claims and demands.nThis brings us to the second problemnof our simplistically legalistic culture:ndiscussion of law in America isnrarely about justice and almost alwaysnabout claims, assertion, will, and powern— in short, about rights. Where antheory of personal virtue is absent andnsome theoretical “right” is set in itsnplace, only will and power can decide.nContemporary American law, then, isnoccupied not with principles of justicenbut with the distribution of power.nSince American law, having no principlenof justice beyond rights, cannotnweigh the legihmacy of certain legalnclaims, it tries merely to balance onenclaim against another when the twonconflict. Thus, says Glendon, “Thennew rhetoric about rights is less aboutnhuman dignity and freedom thannabout insistent unending desires.”nWhen notions of freedom and humanndignity are stripped of a context definednby traditional forms of authority,nand when justice is uprooted from annarrative environment of virtue, onlynwill remains. And Americans haventaught themselves very well how tonassert their will (meaning rights)nthrough laws. Abortion is the perfectnexample: “In the United States, thenabortion issue is typically framed asnpitting two interests against each othernin an all-or-nothing contest: the rightnto life of the fetus against the pregnantnwoman’s right to privacy and selfdetermination.”nSo we live not in a truly politicalnculture based on rahonal conversationnbut in a disparate group of atomisticnindividuals loudly asserting rights, placingnin the process a great strain on ournsystem of government. “Our stark,nsimple rights dialect puts a damper onnthe processes of public justification,ncommunication, and deliberation” thatnare essential for the life of a democraticnregime. Like Father Murray, Glendonnworries that we cannot come to authenticnc/wagreement: “It has becomenincreasingly difficult even to definencritical questions, let alone debate andnresolve them.”nGlendon also demonstrates how thenlaws of other liberal democracies managento avoid the atomism.of Americannlaw. Rights in many western Europeannlaws and constitutions are often rootednin the context of responsibility to thenpolitical community. Though they arenindividualist, promoting the good ofnindividuals and protecting their liberty,nthey place (and thus define) the individualnand his rights within a contextnthat mitigates and qualifies those rightsnso that they do not work against thengood of the larger political community.nThis is in contrast with Americannlaw (especially case law), which basesnmuch of its reasoning on the fictitiousnpre-political individual. SupremenCourt cases in particular have aggressivelynheld that no social considerationsnare allowed in protecting (or inventing)nrights of individuals. This is most starklynestablished in the recent cases thatnhave caused such turmoil in Americannpublic life: Griswold v. Connecticut,nEisenstadt v. Baird, Roe v. Wade, andnDoe V. Bolton. Rights in these decisions,nall involving “privacy,” abidenabsolutely with the individual. Then”right to be left alone” is the epitomenof contemporary American legal protection.nMary Ann Glendon is well-knownnfor her assertion that law is thenexpression of a political community.nThe kinds of laws we enact and the waynwe enforce them are not arbitrary; rather,nthey represent the narrative of ournlives together. This being so, it seemsnparadoxical when Glendon asserts thatnshe does not think we really are asnindividualistic and selfish as our extremenpreoccupation with rights makes usnseem. Glendon cites the many voluntaryncivic and cultural institutions tonsuggest that we are not atomistic strangersnto one another, that we do indeednsee ourselves as social animals by thenmany free associations we form andnjoin. Yet she worries that much modernncase law presents “new and unfortunatenmeanings in a society whose rights talknis filled with uprooted law talk.”nPerhaps Glendon is correct: we arenformed by the law and, especially fromnGlendon’s perspective, by the particularnlanguage of the law. But this materialnformulation can only take place becausenwe have already accepted the formalnidea that legal leniency is roughly equatednwith moral leniency. Legality isnlegitimacy; and legitimacy always endsnup being about protecting a right, orninventing a new one. Consequently,nnude dancing cases are not about morality,nvirtue, or even “values,” butnabout someone’s right to dance in thennn,nude.nBut there is a second paradox innRights Talk. Glendon is persistent andnconvincing in her account of how thisnphenomenon has become a perversenform of political debate, but she makesnit clear that she does not intend tonreject rights, per se, as a principle ofnjustice. Her book “is not an assault onnspecific rights or on the idea of rights inngeneral,” nor does she want to “abandon”nbut to renew “our strong rightsntradition.” But Glendon’s book suggestsnthat this may not be possible, andnthat the theory of “rights” itself mustnbe seriously reconsidered.nAlthough Glendon correctiy complainsnthat political discourse is beingnreduced to legal claims, is not thisnsituation inevitable to a rights-basedn(i.e., liberal) political philosophy? Forninstance, she worries that our “rightsnlanguage” prohibits the facilitation ofn”public discussion of the right orderingnof our lives,together.” But the wholenpoint of liberalism is that individualnrights replace political discourse, sincenin the 18th century we gave up on thenidea of discovering political truth.nRather than attempt to describe thenmost humane of all possible politicalnsystems, we invented human rights andnallowed individuals to pursue these onntheir own. The problem is not thatnradical rights language in America pre-nLIBERAL ARTSnBUT WHO’S THE QUEEN?nAccording to the Colorado Dispatchnlast October, two homosexuals werennamed to the homecoming court atnOhio State University. “This is wonderful,”nsaid student Marc Conte. “Itnshows that being gay shouldn’t hold younback in anything you do.” Conte andnMike Scarce, “president and vice president,nrespectively, of the Bisexual, Gaynand Lesbian Alliance,” were selected inn”recognition by the university of theirnwork on gay issues on campus,” whichnScarce considers “just as worthy as anynkind of work.” To protest the ROTC’snpolicy against homosexuals. Scarce andnConte would not “participate in a traditionnat the dance in which the homecomingncourt enters the ballroom bynwalking underneath the crossed sabersnof ROTC cadets.”nMARCH 1992/33n