Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
United States Bill of Rights; 1st Amendment
There is a lot of talk about rights today. Talk about the right to work, the right to a fair wage, the right to privacy, the right to life, and on the list goes. Some of these rights are clearly articulated in our Constitution, others, you will notice, are not. In the aftermath of the attempted murder of AZ Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, news outlets have quickly moved from the human tragedy to the political impact. Specifically, the need for additional security for elected representatives has been pushed forward as a possible response to prevent tragedies like this from occurring again. There is no question the security needs of our politicians must be provided for, but punishing all Americans for the sins of one is a fundamental mistake.
A number of commentators immediately began discussing the need to separate our representatives from ordinary citizens, citing the Arizona shootings as evidence for a more separate (and thus safer) political class. It is hard to imagine the need to further disconnect federal politicians from average, ordinary Americans; safety concerns aside. When one reads the first amendment, it is clear there was intent on the part of the founders of this country to connect the citizens to their government - permanently. Town meetings like the one Rep. Giffords and others were attacked are a prime example of how a democracy should function; where the elected and the electorate meet to exchange ideas and strengthen those common bonds that bind us all as citizens.
Any such law that would create obstacles between the public and their representatives should not be embraced. As tragic as the events in Arizona have been, it would be short-sighted to re-order our political mores by eliminating the public square meetings that have forever been a part of the American tradition. Such events are a true and genuine tragedy, but are rare in American political life. The overwhelming majority of the public are dedicated to solving their disagreements through the ballot box - not with violence. While not the only method for petitioning their government for a redress of grievances, it is hard to imagine a more personal venue for citizens to interact with their government. It is often said that what you have is not appreciated until it is gone. Let us hope we do not lose this aspect of our political life and appreciate and protect what traditions and rights we do have.