Miranda v. Arizona: “Losing My Religion”

losingmyreligionRemember when you woke up sweating in the middle of the night because you couldn’t think of any direct parallels between popular rock songs and law-codifying U.S. Supreme Court cases? Really? It’s weird that you don’t remember that. It ruined your whole next day at work, and you lost the Douglas Account. Whatever that was, it was important, and now you’re on thin ice, Mister! Irene from Accounts Receivable thinks you’re a total dick. You’d better at least learn something so the day isn’t a total wash.

The Case: Miranda v. Arizona

The facts of this case are almost irrelevant. The idea, however, is very important. When you get arrested (and, let’s face it, you will), the cops who arrest you need to inform you of two key things:

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  1. You are allowed to say nothing at all. You don’t have to admit anything or deny anything. You are allowed to meow instead of saying English words, should you chose to do so.
  2. Not only that, but you have a Constitutional right to an attorney. An attorney is a guy just like you, but he’s a sociopath who is really good at talking.

The cops who arrest you legally have to remind you of these things, just in case you choose to exercise/waive either of these rights.

Basically, if you’re shooting your mouth off at the time of your arrest, the law affords you one warning. It’s sort of like a final idiot test in favor of the potential defendant. Maybe wait until you have a paid representative to make any definitive statements.

If I could distill this concept even further, I could say, “Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.”

For those of you that figured it out, yes, I’m talking about R.E.M’s massive 1991 hit “Losing My Religion.” In fact, enigmatic singer Michael Stipe has revealed that “Losing My Religion” is actually a Southern idiom meaning “to lose one’s temper.” The derivation makes sense; after all, isn’t swearing and hollering and carrying on like a madman forgetting your manners? Isn’t this a way of losing the narrative of your upbringing and your binding moral code? The Miranda case made it clear that at your worst moment, the moment of your arrest, you can say any crazy thing you want, up until the moment they give you the “Miranda Rights.” Once you are made aware (or reminded) of the above rights, anything you say becomes fair game, in terms of evidence that can be used against you. The anonymous protagonist of “Losing My Religion” could just as easily be a man being stripped of his rights, a man at his wits end. The temptation is to lash out, to confirm or deny the allegations. To explain what really happened. But you may not be in the best condition to do so at that moment. Better to keep cool for the time being and wait until you can prepare a coherent story. What’s the alternative? A bunch of gawkers and rubberneckers watching your downfall on their outside televisions! “Hey look! That crazy spotlighted man in the corner is about to about to lose his religion! hope he’s aware of his Constitutional right to stay silent and request an attorney!” Thanks to Miranda v. Arizona, at least he was warned.


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