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Jewish World Review June 3, 2003 / 3 Sivan, 5763

James Lileks

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The Constitution as gag order | Let us imagine that the United States proposed a constitution for Iraq that ceded sovereignty to American desires -- and that President Bush refused to let the Iraqis vote the issue up or down.

Oh, the lamentations that would pour forth from the editorial pages. Oh, the long bleak ululations from the international community. And rightly so; people deserve to have a voice in the shaping of their future, particularly if that future shoves a gag in their mouths.

So why shouldn't Britons have the same right?

Tony Blair wants Parliament to vote on adoption of the European Union Constitution. The people don't get to vote.

What do they know, anyway? Those beer-sodden proles, scrabbling in the crisps packet with their thick dirty fingers -- you're going to trust them to stop ogling bare-breasted tarts in the tabloid long enough to vote on England's future?

Yes. It's their country, after all. They ought to be consulted when it's handed away.

The EU Constitution incorporates the Charter of Fundmental Rights, a laundry list of goodness that should stand as a warning against convening a constitutional convention in the era of the busybody bureaucrat.

Oh, it's full of rights; that's the problem. The more specific the set of rights, the easier it is to deny all others, and infringe on the rights your Eurobetters kindly deign to grant. Let's examine a few of the ideas John Bull cannot be trusted to approve.

Article 22: "All cathedrals shall be replaced with mosques." Well, no, that's not exactly right. It says, "The Union shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity."

How then does one "respect" the beliefs of those who don't respect the beliefs of others? Why, the European way, of course. You make high-flown statements of noble ideals, then ignore the entire matter.

Article 23: "Equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work, and pay." ALL areas. Could they be any more vague?

No, but they can be remarkably specific. The article continues: "The principle of equality shall not prevent the maintenance or adoption of measures providing for specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex."

So equality must be ensured, except when it's not. In that tidy little notion rests the lifetime employment of 10,000 lawyers.

Article 24: "Children have the right to demand chocolate milk be poured on their cereal, and to request that the cereal be made entirely of glazed donuts and marshmallows, and to hold their breath and turn blue. (`Blue' shall be defined as any hue between light sky-blue and a deep Cerulean tint.)"

Well, again, not exactly. Article 24 concerns "The Rights of the Child," and states that kids "may express their views freely." So it's a deprivation of their constitutional rights to tell them to knock off the whining. The right to whine for candy bought with someone else's money -- can you get any more European than that?

Finally, take a look at Article 34: "Citizens shall be equal before the law irrespective of origin, social and property status, nationality or race, sex, education, language, attitude to religion."

Sounds great, eh? Too bad that's from the Soviet Constitution of 1977, one of the most useless and elephantine slabs of legalese ever birthed by human beings. It was a roadmap for Utopia. But of course the men behind the wheel had another destination in mind.

The Charter lists certain categories of rights -- and the order of these principles is telling. Solidarity comes before Justice. Dignity comes before Freedom. The prohibition of reproductive cloning comes a few articles before the "right to liberty."

And why not? Once you start giving too much weight to Freedom and Liberty at the expense of more important things, like Dignity and Solidarity, people might start to act in a fashion that undermines the power of the state. And we can't have that.

Literally: Article 54 prohibits doing anything that might be interpreted as "aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized in this Charter."

To put it in Dragnet terms: European citizens, you have the right to remain silent.

In fact, they prefer you that way.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks