Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Draconian? Really?

Only in the mainstream media can this sort of paragraph, found in this morning’s USA Today editorial, be considered reasonable:

Don't get us wrong: The Arizona law — which requires local police, in the course of a lawful stop, to question the legal status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being in this country illegally — is draconian and, as the lawsuit argues, potentially an unconstitutional infringement on federal powers.

Draconian? I would assume that somewhere in USA Today’s offices they have a dictionary (maybe not). Here is the definition of draconian.

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of Draco or the severe code of laws held to have been framed by him
2 : cruel; also : severe

Given that Draco, the individual from ancient Greece referenced in the first definition, was infamous for severe laws that often put people to death for minor infractions, I assume that is not what USA Today meant. So I guess that they mean that Arizona’s law is severe and cruel. Really?

So asking people during the course of a traffic stop, for example, for proof that they are a citizen is “draconian”? I wonder if anyone on the editorial board of USA Today took a second to ask “Is this law even unreasonable, much less draconian?”. I am assuming not. When the media insists on using over the top rhetoric like draconian to describe a pretty mild law, it cheapens the word and makes a mockery of actual draconian laws that exist around the world. When people describe Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant or George W. Bush as a fascist, it exposes their inability to formulate a coherent argument which results in using overheated rhetoric in place of reason.

Let’s look at the way a traffic stop might go in Arizona. A police officer in Arizona pulls someone over for a traffic violation. They first thing they ask for is…drivers license and registration. If you produce these legally required documents, documents I always have with me, I am issued a ticket and go on my way. I am clearly a citizen of this country because I have a government issued ID. On the other hand, someone who refuses or is unable to produce such an ID (which is required for all sorts of stuff and rightly so) does and should raise suspicion. Keep in mind of course that being in the United States illegally is…..illegal. That is why they are called “illegal immigrants”. Since the Federal government has essentially abdicated its responsibility to control our borders, Arizona has taken matters into its own hands and done so in a way that is little different from states having their own drivers license laws.

Thankfully the Federal government is about to spend untold millions to engage in some political grandstanding that has no chance to succeed in overturning Arizona’s law. Perhaps we could try to secure the border, impose severe penalties on employers who hire illegal workers. That might make some actual sense so it probably won’t happen.
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