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By Kent Converse

home, is a sacred word in America. Probably nowhere in the world is there more emphasis on owning your home, being secure in your home or enjoying a home as in the United States.

Home is embedded in our Constitution in the fourth amendment:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses (homes), papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to bee seized.”

The British colonial authorities had a practice of "unreasonable searches and seizures" the widespread invasions of privacy experienced by American colonists at the hands of the British Government. So-called "writs of assistance" gave royal officers broad discretion to conduct searches of the homes of private citizens, primarily as a way of discovering violations of strict British customs laws.

There was also a rich English experience to draw on. ''Every man's house is his castle'' was a maxim much celebrated in England, as was demonstrated in Semayne's Case, decided in 1603. A civil case of execution of the process, Semayne's Case nonetheless recognized the right of the homeowner to defend his house against unlawful entry even by the King's agents,

The fourth amendment is promoted by both conservatives and liberal elements of the political spectrums. It is ingrained in our English heritage.

I grew up in a very small house on Kansas prairie. I shared my home with a brother and a Mother and Father. The house was warm in the winter and not to cool in the summer. We didn't have a key to the door but felt secure. Occasionally, a hobo would come by and ask for food. They scared Mom. They would usually ask for coffee. Mom would give them some coffee in a tin can and a sandwich, and they would go down to the bridge in front of the house and build a fire and make coffee and eat their food.

When you go to the big cities of Kansas you see homeless people. The cities have shelters for them but some seem to prefer a park bench. Maybe they don't want the responsibility of a home. The world is their home.

Traveling in Vietnam I get to visit many homes.  Some are only a bamboo, thatched house with a dirt floor, no running water or bathroom but still a home to a family. They sleep on a mat on the floor. Or, substantial homes built of more sturdy materials much like our homes in the U.S.  None is as comfortable as my home. We in the United States have perfected comfort ability in our homes.

I was invited to a party at a friend’s home in Vietnam once. To get there, I hired a motorbike and driver. The house was located near downtown Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The last leg of the trip was down a narrow dark alley. Both sides of the alley had concrete walls of large buildings. In the large walls were doors to some very small rooms. You could look in to these rooms, and they appeared to be about 5 feet by 8 feet. In these little rooms were whole families. By the doors were parked cycles. Cycles or bicycles with a seat where the front wheel would normally be and a wheel on each side of the front seat.

When we got to the end of the alley, we passed a man sitting in his doorway, by his cycle with a big grin on his face. At the end of the alley was a big iron gate. When they opened the gate I could see a magnificent house. A palace really. Built in the middle of a city block with large yard, flowers, and fountains. As I walked in I turned and looked at the man. He was still smiling and he waved at me.

During the party I was talking to my host, An American business woman who rented the house. I was talking about the families living in the small “holes in the wall” I had passed earlier. She told me that the last man I passed, with the smile on his face, used to own this mansion. He had been on the losing side during the war and his house was confiscated and the new government had given him the hole in the wall, the cycle and he was told that was how he would live and earn a living the rest of his life. Also, his kids or their kids could not go to school.

I understand that law has now been rescinded. Maybe you now understand why a million Vietnamese became boat people and searched for a country where every man's house was his castle.



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