Comments based on a reading of Perilous Times by Geoffrey R. Stone
In the 1960s the Vietnam War would again test the first amendment. The government sought to fight a war without a declaration and sought to pay for it without direct appropriations. Civil unrest, which was fiercely opposed by the government, ultimately brought a succession of cases to the Supreme Court that it used to confirm the primacy of the first amendment and the rights of individuals to hold different views and not be prosecuted or persecuted for them. In this way, the Supreme Court, which had failed miserably to uphold the first amendment rights of individuals during the McCarthy era, reasserted its constitutional right and obligation to uphold the law and to mold it in changing times.
Where does this leave us today? The world is much changed since the American flag came down in Saigon on April 30th, 1975. Today we have a determined President, who seeks, in the name of Iraqi liberation, to bring (or impose) his vision of freedom to the rest of the world. He was either mistaken or misleading in his explanation of weapons of mass destruction to justify his invasion, and he now seems willing to enlarge a war that may already be lost by sending more troops and even suggesting that an attack on Iran is not off the table. He seeks to bring the American democratic model to a people who have shown little interest in it. Democracy is a stage and there is no shortcutting the internal evolutionary process that makes democracy inevitable when the time is come but impossible if it has not. Today, in America, first amendment rights are holding and later this year protests to end this war may begin in earnest. Then, as has happened so many times before, will government push to suppress the right of protest?
Develop your own views by reading this very compelling history.
By Geoffrey R. Stone
W.W. Norton Company
730 pages including extensive footnotes
$23.80 on Amazon and available at bookstores everywhere