At the Putney Public Library, ordinary citizens are deliberating matters normally relegated to the Supreme Court justices. In June, they tackled the monumental issue of free speech, considering the plusses and minuses of criminalizing hate speech and whether Charles Murray should have been invited to speak at Middlebury College. While the issues themselves were not settled, attendees found the experience of deliberation invigorating.
On Wednesday, July 26th at 7 PM the focus will be on the Second Amendment, an Amendment without much Supreme Court jurisprudence. As with the discussion on free speech, the focus will be on practicing deliberation, not necessarily determining an outcome. Arguments in favor of strong protections to bear Arms will be considered (most notably from Machiavelli and the Black Panthers) as well as arguments to protect the population from gun violence, much of which is self-inflicted.
Meg Mott, who teaches politics at Marlboro College and is also Putney’s Town Moderator, was asked by Library Director Emily Zervas, and Library Trustee Janice Baldwin, to set up a series of talks on the Bill of Rights. Rather than bring in a series of experts, Mott wanted to give participants a chance to deliberate.
“It’s ironic,” Mott explained, “that in a constitutional democracy, citizens often relinquish the most important questions to the Supreme Court. Sure, the Supreme Court is helpful in framing the issues, but that doesn’t mean the public should be silent. Deliberation is to democracy what speech is to humanity. When a democracy doesn’t deliberate, it basically becomes a zombie.”
The Fourth Amendment, “the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,” will be discussed on Wednesday August 30th at 7PM. All three of these “Last Wednesdays” series are free and open to the public.
Putney Library is located at 55 Main Street in Putney, VT. This program is free and open to the public.