Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (l954) and Roe v. Wade (l973) were arguably the two most momentous decisions in Supreme Court history. If the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were direct products of the thinking of Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke. Then Roe v.Wade and Brown v. Board  (which turned over Plessy v Ferguson, the famed “separate but equal” decision of l896) were not only reflections of two great libertarian movements—civil and women’s rights—but also the culmination of an evolutionary process as manifested in jurisprudence. But these two decisions were not only milestones of political, economic and legal thinking. They define an era that began with The New Deal, the Camelot of the Kennedy White House with its resident intellectuals like Arthur Schlesinger, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the hope of the troubled Obama Years. When we think about the ideals that manifest themselves in the liberal wings of both the Democratic and Republic parties, Roe v Wade and Brown v. Board redefine the notion of Inalienable Rights. Freedom is the title of Jonathan Franzen’s bestselling novel and it would be hard to imagine this work of fiction and all the complexities of the world it describes without Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board whose outcomes were declarations of new freedoms. Yet Conservative thinkers who criticize these two decisions are probably right. Both Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education extended the notion of human liberty beyond the original intentions of the writers of the Constitution. "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties!" exclaims Hamlet. How will the verdicts  of our 21st Century Supreme Court define or redefine the Rights of Man?

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