The Absolute Perils of Absolutism

© 2014 Hart Williams

Hope fades


The Supreme Court Just Made It Harder For Women To Exercise Their Right To Choose

The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts’ abortion buffer zone law on Thursday, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay 35 feet away from clinic entrances …

I will not attempt to second-guess so many first rate minds, except to say that I learned that I was wrong, once.

THAT got your attention, eh?

I did not speak yesterday, because I was steeling myself against the latest round of legal abominations from the Alter Boys.

Today, one shoe (of many, depending on which of the Cthulhu you envision the Supes as) surely dropped, using the First Amendment to undermine Roe v. Wade, as the Supes have come to understand that benign neglect can kill just as easily as active knife-wielding.

You see, when I was a kid, fresh out of university, my brain freshly rinsed at the  John Stuart Mill, full of Thoreau and Horace Greeley and Jeffersonian idealism, I was pretty much a First Amendment Absolutist.

That was the reason that I took the job at HUSTLER, in the end, and found that the staff up there on the 38th floor of Century Park Towers East — and found the former Los Angeles Free Press staff, who had been cannibalized after Larry got shot and they were forced to shut down the newly-purchased LA Free Press, who were as bewildered about it as I.  And, as The People v. Larry Flynt showed, it really WAS the front lines of the First Amendment.

But time passes and one notes that there ARE no absolutes in this life, no matter what the Bill of Rights solemnly intones.

There are obviously times (e.g. time of war) in which the needs of the many trump the absolute right of the one. One cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, Oliver Wendell Holmes famously observed.

In this case, we must turn to Abraham Lincoln’s understanding: the Declaration is the fundamental founding document.

The Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution and then its amendments are merely contracts to enact that fundamental charter.

Now, look at the “absolute” rights here: the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


A woman’s right to life, and her right to be safe during a potentially dangerous (as are ALL medical procedures) absolutely trumps over the absolute notion of Free Speech.

This is EXACTLY the same absolutist nonsense that produced Bush v. Gore (in which the fundamental notion that ALL voters had a right to vote and for their votes to be counted was trumped by some “equal” something bullshit), and their “gun rights” notion (that the Second Amendment was absolute, and, therefore handgun proscriptions in Washington D.C. et cetera vanished) which has produced imbeciles carrying battlefield weapons (AR-15s) into Home Depots — again, the “Constitution” trumping the Three Laws of American Robotics:

Life: because without life, the second two are moot.

Liberty: because without liberty, number three becomes impossible, although sometimes, to preserve Laws 1 and 2, number three must be suspended,


The Pursuit of Happiness: because life and liberty are merely means to this end. The individual is left to determine what “happiness” is — although the history of American Censorship seems to indicate that sexual happiness is generally frowned on by people in authority ….

Again: the Supreme Court are absolutists. And these ‘absolutes’ lead to the dangerous formulations of Citizens United, in which, speech = money, and therefore political money = political speech. Oh, and corporations are persons, therefore, corporations may spend UNLIMITED amounts of money to influence elections.

Or, that the Fred Phelps church can picket the funerals of dead American soldiers with homophobic hate speech because the right to free speech is absolute.

The right to Life and to honorably commemorate the END of life trumps, I believe the absolute right of Free Speech. But the Supes are mesmerized by absolutism as expressed on old parchment.

I have learned, over long time and much censorship against me, that it is not.

The Supreme Court has not.

They are as clueless and starry-eyed about the First Amendment (and the Second, but not, oddly, the Fourth, Fifth or the Fourteenth, except to select [P]residents) as was I when I landed in Hollywood still a year from legally being able to go to a bar — which I’d been doing for two years prior, since majority in Texas was 18, while California was 21:  A Supreme Court sort of legal Mobius Strip.

I believe the “unanimous” decision comes of a slow blinding of the so-called “liberal” justices to that fact. So, the Supreme Court and I, you might say, have been on opposite directions in the matter of Free Speech for my entire lifetime. Sometimes in the early Nineties, we passed each other.

In that absolutist mind-set lies the Supreme Court’s continuing inability to understand the forest for all the trees. And the lawful horrors of today, yesterday, and, alas, tomorrow, probably, whence the Supes will find that corporations are not only people with free speech rights, but also religious beliefs. What the hell. One impossible to touch entity ought to be able to believe in another, after all.

And, as someone who has stood guard in front of the only abortion clinic covering all of Southern Oregon, I do not envy what the volunteers in Massachusetts will now have to go through.



 Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.


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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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