Things Fall Apart. The Center Cannot Hold These Rights

I have been reluctant to respond in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to declare marriage rights constitutional rights. I do not feel the need to retread ground that others, more intimately connected to these issues and the conflict surrounding these issues, have covered more adequately and better than I can. However there was one post that has stuck with me. Rachel Held Evans a popular Christian and political blogger, said on her Facebook page (6/27):

“Civil rights aren’t up to a vote. They aren’t up to public opinion. Civil rights are part of what it means to be an American citizen. Theological arguments around marriage set aside for another day, I simply cannot find a single compelling argument in support of denying civil rights to LGBT people that does not rely on an unhealthy marriage (sorry!) between church and state.”

I suppose Ms. Evans may have meant that civil rights are not up for an ordinary vote. If so, then what she said was a bit sloppy, but essentially correct. However, I suspect that what she meant was that Civil Rights are not up for a vote at all. Certainly it’s what was meant when Gay Rights activists in the seventies marched behind a banner reading “Human Rights Are Absolute,” quoting Jimmy Carter. His quote thus takes its place at the end of a long line of ideas that sound like wonderful affirmations of the human spirit until they are subject to five minutes’ thought.

Historically, of course, the idea that Civil Rights are not up for a vote is utter and complete nonsense. The very meaning of Civil Rights is “the rights you have as a citizen.” Do people really not understand the way this works? The Civil Rights we enjoy in the United States were created by a process of voting, from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitutional Convention, up through the Civil Rights Acts of 1964-68. All of those were done by voting. Some were prefigured in the English Bill of Rights of 1688, also passed by vote of Parliament.

To be sure, the Constitution itself declares that it is not the source, but rather the instrument, of the rights. The simple enumeration of these rights, declares the Ninth Amendment does not disparage the others retained by the states or the people. It points to a principle that the rights exist, but are merely codified by the Constitution, or the laws.

However, one of the very rights the Constitution protects, and explicitly enshrines, is the right to alter the Constitution itself, and that includes the Bill of Rights. Which of course, implicitly makes the claim that some rights are more absolute than others. The most important, in this case, would be the right to edit the codification of rights.

So when we say that human rights are absolute, do we mean they are morally absolute, and belong to us no matter what the State might say? Or do we mean that they are legally absolute: that we have a right to laws codifying and supporting our exercise of our human rights?

Historically, of course, we have meant the latter. This very process that we have seen last week meant the latter, except that the courts, rather than the vote direct, were the lever of choice. And when those Civil Rights have not been left up to (or enforceable by) the vote, both our American and British ancestors have fallen back on the other guarantor of Civil Rights: the sword. Which of course, is an even more dangerous precedent to build your human rights upon than the vote, although it is ultimately the same, because never, in the whole history of humanity, has there been an expression of popular will (or legal ruling) that did not ultimately depend on the possession and willingness to use force.

However, if the legal battle is merely over the power to express human rights that permanently exist and are, as Jimmy Carter said, absolute, then where do those absolutes come from? It certainly does not come from “science” or “nature.” A thorough study of science and nature will not lead to the least idea that “human rights” — certainly not rights to “life, liberty and happiness” — exist in nature or because of laws that can be derived.

See, I know Jimmy Carter and his religious background, and I keep coming back to one inescapable source for that absolute. The same one that the Declaration of Independence referenced, right after its 18th-Century Enlightenment appeal to “Nature:”

“Nature’s God.”

The Enlightenment thinkers, the Founding Fathers among them, may have had a lot of problems with their philosophies of life. Unthinking racism, sexism, an acceptance of chattel slavery as the cost of doing business, and a blind trust in a “Nature” they barely understood (hence “natural” rights), but one error they didn’t fall into was believing that an absolute was not required.

The idea that human rights — much less Civil Rights — are not up for a vote presupposes that they are grounded in an absolute truth. This must be clearly understood, because if it is not, then the whole idea that they are in any way special is founded on a lie. Moreover it is founded on the worst kind of lie: the lie that knows it is a lie, and does not care that it is a lie. It is the treacherous lie of the mob to itself that says, “We have created our own absolute, which we know is not an absolute, but we will call it one anyway because it makes us feel better.” Like the treacherous spouse that swears “Until death do us part,” all the while knowing they can call the divorce lawyer if ever they are dissatisfied, rights founded on this lie have no permanence and deserve no respect. At best they are a sort of mass-mysticism of human passion, liable to turn on their present beneficiaries in the next crisis. If we do not see this, we are blind. We can hold to no rights.

If we wish to reclaim our sanity, and to claim our rights are based on an absolute authority, we must identify that authority and its claims. And then we must submit to it. And if there is one thing I see in our nation that frightens and disheartens me, one thing that all sides in our present political morass share, it is the utter unwillingness to submit. Submission is only for our foes to do to us. Which will lead us inevitably back to the Absolute of the Sword.

It is, of course, those who are winning legal support to express their rights that should be most aware of the danger here. They are the ones who were most recently that target of laws that favored others’ expressions of rights above their own. They will feel most keenly the fear that tempts them to use their new power to suppress their old foes. To take revenge. To silence and destroy them. And this is a very real and complex conflict: just how far do we dare press some rights at the expense of others? We have seen above that we cannot treat them as equally absolute. In our present law, the right to change our legal rights reigns supreme. This is perhaps wise, as it allows that we may have erred in the past. But we could make laws immutable, favoring other rights. Legally, anyway.

What right will be favored? The right to express our feelings? Or the right to the feelings themselves, enforced by the binding of expression? Choose carefully. And admit to your absolute. The hypocrisy you avert must be your own.

From Somewhere In Orbit

We Hold These Rights IV: What Is Our Property In Rights?

Preface: In one week, I’ll be going to a conference on the Bill of Rights, sponsored by The Bill of Rights Institute, on Civil Liberty and the Constitution. As part of this conference, I have been asked to read a number of historical documents, written by the framers, their mentors, and those who lived, legislated, and worked within that Constitutional frame. This resonates deeply with me, as I have been struggling for some time now with concepts such as “rights,” “freedom,” and “justice.”  What follow are my thoughts.

In my last post, I discussed Madison’s view that people have rights to property, following the Lockean idea that property exists when a person claims a part of the common through his or her own labor. But Madison also refers to the “property” that we have in our rights. The implication of these intersecting ideas is that we, essentially, “own” our rights in the same way that we own our property. These would be Locke’s rights of life, liberty, and property, though not the franchise, necessarily. That was something that could be reserved for persons who owned other property, in Madison’s day. Now recall what Madison said of property; it is: “every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.” Further, “a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them… He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.”

So far, so basic: I have the right to express myself to the extent that I do not make it impossible for you to express yourself. I have the right to practice my religion to the extent that I do not make it impossible for you to practice yours. And I have the right to a free use of my powers so long as I don’t stop you from using yours. But the implications for treating these rights as property are frankly staggering. Locke began his argument for the government as the judge of rights by framing the yielding of a man’s rights to the government as a kind of trade: In exchange for equal protection under the laws, I renounce my right to be the executor of the laws. In other words, rights, whatever their source, can be traded and bartered for other rights by contract, because they are property.

This is a thought that is thoroughly frightening, and I’m sure many of my readers will see it at once, but let’s spread it out verbally: People are commonly thought to have a right to set the price for their own property. Commonly, the price for property is other property. But if our rights are property and our property are rights, then we could also say that the price for our rights is other rights. If we think about it, we make this bargain daily, or at least, those of us who are employed for wages and salaries do: We trade our rights for the “free use of our faculties” for the money of our employer.

Lest anyone say that this analysis merely shows the moral bankruptcy of the very concept of “property” I must point out that substituting “rights” doesn’t take us very far. After all, if you refuse to speak of property, how will you determine who has the right to consume? Any body with the power to distribute the right to consume to one who cannot produce has by definition the power to deny the right to consume to one who can. And that is the very definition of slavery. Slavery does not, however, consist in the trading of rights for other rights: that, it is obvious, as we have seen.

Where we do get very close to slavery, however, is when our power to make trades becomes limited, as we observed in our last post, by those private or public powers who can use disparities of power to force a trade which can be of benefit only to their own side. When labor is so plentiful, and money so scarce, that 100% or more of a person’s capacity for labor must be exchanged to obtain the bare minimum of property s/he must consume to stay alive, we have effective slavery.

We have it in other areas, as well. We have in the Constitution rights to freedom of speech and of the press. But we have never interpreted that to mean that we have the right to use instruments of speech and press that are the property of others. If, however, the means of communication are such that 100% or more of a person’s capacity for labor must be exchanged to access (or create) these instruments, we have effective censorship.

Moreover, if we have the right to “the free use of (our) faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them,” that implies the right NOT to be communicated to, if communication is undesired by us. If the communication of others is inescapable, or nearly so, our right is violated. I find it curiously ironic, upon George Orwell’s recent birthday, that so much attention was paid to Orwell’s message on the right to self-expression, when the truly oppressive quality of Orwell’s dystopia was not so much that his hero could not speak, but that he could not escape the incessant, unfettered speech of the Oceanian State.

The only solution I see to this problem of our property in rights is by appealing to the most basic principles of contract, though that is problematic, too. After all, a person is held responsible, and thought responsible, for signing a bad contract, and is held to the terms of that contract, even if it spells financial ruin. But no contract is valid which confers no benefit to one of the parties. And if a person is in such a situation, where his or her rights must be traded away for no benefit, the conclusion must be that the contract cannot be a binding one. The dividing line between a bad contract and no contract is not always so easily seen, however.

The other corollary I see here is this: the Bill of Rights denies to the government many powers, especially powers that limit the freedoms of citizens. It seems to me impossible that the founders meant to make it impossible for the government to oppress its citizens, while at the same time guaranteeing the right of certain citizens to oppress their fellows. Since the Citizens United case, much has been made of the slogan that “money is not speech.” This has always struck me as naive in the extreme: of COURSE money is speech, and always has been. The purpose of the First Amendment is in part to make sure that my money is as good as yours for the purpose of buying the paper, ink, airwaves, bandwidth, etc. that goes into spreading speech. It was written to ensure the government could NOT consider opinions a type of currency that trumped money. But now we run into an inherent contradiction that I cannot as yet resolve: when YOUR opinion is worth more to you than MY money, and you are willing to ignore my money to propagate your opinion (especially if YOU control the medium in question), then has the government not granted to you the power from which it has recused itself: to silence, effectively, my point of view?

I’d love tto hear some opinions here.

We Hold These Rights, Part III: What Is Our Right to Property?

Preface: In three weeks, I’ll be going to a conference on the Bill of Rights, sponsored by The Bill of Rights Institute, on Civil Liberty and the Constitution. As part of this conference, I have been asked to read a number of historical documents, written by the framers, their mentors, and those who lived, legislated, and worked within that Constitutional frame. This resonates deeply with me, as I have been struggling for some time now with concepts such as “rights,” “freedom,” and “justice.”  What follow are my thoughts.

As I read further into the documents of our founders and their influences, I find myself compelled to broaden my definition of the term “property.” All my life, I have been taught by my family, my church, and my schools to think of property as mere objects. Things. To treat a person as property is tantamount to slavery, and nothing — literally, no thing — could be as important as a human life.

This was not the mindset of our founders:

“This term in its particular application means “that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.” In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage. In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property. In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them. He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them. He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person. He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them. In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”

— James Madison

Note that Madison did not consider his thoughts as unimportant as his property. He considered his property as important as his very thoughts: “every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.

The italics are not mine. The implication is vast: If you have a right to it and value it, it is your property, so long as your possession of that property does not deprive anyone else to their right to 1) value such a thing and 2) have a right to such a thing. At first glance, that seems contradictory. If I own an apple and eat it, you can’t eat it too. But that’s not the statement. The statement is that if I own an apple and can eat it, it must be possible for you to own and eat apples as well. I have no right to own all the apples everywhere.

Further, the implication for the legitimacy of any sort of market manipulation is not good. I don’t know all of Madison’s opinions on everything, but we do know as a matter of historical record that one of the primary motivations behind the American Revolution was the British homeland’s systematic refusal to allow the American colonies to sell and buy freely on the international market, using their own ships and setting their own prices. Jefferson complains of laws being passed denying the American colonists the right to manufacture their own goods.

I am uncertain what the founders’ arguments would be, but I question seriously whether we can differentiate between a government that passes laws preventing us from the use of our own property, and a business interest that makes it impossible to acquire or use property. If it is immoral and unjust to pass laws that establish monopolies and exclude others from them, then it seems to me equally immoral and unjust to allow such monopolies to exist without passing laws against them. The founders seem to be upset that they are being excluded from, as it were, the democracy of money, the idea that my money is just as good as yours. Yet monopolies and market manipulators regularly exclude others from this democracy by price-manipulation. I myself have little patience for the corporate-phobia that runs rampant through popular culture, but one hardly needs to believe in vast, shadowy corporate conspiracies to dominate the world to see this process. When speculators drive up the price of oil (or anything else) simply because they believe (or fear) that the price will rise, their money is better than ours, because they will pay less today than they will force us to pay tomorrow. They never intend to use this property. They intend merely to sell it to us again when we need it, and at a higher price.

I suggest that this cannot be the right to property. G.K. Chesterton, at the opening of the 20th century, spoke of those who denied rationality as purveyors of “the thought that destroys thought.” In the same manner, those who advocate the right to speculate and manipulate prices wholesale are trading in the property that destroys property. It is, ethically, theft disguised as property. It is a counterfeit of property, just as sure as the thief is the counterfeit of the producer of wealth. It denies the right to own property just as surely — more surely, if the drug trade is any example to us — as the most draconian laws.

I have more to say on property in rights, but this post is long enough.

Somewhere In Orbit

We Hold These Rights Part II: What Rights Do We Hold?

Preface: In four weeks, I’ll be going to a conference on the Bill of Rights, sponsored by The Bill of Rights Institute, on Civil Liberty and the Constitution. As part of this conference, I have been asked to read a number of historical documents, written by the framers, their mentors, and those who lived, legislated, and worked within that Constitutional frame. This resonates deeply with me, as I have been struggling for some time now with concepts such as “rights,” “freedom,” and “justice.”  What follow are my thoughts.

In my last post, I discussed my lack of surprise at encountering the general tenor of John Locke’s work. But I was surprised to encounter many of Locke’s thoughts on what constituted what might be called The Big Three Rights. The Big Three are: Life, Liberty, and Property.

For John Locke, these three rights are all very much of a piece, for as he says:

And hence it is, that he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he who would get me into his power without my consent, would use me as he pleased when he got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom, i. e. make me a slave. To be free from such force is the only security of my preservation; and reason bids me look on him, as an enemy to my preservation, who would take away that freedom which is the fence to it; so that he who makes an attempt to enslave me, thereby puts himself into a state of war with me.

In a later passage, Locke extends this statement to include even those who take property by force. Such men “justly expose (themselves)” to the hazard of death. Locke thus establishes the three ideas as something very close to a continuum: Property, being the means whereby people sustain liberty and life, is thought of as being not very far removed in importance from it. And while I and I hope most of my readers are somewhat horrified at the idea of taking a man’s life over a theft, I find it difficult to argue with Locke’s main thesis, here: The man who holds me in such contempt that he would take away my means to live is surely not very far from holding me in the contempt necessary to deprive me of life itself.

