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Posts tagged ‘Independence’

The Constitutional “Shall Not’s” of Congress

waving flagWritten by Bethany Blankley

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Universal human rights are determined by government restraint. In what areas of human life should the government not be involved? What areas of life must the government not regulate, not restrain, not limit, not oversee, not implement, not subsidize, not legalize or make illegal? Interestingly, the first five words of the Bill of Rights state what Congress cannot do: “Congress shall make no law… .” Even more telling– the first ten amendments, with perhaps The Sixth as the exception, all define what the government cannot do:

  • First: “Shall make no law … prohibiting … abridging,
  • Second: “Shall not be infringed”
  • Third: “No soldier shall … without the consent …”
  • Fourth: “Shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue …”
  • Fifth: “No person shall be held … nor shall any person be subject …”
  • Seventh: “Shall be preserved … No fact … shall be otherwise reexamined …”
  • Eighth: “Shall not be required … Nor excessive … imposed, nor … punishments inflicted”
  • Ninth: “shall not be construed to deny or disparage”
  • Tenth: “Not delegated … nor prohibited.”

The third, fifth, eighth, and tenth amendments don’t state “rights;” they state what authority the government does not have. In effect, limits on government are universal human rights. The Constitution outlines specific areas of human life that are off-limits to government. This suggests that there are certain aspects of human life which are fundamentally free.tie it down

The Constitution did not outline rights or prohibitions defined by a government that could later redefine them. It outlined rules to be followed by a self-ruling people in addition to separating and balancing political authority among judiciary, legislative, and executive branches.

Despite the limits the Founders enumerated in the Constitution, their limits are still limited in their ability to constrain government overreach. Matters of conscience, especially as they relate to the First Amendment, dictate certain situations when citizens decide to not follow and/or disobey unjust laws. Interestingly, dissent in the form of collective actions of conscience (refusing to pay taxes, boycotting specific products, and armed resistance) among approximately one third of American colonists who fought for independence.Tree of Liberty 03

The Constitution was the result of a point in time that the Founding Fathers and Framers identified of a line they could not cross. They could not comply in good conscience– it would be immoral to comply– with the laws of a corrupt and tyrannical government. Christians joined them, citing New Testament directives, identifying that they also must only “obey God rather than men.”christianity

They recognized they could not selectively disobey certain laws because the government itself could not be obeyed. They needed a new government. Rebellion and resistance were required because the ruling authorities had rebelled against God. The government had not only violated basic principles of justice but also had squandered God-given human rights, rendering itself illegitimate.

Thomas Jefferson asserted:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long Established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, Accordingly, all experience [has] shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

“But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations,  pursuing invariably the same object, evidences a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Jefferson also said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

The Shall Nots were imperative to the Founders– they wanted to ensure that if Congress violated them the people had just cause to rebel.

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“A man is born alone and dies alone; and he experiences the good and bad consequences of his karma alone; and he goes alone to hell or the Supreme abode.” Chanakya: Indian Politician, strategist and Writer, 350 BC-275 BC

Given what day just passed, I thought I’d risk crossing my self-imposed line of exile from politics & punditry and opine here for a bit about the great American chasm.

You know the one; it sits between, on the one hand, the modern surreality of sexy headlines and the accompanying hollowness of today’s “American Idol Journalism” mentality… especially wherever politics and governance is considered… and the real world in which the rest of us live, on the other. It is a chasm our Founders foresaw, and one their successors have labored furiously, hence, to obfuscate.

Bear with me as I walk that fine line between “going negative” against our poor, defenseless politicians… and “going positive” with all the “independence” we have been able to muster these last couple hundred years… despite their best efforts to contravene.

Merriam-Webster tells us that there are two fundamental ways in which to define independence: one, as a state, and the other as a quality… and I think that’s just about right. The “state” of it, then, is – allegedly – provided by, defended by, and sworn to be upheld by our public officials.

I leave you, dear readers, to decide amongst yourselves whether and how well you believe that job is being performed. The “quality” of it, however, is something I’d like to make a few finer points about.

Mark Twain suggested in his autobiography that:

[t]here are certain sweet-smelling sugar-coated lies current in the world which all politic men have apparently tacitly conspired together to support and perpetuate. One of these is, that there is such a thing in the world as independence: independence of thought, independence of opinion, independence of action. Another is that the world loves to see independence — admires it, applauds it.

Now, if you give this a little thought, it’s not terribly hard to agree with Twain’s notion that – for all intents and purposes – a politic life is made by lying and speaking half-truths – in perpetuity – re-wording and re-stating these however much is deemed necessary until the rest of us are forced to expel all disbelief and embrace their delusion.

MSDEARI EC007The thinkers among us, of course, know better; we know that the only interests truly being served are the ambition(s) of the elected being well-carried on the backs of their electors (and at the electorate’s collective expense)… but we’re woefully outnumbered by the blissfully and willfully ignorant.

And, as Twain points out elsewhere in the book (on the matter of “independence”) [emphasis mine], “[t]he quality of independence was almost wholly left out of the human race. The scattering exceptions to the rule only emphasize it, light it up, make it glare.” But it’s here that Twain and I part ways.

If Twain is to be believed, we are only as independent as we allow our “leaders” to tell us we can be. The funny thing about that, however, and about human nature in general, is that – sooner or later (like teenagers) – we rebel.

We learn the rules, and then set about finding all the ways around them. We push the envelope, and wait to see what happens when we get caught. We do what we think is right, even if for no one but ourselves, and dare anyone to tell us we can’t. And… humans being human… for however many that might fall in the fight to be free, a dozen others will step up and pick up where the fallen left off.

As for that time in between when we’re told by those who presume, wrongly, that it’s their place to tell us how independent we can be, and when they are replaced by others that know better? Well… we just do whatever the hell we please.

decl_draftFor all the laws and rules and regulations that the privileged class drafts and enacts, many of which they hold themselves above, none will be honored, revered, or obeyed, that violate the rights and freedoms that were never theirs to grant. Jefferson understood this when he said:

ìI predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.î

Whatever effect we have allowed our system(s) of governance to have on our “state” of independence, there has been no significant effect on our “quality” of it. Admittedly, we have poorly heeded Jefferson’s advice these past many years but, as history has shown since the dawn of mankind, we will always choose to pursue ‘future happiness’ over the ‘rule of a privileged few’… each and every time we’re confronted with the choice… even if we’re forced into the shadows and the darkness from time to time and generation to generation in order to continue doing so.

It’s what we do.

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