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Here are Graeme's comments about Charlton Heston's speech to the Harvard Law School Forum, February 16, 1999


Charles Heston failed to make the case that the moral decline or increased "political correctness" of our society threatens any of our Constitutional rights.


It's a powerful speech, but it's full of cheap shots.  Comparing any minority to Jews who were killed during World War II diminishes the atrocity while at the same time exaggerates the crime against that minority (the latter, of course, is why people make that comparison so often). How can Charlton Heston do that and still feel he's on the right, er, correct side of the issue? "Americans know something without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and right from wrong. And they don't like it." That's right, Chuck, the rules are changing to protect new minorities, and members of the majority (including denture-wearing gun totin' geezers like you) don't like it.

Whenever there is a conflict between the rights of a minority against the "tyranny of the majority", rules must be made to protect those rights. Our country is founded on that ideal. Heston cites twelve examples of such rules, some formal, others informal. In every case, the rule covers situations or has side-effects that go too far, in the view of Mr. Heston. To highlight his opinion, he cites some glaring examples of the misapplication of such rules. These are "slippery slope" cases, which provide a cheap way to attack rules of any kind. ("But officer, I wasn't parked, I was just driving verrry slooowly!") For every David Howard who uses a word that pushes people's buttons (however technically correct and non-racist the word may be) there are thousands of people who really do use offensive racist language. Whenever attempts are made to draw lines around proper conduct there are people at the edges of good conduct who are falsely accused of breaking the rules. Official reaction to these cases is to "fix" the rules. Example: the rules requiring permission for each stage of courtship.

Mixed together with the twelve examples of rules made to protect minorities are two examples -- true or not, I don't know -- of cases where improper actions were taken for monetary gain: second amendment scholars are made to keep quiet and racist and inflammatory speech is published by Time/Warner. By mixing these two examples with the minority-protecting rules, he seeks to imply rules that protect minorities somehow infringe our right to bear arms. He didn't make that case.

He comes close to making a glimmer of an argument that our right to bear arms is infringed when the little old lady is sued by her mugger for harm to the mugger inflicted during the mugging. But he loses what little steam he mustered when he fails to follow the chain of the argument to its conclusion, which would go like this: Our right of access to the courts runs counter to our right of "do it yourself" justice as construed by some who read the Second Amendment. Once again, for whatever reason -- maybe he was afraid he'd lose his footing on that slippery slope -- he didn't make the case.


FYI, the twelve rules Charlton Heston doesn't like, along with my probable reason for each rule, are printed below.  This is not a defense of the rules; rather, an explanation of why these rules were probably made.  In some cases, the explanation is admittedly weak.  My point in clarifying them is simply to show that when you unwrap the rhetoric from around them, the rules don't signal the decline of society, and also that not one of these rules was made in order to infringe (or even has the effect of infringing) our Second Amendment rights!

  1. Don't say white pride is as valid as black pride. This rule protects the rights of the minority, blacks, against the majority of whites who might use "white pride" as a cover for bigotry.
  2. Don't advocates limiting the rights of homosexuals. This rule protects the rights of the minority, homosexuals, against the majority of heterosexuals.
  3. A man must obtain permission for each step of courtship. This rule protects the rights of the minority, women, against the majority of men. On the surface, it is designed to reduce the occurrence of "date-rape", but the real reason for the rule is to reduce the number of lawsuits filed against the college by students who were date-raped.
  4. HIV-positive health providers may keep secret their infection. This rule protects the rights of the minority, AIDS sufferers, against the majority who would make their already miserable life impossible without this rule.
  5. Sports teams may not be given American Indian names. This rule protects the rights of the minority, American Indians, against the majority, even if some of the Indians like the names of the sports teams.
  6. Rules made to protect transvestites. These rules protect the rights of this minority against the majority.
  7. Rules made to protect transsexuals. These rules protect the rights of this minority against the majority.
  8. Spanish speaking people must be given grade-school education in Spanish. This rule protects the minority, Spanish-speaking students, against the majority. Non-Spanish speaking people were accidentally put in Spanish classes when trying to implement the rule.
  9. Members of a majority group may not use racist language. This rule protects the minority, blacks, from the majority who might use racist words. David Howard used words that are technically not racist, although few people knew that, so he was accidentally made to resign because of that rule.
  10. Rules are made to protect various minorities from professors, who aren't allowed to say exactly what they think. This rule, vaguely though it may be stated, protects the various minorities.
  11. Victims of assault are allowed to sue their attackers. This rule protects the right of all minorities who might be the victim of assault even if the alleged victim is himself a criminal.
  12. Students are prohibited from making certain types of contact, such as kissing, with one another on school grounds during school hours. This rule protects the rights of the minority, victims of sexual harassment.  The rule applies even to 8-year-olds.   Why wait until the kid is nine to start teaching him proper conduct?

Keep the cards and letters coming!

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