Geoff's Quotable Quotes:

Liberty, and Law

Pride in being Americans

"What makes the United States special is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and ideals even when it's hard -- not just when it's easy. That's why we can take such extraordinary pride in being Americans."

--Barrack Obama

Not just when it is easy, but when it is hard

"I am acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand."

-- Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, United States District Court

It is, I am afraid, easy to voice such ideals, but very difficult to live up to it. I pray that we do the best we can.

Liberty and Security

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

-- Benjamin Franklin (1759)

Burning Books

"Whenever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings."

--Heinrich Heine

Freedom of Speech

"...the only safegard on this extraordinary government power is the public, deputizing the press as the guardians of their liberty.

"...The executive branch seeks to uproot people's lives, outside the public eye and behind closed doors. Democracies die behind closed doors. The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people's right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately in deportment hearings. When the government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.

"The framers of the First Amendment "did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us." They protected the people against secret government."

--Judge Damon J. Keith

(from the text of a decision by the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a Justice Department policy to hold closed hearings on deportation, with "no visitors, no family, no press, and no confirming or denying whether such a case is on the docket.")

Every Law in England

From Robert Bolt's play "A Man for All Seasons", in which Thomas More talks with his ambitious underling, William Roper:

Roper: "So now you'd give the devil the benefit of law?"

More: "Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?"

Roper: "I'd cut down every law in England to do that."

More: "Oh, and when the last law was down, and the devil turned on you, where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man's laws not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?

"Yes, I'd give the devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety's sake."

-Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

See also the 1966 movie version.

The whole exchange, comparing man's law with God's law, also seems to be relevant to recent politics.

More is definitely the hero in Bolt's play, but was rather less than an admirable person in real-world history. For more on More, try, for example, God's Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible--a story of martyrdom and betrayal by Brian Moynahan.

page by Geoffrey A. Landis, 2005, 2011.