Adult curfews for the complacent

By Lisa S. Dean
web posted April 17, 2000

The city council in Cloverport, Kentucky recently passed a law by a vote of 4-2 mandating an adult curfew in the attempt to curb crime. If you live in that city and are seen outside between Midnight and 5 o'clock in the morning on weeknights and between one o'clock and five o'clock in the morning on weekends, you are now in violation of the law in Cloverport. First time violators will receive only a warning while repeat offenders will be fined $250.00.

Needless to say there was an outcry from the public over this ruling and with good reason. Adults should be treated as adults and not children. But government treating adults like children has been the American way of life during much of this century. The "welfare mentality" has seen to that and largely when government decides to do something unconstitutional, most people ask themselves "how does this affect me?" and not seeing any possible negative impact on their lives, they say nothing.

I was in Pennsylvania recently speaking to a group of constituents about the collection by government of our personal information, who that information is shared with and possible uses and abuses. I used the example of our medical and financial records and how, if someone so desired, could,with relatively little effort on their part, find out what illnesses we have been treated for and how much money we have in our bank accounts and what we spend it on. With a few exceptions, the reaction that I got from the audience was basically "So what?" One man even said that it was good for government to collect this information because how else would the Medicare program work? Others admitted that they liked the various services and discount programs that both public and private sector entities offer and for that reason were willing to give up their personal information and ultimately their rights in order to get it.

Taking that reaction and comparing it to the one of the citizens of Cloverport, Kentucky, I think it's safe to draw the conclusion that there is a double-standard on the part of the citizenry. They tell government it's okay to infringe on their rights when they know they will be receiving some service or getting something in return because after all, government is just helping us and that's what it's supposed to do. But when government infringes on citizens' rights and instead of giving them something in exchange for their rights, and just takes something away, then all of a sudden, government becomes Big Brotherish.

I have news for those people. Government was Big Brotherish all along, they just didn't mind it when it was giving them something in exchange for taking away their rights, but in cases such as the curfew in Cloverport where they aren't getting anything in return, government is, all of a sudden, the bad guy. The reality is that government has played the role of the bad guy all along - it was just making it so pleasurable for people that they didn't realize it and in fact, allowed him to become as big as he is today.

It is the same old same old. If we let government impinge on people's rights, even though it might not effect us directly, and say nothing, who will be there when government impinges on our rights? One of the reasons that our Republic lasted as long as it did in recognizable form is simply because people had a sense of outrage whenever and wherever government was seen as infringing on the rights of the individual. By what was taught in our schools, by what was said in the churches, by the discussions in the newspaper, by talk at the barber shop or beauty parlor, the prevailing ethic was one of moral anger if anyone...including government...was seen taking away the rights of another. The sentiment was so strong that it just wasn't something that was easily tried. The few who did so were ridden out of town on a rail.

Now after several decades of sensitivity style education in the schools, watered down religion in the Church of the Latter Day New Dealers, censorship of these sorts of views by the media and political correctness at the unisex hair stylist place, we have come to this. Silence when rights are being taken away. Did I say silence? Perhaps even mild applause.

Unless and until the sense of moral outrage is re-instilled in Americans, the day is coming, and it is only a calendar or two away, when all of our basic rights will be taken away by government. We will wake up in a nation so different from that of our founders that the Constitution will be a dead letter. True, much of it is already but still recent Supreme Court decisions, by a five to four margin, remind us that at least some parts of the Constitution remain alive, if not well.

What is happening in Kentucky and Pennsylvania and in just about every little town in America is sobering. What I say to you, my loyal friends, is simply this: Next time you hear of rights being taken away in your town, risk embarrassment. Stand up and say "Not here you won't!" Organize your friends and neighbors. Write to the newspapers. Stand up in Church or in the Church Hall and be heard. Talk about it on the radio. Stage a demonstration that is exciting enough to be covered by television. Don't take it anymore. If all of you with-in sound of my voice do this, you will be saving what little is left of real America for your children and grandchildren. You have been given a gift of freedom by those who pledged their lives, their possessions and their sacred honor so that you could exercise your rights. Speaking out and saying "no" to those who want to strip us of those rights is hardly an inconvenience compared to the price our forefathers paid.

Lisa Dean is Vice President for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation.

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