Following are my comments delivered to an audience of criminal-defense lawyers, juvenile probation officials, two prosecutors and one judge on the occasion of the hanging of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence in the foyer of the Harris County Juvenile Justice Center:
“Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the residents thereof.” That’s the inscription from Leviticus on the bell that hung in the State House in Philadelphia: the Liberty Bell.
The Preamble to the Constitution, signed there in Philadelphia, talks of securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Not “safety”, but liberty.
Our founders were remarkable for their zeal for liberty. Instead of building palaces or monuments of stone and brick, they enshrined liberty in words, culminating in these three simple documents.
There’s no mention in these documents of docket management. The words “tough on crime” nowhere appear. Yet modern public discourse is filled with such language. This is the language of fear. We face difficult times. In difficult times, people cling to stability, to safety, and to nationalism. Freedom can fall by the wayside.
There are those — men and women of good intent — who would, in the name of safety, restrict the freedoms enshrined in these documents; who would, by cutting off their oxygen, kill them.
Once liberty is lost, only a revolution can restore it. Only a revolution ever has.
Before we reach that point, someone must proclaim liberty throughout the land.
It falls to us to do so.