Friday, May 20, 2016

State of Emergency

These temporary states of emergency are such a joke. Of course, France is under a threat of a possible terrorist attack in the future. It always has been and always will be. There's no real justification for "temporarily" suspending civil liberties because of some impending threat that is always impending. You might as well not ever give people the full range of rights, which means they are not really rights at all.

I'm really glad that the U.S. has no legal mechanism for that kind of state of emergency. Of course, we do have a de facto state of emergency system. After 9/11, the government effectively stopped honoring some civil liberties. It rounded up a lot of Arabs and Muslims with almost no basis, and the courts ended up giving the government a lot of leeway that it would not have gotten before 9/11. But I think it is better to not have a formal mechanism to suspend rights and this country benefits from the illusion that civil liberties apply even in times of crisis. We can all look back and condemn Japanese internment, even though I have little doubt this country would do it again under sufficiently similar circumstances. The condemnation itself strengthens our commitment to civil liberties in times that the nation is not under stress.