Representing the Wretched

I’ve written about representing the guilty. Now, via Defending People and from Preaching to the Choir, I’ve come across a wonderful treatment of representing the wretched:

So I was perusing an internet comment board this afternoon. (I know, I know. Stay away, those internet message boards are filled with crazies. Nothing good comes from reading, etc. I know. Meryl’s staging an intervention, but in the meantime, I learn interesting things about the general populace.)

Anyway, I found this comment on an article about a capital murder case:

The Constitution does a lot to protect fools, the undeserving, and pieces of human trash.

Reading that made me grin. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. And I said with pride, “Hell, yeah, it does!”

I’m willing to wager that’s not the reaction the writer was expecting. Based on context, I’m fairly confident the writer wrote those words with a rueful shake of the head and a sense of outrage that the Constitution does protect those folks. I suspect the writer would think it not such a bad thing if we added an asterisk to the Bill of Rights indicating these rights do not apply to fools, the undeserving, and pieces of human trash.

But, me, I think it’s awesome. (Yes, I’m a lawyer with an extensive vocabulary and that is the word I choose.) It’s easy to respect the rights of the pretty people, the popular ones, the charming folk, the nice guys. No one’s going to run roughshod over Mr. Rogers’ rights. We probably don’t need a Constitution to protect the Prom Queen. It’s the assholes we need to write the rules for. It’s harder to treat them well, to be fair to them, to refrain from punching them. So 200-some years ago, we wrote a contract with ourselves to make sure we would always respect the rights of the worst among us.

It’s easy to treat the good people well. But the true measure of our character is how we treat the bad ones. We choose to treat them fairly and with respect. And I think it’s awesome.

Here’s that link again from Preaching to the Choir, in case you think this is as “awesome” as I do.

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