Our American way of life survived wars, including two worldwide affairs and a particularly bloody internal one. It survived the Great Depression, recessions and attempts at repression. Joe McCarthy comes to mind. So do the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Our American way of life survived protests, both peaceful and riotous, political assassinations and attempted political assassinations. It survived political scandals from Teapot Dome to Watergate to Bill Clinton's sexual antics in the Oval Office.
Our American way of life survived bigotry most overt — Jim Crow, the Ku Klux Klan and Japanese internment camps. It continues to survive overt bigotry in Arizona today and bigotry that tries to be covert — Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their fellow talking heads of the airwaves.
And our American way of life will survive the threat of international terrorism if we don't wave the white flag of surrender by continuing to erode our basic rights in the name of public safety — which is what President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, reacting to intense criticism from the right, propose to do.
You see, when you dig way down to the bedrock foundation of our American way of life, you find there the "unalienable rights" of human beings our founding fathers recognized, fought for and won against the incredible odds of taking on the world superpower of their day and bringing it to its knees in surrender.
But "unalienable" is a somewhat vague term. And even "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" lack a bit of specificity. So, before they agreed to form a more perfect union by ratifying the Constitution, some of our rebellious ancestors extracted the promise that it would be amended to enumerate several of these rights.
One protects us against being compelled to be a witness against ourselves in any criminal case. In due course, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that suspects must be advised of this right, and their right to be represented by an attorney, when they are arrested.
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