|Credit: National Archives|
I’ll give myself the treat of viewing the exhibition once I finish grading my exams. My impression from viewing the on-line version is that the creators of “Records of Rights” got it just about right. If the exhibition never acknowledged Americans’ recognition of rights, I’d be just as critical as Mr. Rothstein is. But the on-line version, at least, includes many examples of the constitutional, judicial, legislative and popular recognition of quite fundamental rights. I could detect nothing grudging about the curators’ decision to include, for example, the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, Lawrence v. Texas, or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Visitors might well enter the Rotunda with a sense that the recognition of rights in America has been imperfect and incomplete. Can one really argue they shouldn't, especially when the lead story of the same issue of the Times reports on Judge Richard Leon’s ruling that the NSA’s collection of Americans’ phone records “infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment”?
Cheer up, Mr. Rothstein! As they enter the Rotunda, visitors probably won't be ruminating on the "uniquely hypocritical” history of rights in the United States. More likely, they'll be thinking that that history is not yet concluded and that they can still have a part in making it.