It's haunting that at the same moment Americans celebrated the 234th birthday of those immortal words that all men are endowed with unalienable, natural, God-given rights, President Barack Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejecting any notion of their existence.
In what has to be one of the most frightening examples of the intellectually bankrupt and morally debilitating effects that modern leftism has on the human mind, Solicitor General Elena Kagan pretended that the principles set forth in America's founding document - the Declaration of Independence - have no impact on the decisions, opinions and philosophies of a good justice. Her exchange with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn should, if we have any common sense left as a people, utterly disqualify her from service and call into serious question the judgment of a president who would appoint someone so backwards to the Court.
What made the Declaration of Independence so remarkable, and subsequently made the U.S. so exceptional, was its awareness and articulation of the fact that there exists beyond the laws of man a natural law. Call it a moral law, absolute truth, or the law of God...it all means the same thing: that there are certain rights and privileges afforded to humanity not by any government. But rather, man (even the lowliest among us) is endowed with those rights by a transcendent authority that exists above and beyond all earthly power.
This was the fundamental basis for the American revolution, after all. The Founders firmly expressed their belief in this law of God and condemned the King for violating it. In other words, though the King was their earthly superior, he was still accountable to a higher authority and the natural law that authority had established.
Amazingly, these concrete foundations of American thought appear completely lost on Elena Kagan.
Responding to Coburn's initial question on the subject, Kagan responded by saying, "To be honest with you, I don't have a view of what are natural rights independent of the Constitution."
Undoubtedly taken aback by the idiocy of such an answer, Coburn pressed her further. "So, you wouldn't embrace what the Declaration says, that we have certain God-given rights.and that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" he asked. Kagan's pitiful response was appalling: my job as a justice is to enforce the Constitution and the laws...you should not want me to act outside [that] basis...I think you should ask me to act on the basis of law, which is the Constitution and the statutes of the United States."
Our Founders understood that whether or not the King and Parliament had laws that allowed them to "plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns and destroy the lives of our people," those actions violated a law of God that superseded the King's authority.
And throughout American history, we've continued clinging to that belief. Abraham Lincoln understood that whether or not the Constitution and the statutes of the United States allowed the legal enslavement of blacks, those actions violated a law of God that superseded the Constitution.
Submission and accountability to natural law is what has set the United States apart and led to our prosperity for over 200 years. To put it bluntly, we are in grave danger as a people if this leftist philosophy Kagan espouses - that there is no higher authority than the laws of man - becomes dominant.
And it's not just me that thinks so. Engraved on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. is the now frighteningly prophetic warning Thomas Jefferson gave to our country: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty...And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?"
They cannot be thought secure because they aren't. Once man abandons any notion of a higher authority to which he is held accountable for all his actions (individually or collectively, even in positions of earthly power), freedom and liberty devolve into chaos and destruction.
Our Founders clearly understood this. Elena Kagan and the left clearly do not.