Locke even defines property, and the definition is elegantly simple: Property = a resource taken from the common (in this case, the earth) by the expenditure of one’s own labor. The expense of the labor produced, for Locke, effects the transfer of property from the collective of the species as a whole to the individual. And yet Locke then goes on to make a statement that sounds almost Marxist: “As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labor fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.” And so for Locke, there are strict limits to what a person may lay hold of as property for consumption. However, this leaves us with two problems:

1) Locke does not extend the limit on wastage to include any limitation on hoarding durable goods. It seems that it either did not occur to him that this could cause much human misery or he did not care: But since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labor yet makes, in great part, the measure; it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of, by receiving in exchange for the overplus, gold and silver,
which may be hoarded up without injury to any one; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor.” Therefore, strictly speaking, I am doing more harm to the collective good of humanity when I throw away a pizza crust than, say, the Fisk and Gould brothers did when they tried to corner the gold market, a conclusion that seems rather absurd.

2) Locke seems not to have considered how the taking of one good from the common might, in a sense, waste or destroy another. Locke avoids the necessity of a collectivist economy by arguing that a person has the right to life, and implies that no collective can or should be consulted to decide whether a person may eat from a common store, thus fixing the moment of possession at the moment of harvest. In fact Locke goes further and points out that some private uses, such as the cultivation of land, actually produce wealth, in the sense of productive capacity, and therefore cultivating common land may be more in the nature of giving to the common than taking from it. Yet Locke does not consider that the harvesting of wood from an apple tree prevents any further harvest of apples from it, or that mining a hillside for coal prevents further use of it as, say, a vineyard. How may we decide ethically then, what mode of use to make of natural resources when they are mutually exclusive?

And yet the collectivist model does not offer much of a solution, because inasmuch as the implication of Lockean economics seems to be that people are ethically entitled to hoard as much as they please, regardless of the consequences to others, the collectivist model implies that all use of common resources be left, at best, to the tyranny of the majority, who might fairly decide to starve nonconformists to death rather than allow them property from the common. On the level of common sense, property is inevitable, but the implications of that seem to defy common sense all around.

So I conclude this examination with many more questions than answers, but one thing appears certain. Even from this very earliest stage, the concept of ownership and property was never conceived as the absolute right to do any and allthings with whatever property a person might have in his or her power. And that is something we might do well to reflect upon.

We Hold These Rights, Part I: Of Whom Do We Hold?

Preface: In four weeks, I’ll be going to a conference on the Bill of Rights, sponsored by The Bill of Rights Institute, on Civil Liberty and the Constitution. As part of this conference, I have been asked to read a number of historical documents, written by the framers, their mentors, and those who lived, legislated, and worked within that Constitutional frame. This resonates deeply with me, as I have been struggling for some time now with concepts such as “rights,” “freedom,” and “justice.”  What follow are my thoughts.

If the Declaration of Independence had an author other than Thomas Jefferson, it was John Locke. This, we all learn in History class. Okay, we learn it in MY history class. But I’ll be honest, I’d never actually sat down and read John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, which I imagine puts me in company with 99.9% of my readers.

After getting over my relief at finding that actual contact with the text didn’t contradict my years of learning from others what “Locke said” about government (and better yet, that it didn’t contradict my years of TEACHING what other people had told me “Locke said” about government,* I began to truly come to grips with the text, and began to realize just how derivative from Locke our founding document is:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,”

I have heard these words since before I really knew what they meant. Almost every schoolkid in America would come out with at least that if you asked him or her what the Declaration said.*** Fewer would be able to go on:

“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This derives directly from Locke, who wrote:

The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind… that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not another’s pleasure: and… there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.

