1) Do you think that Martin Luther King Jr.’s demonstrations against the social norm were just and healthy for society in the United States? Do you think the Ferguson demonstrations are equally as just and healthy for the United States? If you answered yes, then please state the benefits of social dissent in the Ferguson demonstrations. If you answered no, then please explain why you think social dissent through the demonstrations in Ferguson are not healthy or just.
2)Do you think that American movie cinemas should have cancelled the movie based on threats from North Korea? Do you think the threats constitute attempted social control by North Korea? If you answered yes, then please state how it could be considered social control. If you answered no, then please state why it should not be considered social control.
3)Many times the law is responsible for social change and other times social change is responsible for changes in the law. Do you think constitutional interpretation to satisfy social change is the best approach or do you think the historical interpretation of the Constitution is better?
4)Do you think it is possible for an individual to defend their self in court? Do you think the legal profession attempts to exclude the average person from being able to defend their self in order to maintain control and power over the legal system? Considering that law schools have essentially become a three-year prep for the bar exam, do you think law schools have lost the power to decide their own curriculum.
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It is not possible to answer all of these questions sufficiently in the space we have here. Therefore, I will answer two of these in as much depth as I can.
I do believe that the protests led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others during the Civil Rights Movement were just and healthy for our society at least in the long run. I do not think that the protests in Ferguson were as just and I cannot yet tell if they will be healthy for our society in the long run.
In one sense, the protests in Ferguson were just in that they were meant to highlight a real problem that is pervasive and important in our society. The Civil Rights Movement protests were bringing attention to discrimination while the Ferguson protests were meant to force people to understand that issues of policing and race are important in our society today. Therefore, both protests were at least somewhat just in that they put a spotlight on important issues.
However, the Ferguson protests fall short in at least two ways. First, the just protests of the Civil Rights Movement were nonviolent. King did not lead protests that involved burning and looting. Such protests (like the Watts Riots) did exist in the ‘60s, but they were not part of King’s movement. The protests in Ferguson were not nonviolent and therefore could not be truly just. Secondly, the issue of police violence is not nearly as clear-cut as the issues of the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation and discrimination were clearly wrong and were clearly ill-intentioned by their very nature. By contrast, it is much harder to identify exactly when police actions are warranted and when they are excessive. It is also hard to identify laws that can be changed to prevent conflict between police and civilians. For these two reasons, I do not think the Ferguson protests were as just as the King protests.
As to their healthiness for the nation, only time will tell. At this point, it seems like these protests are simply widening the divide in our country and driving people further apart. However, it was probably possible to make this same argument about King’s protests in 1963 or 1964. We have to see what happens in the future before we can say whether the Ferguson protests will end up being good for the country.
I think that it is better to interpret the Constitution based on modern values, but I also believe that we must be careful not to overdo this. If we overdo this type of interpretation, the Constitution loses its meaning.
There are at least two reasons why we need to interpret the Constitution based on our current ideas. First, our current ideas are so different from those of the Founders that we could not possibly want to live by their understandings. To take just one example, the Founders were people who believed that it was not “cruel or unusual” to whip people who were found guilty of crimes or to make public spectacles of executing them. We have to interpret ideas like “cruel and unusual punishment” through our own eyes. Second, it is impossible to know in many (if not all) cases what the Framers would have intended. For example, it is impossible to know what the Framers would have thought about whether a cell phone can be searched without a warrant.
However, we have to be somewhat careful in changing our interpretation of the Constitution as we go along. Our Constitution is supposed to be a written law that guarantees us certain rights. If we make too many changes to its meaning as we go, we lose our ability to be certain as to what our rights are. The written guarantees lose their meaning if they can be changed on the whims of later generations.
Protests are essential to the core of free expression and rule of the people. I love the fact that there are many young citizens becoming socially active, especially after a very inactive period during the 80's and 90's. The Occupy Wall Street protests were a wonderful example of a social movement incorporating people of all ages. The Ferguson protests, while not perfect due to a lack of planning and violence, are a prime example of raw protest, and protest should be raw. Think "organic." While logic is necessary to a successful protest, passion is just as necessary. In addition, too much planning can ultimately diminish the emotional message that protests need, at least initially.
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