A right to privacy - or just expectation of it?
Regarding your June 27 article "Big boost for privacy rights": The precedent set by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas is long overdue, and despite the hysterical cry of conservative judges and politicians such as Justice Scalia, it protects all of us, gay and straight alike. As Justice O'Connor pointed out, the law failed to offer homosexual couples the same rights and protection that it offered heterosexual couples. The most disturbing part of such cases is the physical intrusion into the bedroom. Privacy and individual rights are rapidly eroding in this country, especially in this post-9/11 age. We should fight hard to keep our individual rights and know that those rights, if exercised in right relation to the community, will make us a strong and durable country.
We should look to the issues that may be the cause of the high divorce rate and child abuse and try to ameliorate those, rather than scapegoat a whole group of citizens.
The Supreme Court's recent sodomy decision is fatally flawed on two counts. First, it relies on a so-called constitutional right to privacy. There is, however, no right to privacy explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. In fact, all we really have is an expectation of privacy that means little in practice. Such things as the sexual abuse of children, domestic cruelty, and heroin/cocaine use usually occur in private, but that doesn't and shouldn't stop us from making them illegal. Privacy per se is an extremely flimsy defense. (The fact that the court's Roe v. Wade decision also significantly relied on the privacy argument helps explain why that decision was and still is so controversial, and why it will probably be overturned someday.)
Second, the decision also relies on the seriously flawed "consenting adults" argument. But just because two consenting adults agree to do something doesn't make it right.
The court's decision is so weak that it's just a matter of time before wiser heads prevail and a future Supreme Court overturns this embarrassment.
Regarding your June 30 editorial "Politics at the Web-roots": If the Internet has become, as you suggest, mainly a fundraising vehicle for politicians and causes, that might be because it is so good at what you deem its strengths: being a forum "for ideas, debate, and decision." I voted in the MoveOn.org primary after thoughtfully considering the candidates' positions and going by hyperlinks to other comments, pro and con. The candor and diversity online constitute a refreshing change from the mainstream press, and I felt I had seldom been better informed when I made my decision. MoveOn's ability to raise millions in nickels and dimes says to Washington, "Clean up your act and pay attention to what you consider the unwashed public, because that public wants its country back."
Regarding your June 17 article "Bangladeshi clerics back family planners": Our success in lowering the population growth rate was achieved not simply by pushing population control, as your article seems to argue, but by a host of other changes, such as increases in female literacy and earning opportunities, which created a desire for smaller families and a demand for family-planning services. Bringing fertility down to replacement level now requires increased investment in girls' and women's education, health, and employment, and more concerted action to protect their human rights.
Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University
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