This is not exactly what I expected, but since the good Reverend felt it worth posting, I guess I will. And I’d like all of you out there with whom this question reasonates to post it too.
Earlier this evening I wrote a letter to Rev. Donald Sensing, the minister who runs One Hand Clapping. Here’s the letter in its entirety, though I’ve added hotlinks that I left off the original missive.
Rev. Sensing, I’ve read your blog for a while now, off and on, and you strike me as one of the not-so-common deep thinkers in the blogosphere, so I’d like to ask you a question. First, I’d like to preface it with some background information. December 12 you posted a piece you titled Bush Republicanism = Roosevelt Democratism? In it you wrote:
I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
That same day, Francis Porretto, writing about the Supreme Court decision upholding the Campaign Finance Reform Act wrote:
So long as speech was protected, Americans could claim with some justice that we were in some sense free. If Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision prevails, we will not be able to call ourselves even partly free. We will be a people in chains. Chains forged to protect incumbents from having their records in office publicized in the press as they stand for election. Chains forged to increase the power of the Old Media, granting their journalists and editors the last word on political campaigns. Chains forged by (and for) men to whom “the people” are not only not sovereign, but are a force to be fastened down and made to do as they’re told by those who know better.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to a story in which Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly said in a speech he gave in New Orleans:
It is literally true that the U.S. Supreme Court has entirely liberated itself from the text of the Constitution.
We are free at last, free at last. There is no respect in which we are chained or bound by the text of the Constitution. All it takes is five hands.
Then last week the 5th Circuit ruled on a case that (in my opinion) broadly widened police powers and greatly weakened the 4th Amendment protection against warrantless search. That prompted me to write an essay I titled “The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions” (it’s still up on the front page of my site if you want to read it. I’m not trolling for links here.) [And I wasn’t.] In the course of writing that essay I came across a 9th Circuit decision that made me sit back in shock, and after a couple of days I wrote another essay I titled “Game Over, Man. Game Over.”
In short, I have come to the same conclusion you did in your December 12 piece – that we are ‘the last generation of the minimally truly free.’ My epiphany came when I read that 9th Circuit decision, because until then I still believed that the judicial branch of the government could, if the justices were honorable and honest, still save us from our folly and return us to the intent of the Constitution even after I read Justice Scalia’s quote. My “nauseating near-conviction” wasn’t “near” anymore.
In the late 1700’s it was easy to see who the enemy was – King George. And his agents wore red coats and some wore silly wigs, and all went around with great pomp and circumstance, and we went to war over a level of taxes that citizens today would be ecstatic to pay. But today the enemy is simply “government” and that means, to most people: “us.” The overwhelming majority of the populace, I believe, is ignorant and apathetic. They might sense the loss of their freedoms, dimly, but they don’t know and they don’t want to know. Today I wrote another piece wherein I said that I’m not Don Quixote, I’m 42 and fat and raising the black flag and slitting throats is not my style. To be honest, I don’t even know whose throat to slit when it comes down to it.
So here’s my question: Believing what we believe, is it moral for us to let it happen without standing up and pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to fight it? I have grandchildren. What do I owe them?
Rev. Sensing didn’t have an answer. He put up excerpts from my letter and my essays and asked his readership for their ideas. I’m asking you for yours. And I’m asking you to ask other people for theirs. Because I don’t want to be a member of “the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.”
4/5/04 NOTE: I’m going to leave this up for a couple of days – no new posts, even though there is much (much) out there I’d like to comment on. This is a Blogspot blog. I have no option available to leave this at the top of the page, and that is, as far as I’m concerned, where it needs to be for a while. I’m sending out emails to people who run various sites asking them their opinions, too. Perhaps after a few days I’ll have enough feedback to… I don’t know what, exactly. But I’ll write another piece and tell you what I think. You can count on that.
UPDATE, 4:27PM: C. Dodd Harris responds at Ipse Dixit
UPDATE II, 6:31PM: Mark Phillip Alger of BabyTrollBlog responds. Optimistically!
UPDATE III, 7:40PM: Michael Williams of Master of None asks if we’re actually less free living under a system of myriad laws, but essentially random enforcement. His question echos one asked by Mike Spenis last week.
Update, April 6, 5:05AM: Fûz of WeckUpToThees! suggests that we test our new chains with a little civil disobedience starting Sept. 3 when the
Incumbent Protection Campaign Finance Reform laws begin infringing on our free speech rights, and
Donald Crankshaw of Back of the Envelope disagrees with Spoons, saying “Today, those who want judicial restraint have no choice other than the Republicans.”
We’re drifting off topic a bit, but at least we’re discussing the problem.
UPDATE 8:51PM: SayUncle puts up a pithy, link-filled post pointing out government excesses followed by outrages illustrating the infringement of our individual rights, mostly in the name of “public safety.” Which reminds me of another Mencken quote:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
Well, perhaps not all of them, but certainly most.
UPDATE 4/7, 4:28PM: Dale of Mostly Cajun took my question and expanded it to “How free are we?”
Good question. I’ll have a new post up this evening.
UPDATE 4/8 9:43AM: Heartless Libertarian thinks Civil Disobedience is a viable path.