‘Enlightened’ Transcends Left, Right

In Mr. James Button’s letter on July 24, he suggests some parts of my commentary on July 1 were “leftist.” I suppose “leftist,” like “beauty,” is in the “eye of the beholder.” I also suppose that anyone who disagrees with Mr. Button’s selectively myopic view of equality must, in his eyes, be a “leftist.”

Nevertheless, when I read the U.S. Constitution, I do not see it in the left versus right paradigm that engulfs and envelops so many in today’s political discourse. Rather, I see it as a work of late-18th century and mid-19th century enlightenment.

When the Fifth Amendment proclaims, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law,” I take that as an American value, not leftist or rightist, and that it actually ought to protect all persons. When the 14th Amendment declares, no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” I take that as an enlightened statement of fundamental American, and human, rights and that it ought to actually apply to all persons.

Mr. Button, if, in your eyes, actual fidelity to the primacy of the rights enshrined in the Constitution makes one a “leftist,” I am proud to be added to and stand on the shoulders of such “leftists” as James Madison, Ben Franklin, the father of the Constitution and signatory of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Rep. John Bingham of Ohio, the author in the House of the 14th Amendment, and Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan, the Senate sponsor of the 14th Amendment.

To be clear, I am not equating myself with these luminaries, but I do have enough smarts to align myself with their enlightened principles.

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