August 16, 2015

The Eighth Amendment---SCOTUS says: It Allows for Adaptation Based on "Evolving Standards of Decency''


By Larry Peterson

The Associated Press has reported that the Connecticut Supreme Court has decided the death penalty "no longer meets society's evolving standards of decency. My brain locked up as I found myself stuck on the word "decency". Decency, decency, decency---a smack in the head from my own hand jumped the needle to 'evolving standards'. Sorry, all the words together were "evolving standards of decency".

Smarty pants that I am I googled "evolving standards of decency". I expected a 'nothing available' response. Ta-da--not so.  A bunch of stuff popped up. It seems that the "evolving standards of decency" is part of the Eighth Amendment .  I had no idea. It seems that the Supreme Court had declared our Constitution  a "living" document in 1958.  That is when the Constitution became  subject to change as society developed further from whence it came. Oh me, oh my--egg was on my face.

If I was still back in 1965 I would not have paused for a moment giving those words a second thought. Back then, there existed an accepted 'mode of decency'. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Jim and Margaret Anderson did not even share a TV bed. They slept in twin beds. I'm not sure if Ozzie and Harriet ever allowed us into their bedroom. Men gave up their seats to women and held doors open for them. The words; "excuse me", "thank you", "may I", and "please" were used commonly. But that was 1965 and now it is 2015. What has fifty years of  "evolving standards of decency" in our civilized, sophisticated world, a world that includes such TV shows as "Naked & Afraid", brought us? Just think about it.

One thing I have never been able to wrap my head around is the right to "Freedom of Expression". If you want to burn and stomp on the American Flag go ahead, burn and stomp away. According to the SCOTUS,  that is a "right" under the Constitution. But show me where 'Freedom of Expression' is written into the U.S. Constiution? It is not in the Constitution. Freedom of Speech is. That means we are free to speak (you know, use words that come from our mouths as we so choose.) Back in the day, when "decency" was the norm, we did not use every conceivable expletive known to mankind in public, over the airwaves, and especially on the 'big screen' at will. We had this strange notion that we needed to set a good example for our children. We had a modicum of civility and respect toward each other, even when we were 'offended'.

Since the SCOTUS approved this concept of 'evolving standards of decency' it holds true that (IMHO), based on personal opinion and outside political pressure, The Constitution, a document written and designed to give rights to the people before any government, has been forever weakened and can never be the protective document it was meant to be. And  We, the People, did it to ourselves. How? We are the ones who vote and it all starts there.

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