and demanded that you house and feed them. They said that if you turn them away, they will surely die of exposure.

According to the third amendment, you are not obligated to do so. To turn them away would be tantamount to murder. But the constitution is very clear here. You do not have to put them up if you choose not to. This is as iron clad as any amendment that follows the second and first ones…

Ok, suppose the U.S. captured the next successor to lead the Taliban. But they need to house him in your basement until suitable transport can be arranged. Do you have to comply?

The third amendment only talks about soldiers, but I believe the spirit of the amendment says “No!”.

What if he was injured and would die unless you take care of him? Would it be immoral to turn him away? Probably. Would it legal from a constitutional standpoint? That depends on how finely you slice the “No Soldier…” part. I suppose a member of the Taliban could be thought of as a soldier.

Okay, so what if he was merely an informant? Or a wealthy oil executive who is being sought by the Taliban? Do you have to put him up? What if it’s his whole family?

Now mind you, I’m not asking if you would put them up. I’m only dealing with the constitutionality here. The ethics and morality of your decision do not come in to play. The only question I’m asking is: “can the government compel you to provide food and shelter for these people?”

I believe the spirit of this amendment says that you may not be compelled to. To be less specific, we only need to change 1 word:

No person 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.

There is a basic right at work here: that a man can look after his house as he sees fit and may not have it used as an instrument of the government. The government may not assign people to that house to be provided for without the owner’s consent.

This is in line with a man’s right to speak and worship freely, to defend himself and not have his property searched or seized.

So how do we define a man’s property? His house? It’s been said that your body is a temple. Is it not also your house? Is it not the ultimate, indivisible unit of your property? Does the third amendment extend to your person?

So suppose NASA discovered an alien life form. The incubator broke down and the only way to keep this tiny creature alive was to attach it to your abdomen. Could NASA force you to comply? This magnificent creature would surely perish if you did not help, but if you didn’t want to, could the government make you?

Suppose the alien had been attached to your abdomen while you were sleeping. Could the government make you leave it there? What if the alien pinned you down and forcibly attached one of its young to your body?

What if it wasn’t an alien at all; but instead an evil human. What if you were a woman and this human implanted its young inside your abdomen? Can you be compelled to leave it there? Can you be required to quarter his soldier until it can live on its own?

So why am I writing about this? Do I expect the supreme court to ask me to present my case about the third amendment as it applies to a person’s body? Of course not! (Although I wouldn’t mind if Justice Scalia called it a bunch of Hinkery Peccary… that would be cool!) The word Soldier is there and the amendment is very specific.

But the argument is frequently made on the right that they’re fighting for life and that the other side has …well nothing — so they must enjoy killing babies. I’m writing this to point out that there are 2 very fundamental, opposing rights at work here. It’s not at all obvious which one should win. There are times where it is legal to cause the death of another human. These times are distasteful but a necessary part of crafting and holding together an imperfect society. There are times where one person’s rights are overridden by another’s. There are times where one side or the other feels (justifiably) wronged. There are times when both sides cannot be satisfied at the same time. The best way to deal with these cases is nearly always to avoid them in the first place.

To be very clear, NO ONE likes killing babies. I would not personally choose to have an abortion. But I believe the spirit of the constitution says very clearly to the government: “It’s not your call!”

Some people are gay, get over it.

August 6th, 2010

Seriously, get over it.  Once you do, everyone will be happier – most importantly you.

But Brian, God says that being gay is an abomination and therefore wrong.

Let’s suppose for a moment, that everybody in the country was christian and believed that to be true. (I’ll leave that argument for a whole other blog entry)  Even if you’re a christian I’d say to you: “It’s not your job to enforce that!”  That’s between the gay man* and his god.  When judgement day comes, he’ll have to answer for his actions, same as anybody.  The grand tally will be added up and he will be judged.

Our job, is to love each other and reach out the hand of friendship to all of our fellow men.  We don’t have to do as they do, but we do have to love them as neighbors, citizens, fellow humans.  I believe with all my heart we will be judged for that as well!

So how will you be judged?

Go back to your bible and read Jesus’ teachings on how we are to treat each other.  I don’t recall any footnotes or list of exceptions.  Leave judgement to the professionals.  Trust me, we’re no good at it.

But Brian, I believe in a literal and complete interpretation of the Bible.  We must follow every word.

Oh, please!  You don’t either.  You’ve already picked and chosen which passages to obey and which ones to overlook. (Leviticus is a common book for the overlookers – read it again and tell me how literally you’ve lived your life.)  Besides, it’s not your job to make sure Adam or Steve or Linda or Elsie lives by the Bible, it’s your job to make sure you live by the Bible.  If your interpretation of the scriptures says that you should not be gay, then don’t be!

Which brings me to this point: I don’t really think you have a choice about being gay or not.  It’s not a switch you can turn on or off at will – even through prayer or counseling or extensive therapy.  You can’t control who you’re attracted to.  You just can’t.

How many women stay with their abusive husbands or have endless relationships with awful men?  How many men gravitate to women who belittle them and treat them poorly?  We all make irrational choices when it comes to attraction.  Choices that would be radically different if we had even partial cognitive logical control.

How many of us have made the “sensible choice” only to pine away wondering what the exciting irrational choice would have been?

As with many of my blogs, I’m going to take you on a thought experiment.  Say that you’re a guy who prefers tall, skinny brunettes. (substitute your own preferences here, silently to yourself – I don’t really need to know).  Now suppose a dictator took over and mandated by law that you had to be attracted to buxom, rubenesque blonds. (again, substitute your version of “the opposite”)  Could you be attracted to that type of person?  Could you change your wants and innermost desires?

