A Few Important Distinctions Regarding the Current Constitutional Crisis
Derek Cabrera, PhD
Derek Cabrera (PhD, Cornell) is an internationally known systems scientist and serves on the faculty of Cornell University where he teaches systems thinking, systems leadership, and systems mapping and is Program Director for the Graduate Certification Program in Systems Thinking, Modeling, and Leadership (STML). He is a senior scientist at Cabrera Research Lab. He’s authored 8 books including, Systems Thinking Made Simple and Flock Not Clock.
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In this polarized landscape, unfortunately people focus less on what is being said than on who is saying it.
Before you write me off as a pinko commie democrat, a RINO, a never-Trumper, or a fascist, a socialist, or whatever ad hominem attack you can think of...I am an independent, which means that I reserve the right to think beyond the boundaries of any party platform. I am also a staunch believer in societies that benefit its members with reasonable safety nets in place. I believe that anyone willing to work should be able to sustain a decent living. I believe that there is systemic racism. But, I don’t see every issue as an identity issue. I support our troops and our law-abiding and Constitution-upholding police officers. I am against cancel culture. And, I am a staunch advocate of the 2nd Amendment (as well as the other amendments), and the Constitution as a whole.
In other words, I’m a free thinking, independent American. I put country before party because I don’t belong to a party. And, I think our Constitution is a remarkable document full of powerful ideas that, we as citizens, take an oath to... that oath is not to a President or party.
That said, I’d like to make a few distinctions.
Freedom of speech. What is it and what is it not?
Figure 1: The text of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
If I walk into a bar and start saying offensive things to patrons and the bouncer throws me out, that’s not a violation of my right to free speech because it is a private establishment. They can refuse service to me for any number of reasons.
If I do the same thing on the public sidewalk, I am protected by my rights to free speech. However, if passersby yell obscenities at me from their cars that isn’t a violation of my free speech. That’s feedback, and the exercise of their rights to free speech.
Also, my private employer doesn’t need to guarantee my right to free speech. They can fire me for saying things that violate their internal policies.
Facebook and Twitter are private companies. They are allowed to cancel your account if you violate what their policies state. That’s not a violation of the First Amendment.
More distinctions that matter. Protesting. Rioting. Sedition.
To protest is patriotic. You should be allowed to protest for a variety of reasons. Regardless of your political leaning or the groups you affiliate with, you have the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” I believe we should protect the right of people to say things that make us angry and that we disagree with vehemently.
On the other hand, rioting is criminal. You should be arrested. You don’t have a right to hurt people or break stuff. I don't care who you are or what you're about, rioting is not the same as protesting. Protesting = good. Rioting = bad.
Protesting and rioting are not the same as, and far less serious than, sedition, treason, and insurrection. You don’t have the right to be seditious, treasonous, or to start an insurrection against your government. You can and should be arrested if you choose to do so.
January 6th is a day and time and task (one of few) that is literally mandated in our Constitution. It is a day where Congress acknowledges receipt of the electoral college votes and confirms the new president. It lies at the core of the transfer of power and of our democratic republic. To physically and violently try to stop it from occurring is not protesting nor is it rioting, it is sedition and an attempted coup.
Also, just because you rabidly believe something far fetched that has no basis in fact, does not excuse an act of sedition. It just makes you a misinformed traitor.
Also...people who lead a coup and inspire others toward insurrection are even bigger traitors than those who followed.
No one is above the law. What follows is an absurdity of logic.
SURE, he failed his oath, committed sedition, treason, and incited a failed coup BUT...
- He doesn't have much time left so no need to hold him accountable.
- He probably won't do it again in the next few days so no need to hold him accountable.
- It's not good for our country unity to hold him accountable right now.
- People are going to be upset and might even get violent if we hold him accountable.
These false-choice issues all mean one thing: he's above the law. There is no reason for someone who breaks the law to be placed above the law.
We are a country based on the rule of law. The country does need unity. But the way to unify is to give both sides what they need. One side needs facts and the other needs justice. We do need unity and we do need healing. But that doesn't mean ignoring what has happened. The election was legitimate. One side had over two months to redress their grievance in the courts. Every single court said it was a fair election. You have a right to your opinion, but not to your facts. Those who whipped up and fomented millions of people to be angry and start destroying things should be held as accountable as those who did the destroying. So,
- 25th OR impeachment and conviction for President for inciting failed coup.
- Expulsion for 8 senators and 140 reps who did not follow their constitutional oath and supported failed coup.
- Jail for all participants in traitorous failed coup.