By MichaelaTuesday, February 28th, 2006
Yesterday, as the college tour brought us to Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to visit some of the local “tourist sites.” These sites are completely different than, say Graumann’s Chinese Theatre or Disney World; these places recall real-life inspiring stories in our own not-to-distant history. We went to Independence Hall, which I had simply wandered into once a few years ago when in town on business, and which now requires a security screening process that makes a trip through the airport look like a cakewalk. Later, leaving Mary and the girls to their favorite pastime — shopping — I went to the Constitution Center, a Smithsonian-quality showcase of the founding document of our nation. I am a history buff so this was all just my sort of thing, yet there was something troubling in the glorious recounting the basic tenets of our social contract.
When the bright and articulate U.S. Park Ranger who gave the Independence Hall tour listed some of the groundbreaking elements of our new constitution and Bill of Rights — the right to a speedy trial, to face your accusers, to a lawyer, to not be held without trial, to avoid cruel and unusual punishment — I experienced both an incredible pride and genuine wonder at what the framers devised in the 18th century, and a corresponding horror at what our current government has forgotten. Later, I complimented the young ranger/tour guide on an outstanding presentation, and asked her how she could describe to us all those “inalienable rights” knowing that our government now feels it can ignore them at its own whim — imprison both citizens and aliens without charges, for indefinite periods of time, with limited or no access to an attorney, torture them, and quite possibly even kill them. Her response surprised me. She said that she hoped, by reminding people of the essential truths of the founding documents, they might begin to question their government, which is the most essential right of all.
Here’s to the U.S. Park Service!