There are some types of people that make me catch my breath – that make my heart skip a beat or cause me to forget what I’m talking about.  This happens way below the conscious level.  It can’t be retrained or denied.  It simply is.  How I act upon it is my choice, for sure, but the fundamental attraction is well beyond my control.  It certainly can’t be legislated away.

Now back to the thought experiment.  Now suppose they unearthed new scrolls in the Bible.  These irrefutable scrolls say that to be moral, righteous and a good christian, you must only lie down with the same sex.  Don’t get wrapped up in “but that would never happen…”  That’s not the point.  The point is: could you change who you’re attracted to? Could you do it?  Do you really have a choice.

Now notice I didn’t try to phrase this so that the gay readers could apply themselves to the thought experiment.  They’ve been living with this their whole lives – or at least since they suspected they were different.  They don’t need my little conundrum.

But Brian, the gays are bent on recruiting us.  They can’t reproduce so the only way they can advance their agenda is to convert and/or molest our children.  They must be stopped!

Where to begin.  Have you talked with a gay person before?  Here’s a little secret about gay people.  The overwhelming majority of them want the same things you do.  Happiness, money, family, beer… They don’t want extra rights, they want to not be badgered, belittled and shunned.  They don’t want for you to be gay!  Indeed, the more enlightened might not wish that curse on anyone.

Mind you, it’s not a curse except in how a lot of uncaring people keep treating them.  If we straight people stopped treating them that way, there would be no gay agenda.  The entire gay agenda is to get us to stop treating them like lepers, nothing more.

And being gay doesn’t make you a child molester.  In fact, most men who molest little boys are sick individuals who either need an outlet for their repressed sexuality or feel the need to assert their dominance over a smaller, helpless being.  Many of these people were molested themselves.  The vast majority of child molesters have jobs, wives, families and good standing in their community.  Could some of them be gay and in denial?  Sure, but most of the research tells us that these people haven’t even advanced enough (or have regressed so much) to have a proper sexual preference.  They have no framework of human sexual interaction on which to hang a gender attraction.  In most cases, they seek children that are the age that they were when they were molested.  Kind of a sick “pay it forward” mentality.

That’s not being gay.

Gay people are saints – some are anyway.  Some are assholes.  Some are greedy, some are arrogant, some are kind and gentle, some are introspective.  They run the full gamut of human characteristics.  If we take away the stigma and the fear, they will become indistinguishable from anyone else in this country.

But Brian, they’re strange and odd.  They have weird ways of behaving and I have no way to know what to expect from them. Can’t they just act like us?

There’s an awesome article in The Onion.

Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years

The article is funny because there’s a germ of truth in there.  So why do they have parades where they have to climb in our faces and (literally) shake their tail feathers? I have my own suspicions.  I think much of it is overcompensation.  (see my blog on the Reverend Wright and over-correction)  You have to go a bit too far to bring things back to even.  I think some of it might be an attempt to gain courage in the face of so much persecution.  It may even be an attempt to get back at the bigots by making them as uncomfortable as possible.  While often counterproductive, it’s still a common response to such outright hatred.  Or perhaps provoking overt hatred to expose it to the light.  Lifting the log to see the crawlies.

But Brian, if we allow gays to marry, have children, live “normal” lives, that will devalue the truly normal life that I lead.

If it weren’t such a prevalent attitude, that would be laughable.  That’s a crap argument and here’s why:

  1. Marriage.  Nobody gives meaning to a marriage except for the person and their spouse.  (If you are religious, you, your spouse and God)  That’s it.  No one else can come between you unless you let them.  Nothing that anyone else does can change your marriage.  It is what you make of it, no more and no less.  Why would you want to deny someone else that joy, tedium, stability and ennui?  If you’re looking at everyone else, you need to pay more attention to your own spouse!
  2. Parenting.  Nearly all studies on this subject show no discernible difference between children raised by gay parents and those raised by straight parents.  They’re no more likely to be gay.  (although I suspect they’re more likely to be tolerant!)  I also suspect that a gay couple has a leg up over a single parent.

So Brian, I’ve read your arguments and agree that we should move on.  What do I do now?

(Hey, this is my blog.  I can dream a little can’t I?)

The beauty of this is that you don’t really have to do anything.  You have to stop hating people because you don’t like the way their girlfriend looks.  They’re not hurting you.  If they’re not having sex right in front of you, it’s not really any of your business how “special” their friendship is.  It doesn’t matter in terms of your relationship with them. Move on, get over it.

Stop measuring your life by comparing it to theirs.  No one can devalue your life but you.  Live for yourself and let the rest of us do the same!  Unless they gays are preventing you from visiting your spouse in the hospital or refusing to let you include your loved ones on your insurance, they’re not hurting you.  Any hurt or discomfort you feel is of your own making.  Get over it!

They just want the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  You know, those pesky rights our founding fathers said were inalienable.  Really, that’s all they want.  They don’t want special treatment, they don’t want you to become gay, they don’t want your children to be gay.  They just want to get by, find a purpose, an identity, a place in this world.  And I’m quite certain that if you can lay down your burden, your mistrust, your need to “fix” them, you can move on with your life and concentrate on these same things in your own life.  Let them be.  Just let them be and they will be your friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.  You won’t even notice.  And you can concentrate your worries on the big stuff – the stuff that really matters.

Just get over it.

Welcome to the CoffeeBlawg

April 12th, 2010

These pages are primarily going to be my political rants and musings.  You should be hanging on every word, cuz each page took several minutes to write…

Brian Cox a.k.a CoffeeDawg