Of course, Locke is not basing his argument for equality nearly as much upon that which we would today call “reason,” in the scientific sense, as he is basing it upon theistic and Christian principles. Locke did not, as modern atheists do, think of reason and religion as being naturally opposed, but as natural allies of one another. And lest I be mistaken, the intent of this entry is not to contend that America was founded by Christians or that it should as a matter of policy endorse Christianity, still less that it should impose Christianity (or any belief of conscience) upon its citizens. But the evidence should be enough to assert that the principles upon which this nation was founded (if we take the Declaration to be the founding) are principles which explicitly take their justification from a theistic and a Christian foundation. “We hold these truths,” say the founders. Hold them based on what? Scientific reason, divorced from scripture makes a mockery of the idea that all people are created equal. It would be scientifically ridiculous to maintain such, both then and now. How are they equal? They are not equal in physical strength, command of wealth, social fluency or mental faculties, or anything that explicitly serves the state or community.

Now, what science most definitely shows us is that trying to sort people into superior and inferior classes based on broad identities of race, gender, wealth, ethnicity, ancestry or any number of chauvinistic nonsense is ridiculous, but that is a far cry from the dictum that thunders into our souls the equality of man with man, and man with woman. In contrast (and increasingly) we see inequality governing our relationships until the day we all die.

That, perhaps, is the indisputable equality, though the poor are certainly “more equal” than the rich in the rate at which they meet that fate.**** Certainly they suffer more along the way to it. And my atheist friends would likely say that this is enough to make people equal: that they all suffer and die the same. Certainly I agree that this makes them feel equal to each other, but then, I already agree with Locke that people are equal as children of God. I don’t have to come up with additional justifications for equality. But as true as this fact is, it hardly makes people of unequal abilities equally valuable to a human society in the present, unless the very act of treating all people equally strengthens society in some concrete way. If any studies have been done on this, I am not aware of them, and would appreciate being enlightened.

However, regardless of whether such studies have been done, and regardless of their results, it is surely obvious that Locke and his disciples were not using them. Their rationale for founding a nation upon the ideal of equality was a recognition, however flawed and however badly realized, of the equality of humanity before a Divine Creator. Of course, it was a completely hypocritical recognition. The image of Thomas Jefferson looking up from the Declaration and watching his slaves trudge home, broken in body and spirit, while considering himself the champion of equality forces us to either laugh or weep. But the words he wrote, however hypocritical, became, inexorably part and parcel of freeing the grandchildren of those slaves, and became the great “promissory note” which Martin Luther King presented to a complacent white America, who had then no alternative but either to admit their hypocrisy, or to grant equal civil rights to their black American brothers and sisters.

Of course, full equality is not yet here, but perhaps we can see now that it is more than fitting that the man who presented that promissory note held the title “Reverend,” and dared to claim that equality was not only politically wise and morally right, but a divine command. But why do I bring this up? Do I mean to say that one must be a Christian, or even a theist, to be a “real American,” or to claim, defend, or advocate for rights? Not in the slightest: I’m not anyone’s morality police. You do what you do because you have chosen to do it. You don’t owe me an explanation until you violate someone else’s rights. But if we want to know where our rights come from, in the minds of those who articulated them, we should look with our eyes open, whether or not we agree with them. And from Martin Luther King back to the very oldest of American principles, preceding even the independence of the American states, we see a strong belief that the rights we hold, we hold of God.

*this happens more often than history teachers would like to admit. Relying on secondary sources** has occasionally resulted in me inadvertently “teaching” bad facts. In my defense, I have also caught actual history textbooks teaching bad facts. Not just “leaving them out” but teaching positive untruths.

**yes, I know, I should never do this, but the thing about teaching history is, well, there’s a lot of it. Even those of us who teach have to skim and read the summaries at times.

***hell, a lot of them would come out with this if you asked them what the Constitution said, but that’s an all-too-common confusion.

****I always sigh when I read somebody who claims that the poor are “more likely to die” than the rich. How ridiculous: they’re equally likely to die.