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Monday, February 18, 2013

Yelling "Theater" In A Crowded Fire

Since I am one to cite Holmes' relevant opinion, here's an interesting historical note:

Why...might Holmes have remembered and reached back to an incident from the nation’s bitter labor history to describe an equally bitter conflict over war and peace?

Perhaps it is because there is an intimate connection between public safety and private authority. A safe and secure nation, many believe, is publicly united—and privately obedient. Workers submit to employers, wives to husbands, slaves to masters, the powerless to the powerful. A safe and secure nation is built on these ladders of obedience, in its families, factories, and fields. Shake those ladders and you threaten the nation. Stop people from shaking them and you protect it.
“Men feared witches and burned women,” wrote Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California. That’s true, but men also feared women and burned witches. It is that traffic—between the uppity and the unsafe, the insurgent and the insecure, the immoral and the dangerous—and the alchemy by which a challenge to a particular social order becomes a general threat to the whole, that is the real story of how a fire in a theater, which may or may not have happened in the way various men and women think it happened, became a national obsession and an emblem of our constitutional faith.

As the kids say, read the whole thing...


February 18, 2013 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink


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