Steve Chapman

But those personal liberties shouldn't be consigned to the category of First World Problems. As Judge Anna J. Brown explained, being barred from getting on a plane is not a minor inconvenience. "Placement on the No-Fly List renders most international travel very difficult or impossible," she wrote, noting that "for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society."

The right to keep and bear arms may be even more important. The Second Amendment, according to the Supreme Court, recognizes the right to use a firearm for self-protection, and that right occasionally comes in handy beyond your front door.

In striking down Illinois' concealed-carry ban, Judge Richard Posner wrote: "A woman who is being stalked or has obtained a protective order against a violent ex-husband is more vulnerable to being attacked while walking to or from her home than when inside. She has a stronger self-defense claim to be allowed to carry a gun in public than the resident of a fancy apartment building (complete with doorman) has a claim to sleep with a loaded gun under her mattress."

Some women and men shouldn't be trusted with a loaded gun in public, and some shouldn't be allowed to board a plane. But the only reliable way to separate the worthy from the unworthy is in a public forum where people can learn why they're excluded and offer rebuttals.

Providing this opportunity is crucial for individuals who otherwise might suffer unwarranted deprivation of rights that are available to others. But it's also important for the rest of us, if only to reveal whether policies adopted by our elected officials are being carried out with even a minimum level of fairness and competence.

The alternative is to expect people given power to use it wisely in the absence of public accountability. It assumes what Orwell's Ministry of Truth proclaimed: Ignorance is strength.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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