That would never happen here

By Charles Bloomer
web posted November 15, 1999

Frequently in my discussions with my friends about the right to keep and bear arms, I bring up the concept of defense against a tyrannical government. The Founding Fathers understood well that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for an authoritarian dictatorship to develop and try to assert control over an armed populace. Seems to be a simple concept - fairly straightforward. But my friends see it differently. While they may agree in principle - that subduing an armed population would be difficult - they think I'm wrong about the possibility of a tyrannical government in America. Almost every one of them says "That would never happen here". "America is built on the concept of freedom", they say. "We have a constitution that prevents the government from getting out of control".

Ah, yes. We have a constitution. We have the most successful constitution in the history of civilization. It is truly a work of art. Our constitution was written by inspired men who were tired of being oppressed by unaccountable monarchs and their tyrannical governments. This timeless document was written by men that wanted to be free, who believed that our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were unalienable, granted by the Creator, not by other men or government. Implementing the constitution and adhering to its concepts would protect us from the tyrannical, oppressive rule by authoritarian controllers.

My friends all agree that our Constitution is a great thing.

The discussion continues. "What if," I ask, "What if the government decided to ignore the Constitution?" I get the same answer - "That would never happen here".

"What if the government decided that respecting the Bill of Rights was selective? That they could ignore some of the rights specified?" Again, "that would never happen here."

Or would it?

In fact, it has happened, and continues to happen. Our government routinely, arrogantly, knowingly betrays our rights.

Let's look at some examples. One could make a lifetime study of all the violations of the Constitution, so we will confine ourselves to the Bill of Rights, in no particular order.

The Second Amendment -- the one that says "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." - is infringed frequently. Current estimates are that there are over 20,000 gun control laws on the books. 20,000 laws that interfere with an American's right to keep and bear arms. 20,000 gun laws, and a government that tries regularly (and sometimes succeeds) to pass more laws that further infringe on your right to buy, own, or carry a gun.

Amendment IX is totally ignored. "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Our government does not believe we have any rights unless it grants them to us. Do you have a "right" to drive? To build on your property? No. You must go to the government and get permission to do either of those.

Your Fifth Amendment rights are selectively enforced. We have taken the protection against self-incrimination to its absurd extreme. Our government frees confessed criminals because they confessed. But what about the other provisions of this Amendment? "[N]or be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." So, if the government wants to build a new highway where your house is, they have to compensate you in a just manner (we'll not go into a definition of "just"). But what if they decide to take your property without due process or just compensation? "That would never happen here." Wrong again. It happens all the time. American property owners are denied the use of their property by the Endangered Species Act and wetlands preservation regulations, among others, without compensation, just or otherwise. Your private property is not yours, after all. The government tells you what you can and can't do on that property. And if you don't pay the government "rent" (property taxes), your property will be confiscated.

The Tenth Amendment, States' Rights, has taken a pounding for nearly 150 years. Individual states do not have the right to secede from the Union. Increasingly, they do not have the right to do anything that the Federal government does not want them to do. This Amendment was intended to keep government closer to the people and easier to control. It was intended to limit Federal power. It is blatantly ignored in the guise of "interstate commerce" and "general welfare". Education, health and "human services", housing and urban development, etc., etc., all are considered interstate commerce or general welfare issues by our government. All that despite the fact that none of those things is ever mentioned in the Constitution as a Federal prerogative.

But, "that would never happen here." It's happening. And there's more. The Fourth Amendment guarantees your right to be secure in your person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizure. The government needs a warrant, based on probable cause, to search. Nice words, great concept. The Supreme Court, the supreme interpreter of the constitution, has recently declared that you can be searched just because you are with someone that a police officer suspects has committed a violation of the law. If you ride in a car with someone who is pulled over for speeding, the officer can search the entire car, including your personal effects. So much for a guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure and the concept of probable cause.

Amendment VI gives you a right to a speedy and public trial. In general, our government does well with that part. The government, generally, informs defendants of the nature and cause of the accusation (although one could find exceptions). But what about the right to be confronted with the witnesses against the defendant? Our government fails here. Our government brings charges against Americans based on anonymous tips and accusations. The waste, fraud, and abuse hotline and the spy hotline both allow anonymous reports. Prison inmates give the government "anonymous" tips in exchange for lenient sentences. The government likes this arrangement because the character of an anonymous witness cannot be challenged.

If the government can abuse these rights, what is to prevent it from abusing others? What about the freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Freedom of the press?

That would never happen here.

Or would it?

Your First Amendment right to freedom of religion has been under attack, successfully, for over 30 years. Freedom of religion, as delineated in the First Amendment, comes in two parts. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." That means the government cannot make any religion the "official" or "national" religion and make you participate. The "establishment clause" has been driven to an absurd extreme. So much so, that the second part of freedom is totally ignored. "...[O]r prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Americans are prohibited their free exercise of religion. Try saying a prayer at a school. Try mentioning God in a graduation speech.

We jealously guard our right to free speech. And again, to absurd lengths. Pornography is free speech according to the government. An entire industry has developed that roots out any violations of our right to free speech. But our right to free speech, specifically political speech, is under attack. The government wants to deny Americans the right to speak freely during political campaigns. In the name of "Campaign Finance Reform", the government wants to restrict who can give money to candidates, how much money can be given, and how that money can be used. All this despite the fact that the Supreme Court has already ruled that contributions to political campaigns are considered "speech". Whether one agrees with the Supreme Court on the definition of "speech" or not, one has to be amazed at the arrogance and gall of our elected officials that will try to pass a law that has already been deemed unconstitutional.

The professional press keep close tabs on government actions that might violate its rights. The mainstream press may be biased, it may not care about the rest of the Constitution, it may coddle the very government that it seeks protection from, but they worship at the altar of the freedom of the press provision of the First Amendment. Journalists have been known to go to jail on civil contempt charges rather than divulge their sources. An objective, fair, vigorous press is a good thing. Our problem at the moment is not the freedom of the press, but the irresponsible actions of a press that ignores the usurpation and violations that the government commits.

"That would never happen here" begins to sound a bit weak. It is happening here, and it is happening now, and it is happening at an ever faster rate. The past 60 years, and especially the past 30 years, have been devastating to our Constitution. The attacks on our rights are nearly non-stop. The professional politicians that make up our government are not as interested in protecting our rights as they are in protecting their privilege and power. They are smart enough to know that they can't just shred the Constitution in one quick move. But they know they can do it incrementally, submitting emotional hyperbole to an increasingly apathetic public. They also know that there are 260 million guns in the hands of Americans. Facing those guns would not be pleasant. And they know the end result of disarming America. They would obtain uncontested power and would succeed in becoming a tyrannical government, accountable to no one.

When the Second Amendment ceases to exist, all other rights are non-existent.

But then, that would never happen here.

This is Charles Bloomer's first piece in Enter Stage Right.

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