Friday, June 4, 2010

Do You Know What A Person Is?

In Roe v. Wade, Harry Blackmun writes, "The Constitution does not define 'person' in so many words." You know, this sentence troubles me. Harry? Why is it necessary for the Constitution to define the word "person"? Why do the Framers of the Constitution have to stop and define the easy words for you? Do you really not know what a person is?

Now, I do not care if the people on the Supreme Court are really smart. But they have to be able to read. A Supreme Court Justice has to have some sort of vocabulary. So when they run across a word like "person" they are not befuddled and confused.

Harry, if you don't know what a person is, ask your garbage man. Ask the people in Kroger. Look it up in a dictionary. Quiz the kids in a second grade classroom. It's really not one of the big words. Did they not cover this in law school?

Pardon me for being cynical--look up "cynical" if you don't know what it means, Harry--but I kind of think Justice Blackmun knows what a person is. He is not actually asking this question in good faith. He is looking for an excuse to narrow this word so that some human beings are outside the class.

Now, I'd be the first to admit that judges, from time to time, might want to call an object a person. Might want to call a corporation a person, for example. Or Lassie. Suppose somebody wants to sue Lassie, or she breaks her contract, or whatever. Lassie is in legal hot water. And some smart guy says, "hey, Lassie's not a person, she can't sue me under this statute." And the judge scratches his head and says, "Fuck it. I'm calling Lassie a person." And Lassie goes, "Woof!" And Timmy says, "Yea!"

This might bother some people, who take words and laws seriously. Because Lassie, in fact, is a dog. Not a person. On the other hand, I don't think you are going to have hundreds of thousands of protestors outside your office complaining every January 22nd because you classified Lassie as a person.

It's when you narrow the class, that's when you might be in trouble. When you start defining Filipinos as dogs, that's when people start getting angry. When you start injecting poison into people's necks and rip their bodies into pieces. Giving Lassie temporary humanity, maybe not kosher but we'll let it slide. Classifying human beings as legal objects, might be a problem. Just giving you a little heads up, Supreme Court. You might want to be careful on your non-person classifications.

I know this is Monday morning quarterbacking. Hey, I was six years old in 1973. On the other hand, I did know what a person was. Could have straightened that out for you, Harry.

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