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Who’s Miranda and why does she need a warning?

May 5, 2010

Rule One: There are two things you never talk about at a bar – religion and politics. Right? Well, I used to think so, but I’m changing my mind.

I stopped in at the grill yesterday after a fruitless afternoon of job-prospecting to hang out for a bit and enjoy a cold beer. They have five or six big screen TV’s over the bar tuned to different channels for the sports crowd, but there were no games on right then. Instead, we were treated to three or four channels of afternoon news and business reports. In the space of about 5 minutes, we were treated to three different U.S. congressional figures each decrying the fact that the F.B.I. agents who arrested Faisal Shahzad in New York had taken the time to read him his rights. Immediately after that a fourth appeared proposing that Congress amend some “old law” to provide that U.S. citizenship be stripped (without charges or a hearing) from any American citizen who had “associated” with known terrorists. That way, he proclaimed, the reading of rights to a suspected terrorist would be unnecessary.

O.K., that did it, “How the hell did those people get elected?” I blurted out.

“Why would you say something like that?” said a lady with a pert summer dress.

Realizing my transgression, I replied, “Sorry, it’s just that I can’t believe a U.S. Senator would talk like that. He should know better.”

She smiled. “That’s alright, these are hard times and they call for hard measures. These people are threatening our way of life. They’re taking advantage of the Constitution. They want to destroy our country.”

Pausing briefly to process that bit of information, I decided to press on, “Yeah, but what about the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision?”

“Oh, that was a mistake,” she quipped. “As a citizen she should have known her rights. Besides, it was just a court decision. Congress should change that with a new law.”

“Hey,” I said, “can I buy you another pino grigio while we talk about this?”

“Sure,” she said. “Thanks.”

I spoke softly: she sipped in silence.

After explaining that while Miranda was guy (an accused rapist and kidnapper), his citizenship (he was born in Arizona) wasn’t an issue. The Supreme Court’s ruling had to do with the fundamental rights that the Constitution ensures to all people within the jurisdiction of U.S. law regardless of whether they’re citizens of this country or any other. I also pointed out that the Miranda decision isn’t about letting bad guys go free, it’s about what statements a bad guy may tell the authorities that can be used to convict them.

“You see, it’s not a rule designed to protect criminals, it’s designed to protect everybody from abusive law enforcement … to be certain that they know what their rights are in this country whether they’re citizens or not.”

“Are you a lawyer or something?” she asked with a look of puzzlement and disdain.

“Well, yeah,” I said with a bit of concern,  “but I’m not a criminal lawyer. I just love the Constitution.”

She took another sip of wine. “Me, too,” she smiled with a look of relief. “So, you mean that taking away their citizenship doesn’t matter?”

“Not as far as Miranda is concerned. ‘Equal Protection’ means that every individual is treated equally under our laws, not just some people,” I said, add a smiling.

Her face lit up, “I never heard it put that way. Thanks, I’ll think about it. You certainly are the devil’s advocate, aren’t you?”

Not wanting to press my luck, I finished my beer, shook her hand, and said, “I never talk about religion in bars. Have a great afternoon.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 8, 2010 9:45 am

    Thought provoking and inspiring. Wonderful how the lady listened, really listened to you and a conversation, a sharing of ideas came about.

    What would life be like if we stopped to sip the wine and really listen to what the other person is saying?

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