Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supremely Naïve

Lost in all the supreme court whoopla about today’s universal health law ruling was the overturning of the stolen valor act.  Unlike anything else coming from Washington, this has nothing to do with partisan animus.  The highest (pun intended - sorry, couldn’t help it) court in the land stuck down a law that made it an offence to steal valor by falsely claiming that you earned some military award.  The court said, you can lie about military service, and your free speech is safely protected.  Coupled with another recent ruling, Snyder v. Phelps, in which the court let it be known that it’s ok to brutalize a mourning family of fallen military member, today the court said it’s ok to steal what doesn’t belong someone.  Like much every issue surrounding the great seats of power in the U.S., everything seems to be framed as a partisan Republican/Democrat political fight.   Yet both of these rulings were nearly unanimous, irrespective of political ideology. 

Both rulings, the rescission of the stolen valor act and Snyder v Phelps baffled me, since they run counter to even the most basic logical sense.  As Mr. Snyder so lucidly stated, "…eight justices don't have the common sense God gave a goat."  I have to agree.  Both rulings hurt those who carry battle scars and burdens of decade-old wars – in order to preserve 1st amendment rights of the public.  But just as perplexing, why does “the public” have to insert it self into the personal business of the military members at all – particularly when 99% elude actual military service?  How often does the public find the need to intrude into the personal lives of military members and families?  A lot, apparently.  Over 600 military funerals have been protested in the past 10 years.  And does the public need to frequently exercise its “free speech” by stealing military awards?  It appears so.  From today’s ruling:

Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act in response to a proliferation of false claims concerning the receipt of military awards. For example, in a single year, more than 600 Virginia residents falsely claimed to have won the Medal of Honor. An investigation of the 333 people listed in the online edition of Who’s Who as having received a top military award revealed that fully a third of the claims could not be substantiated. When the Library of Congress compiled oral histories for its Veterans History Project, 24 of the 49 individuals who identified themselves as Medal of Honor recipients had not actually received that award. The same was true of 32 individuals who claimed to have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and 14 who claimed to have won the Navy Cross.

Most puzzling is the common argument used by the prevailing justices, nearly unanimously, which naively assumes that the common decency among our greater society will somehow correct the pain these rulings cause – and that some overwhelming “counter speech” will drown out the haters and the fakers.  How naïve and disconnected from our current society must a supreme court justice be to even offer that as a remedy to their flawed opinions? Note to the supreme court: common decency required for “counter speech” is NOT a prevailing trend in our society.  Maybe you judges are from another era or you are pretending that we live in 1950’s family hour TV show.   Either way you are either naïve, out-of-touch with the real world or simply insane masters of our asylum.