Today is the anniversary of a landmark U. S. Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona, decided in 1966. The case involved a man convicted of rape and armed robbery, Ernesto Miranda. His case was appealed, and his lawyers argued that he had not been advised of his rights before he signed a confession. Miranda’s attorneys won the case by a narrow 5 to 4 vote.
The Miranda case changed the way police operate when taking a suspect into custody, compelling the to advise the accused of his or her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The paragraph that police read to the accused has added a new verb to the English language: Mirandize. The familiar words of the warning read:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk with a lawyer and have the lawyer present with you during any questioning. And if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you so desire.
In the book The Words We Live By, Brian Burrell begins by citing the Miranda warning as an example of a paradox that he has noticed – that some of the best know words and passages like the Miranda warning are so well known that people disregard them. As a result of this paradox, the vast majority of accused people don’t "remain silent"; instead, they try to persuade the authorities of their innocence. Burrell’s book reexamines these "Words We Live By": the pledges, rules, mottoes, oaths, and creeds that we hear almost ever day and too often take for granted (1).
Today’s Challenge: I’ve Heard that SomewhereRead the examples below of "Words We Live By" from the various different categories in Brian Burrell’s book. See if you can identify them.
1. Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
2. Advice: Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
3. Creed: I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
4. Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense ....
5. Address: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
6. Inscription: ….Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …
7. Motto: All the News That’s Fit to Print
8. Oath: I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
9. Code: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life . . . .
Quote of the Day: I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. --Bishop Desmond Tutu
Answers: 1. Peter Principle 2. Advice from Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac 3. The Apostles’ Creed 4. Preamble to the Constitution 5. The Gettysburg Address 6. Inscription on a plaque mounted in the Statue of Liberty Museum. 7. Motto of the New York Times 8. The Presidential Oath 9. Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States.
1- Burrell, Brian. The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, and Pledges That Have Shaped America. New York: The Free Press: 1997.