Within these three words flows the lifeblood of the United States of America.
It is upon these principles that beleaguered men upended the only lives that they had ever known, broke their shackles of tyranny, and laid the foundation for the freedom and governmental democracy they so craved.
Fast forward more than 200 years.
Modern day America is staring down a pandemic of epic proportion, a virus that is moving like wildfire across the globe.
It is a time of fear, of panic, of uncertainty, and of need for rational minds coming together more than ever before.
Sounds like an episode of the Twilight Zone, doesn’t it?
My own self-imposed quarantine has provided me the opportunity to sit back and take in all of the news and government information that is being thrown at us.
The amount of fancy, fact, and fiction flying at us is voluminous. Some of it is daunting. Other speculations are just downright farce.
Regardless of how one chooses to filter the information, I don’t believe there is any denying that the change prompted by this spreading disease will continue to morph well into our future.
I do not subscribe to the flash term “new normal”. If anyone believes that this world or their lives were “normal” prior to this world’s affliction, they have bigger things to worry about.
Across our country and the world, governments and local politicians have stepped up and executed orders that limit the gathering and close proximity of individuals in an attempt to slow the spread of this virus. This in hopes of bringing back our “normal” (insert eye roll here) as quickly as possible.
Violations of these established directives in some areas are punishable by possible jail times and hefty fines. There are some officials who are simply not going to mess around with defiants who insist that their civil liberties are being violated, and under no circumstances will those protesters permit the government to dictate to them what they can and cannot do.
Ahhh…there it is. That phrase. Civil liberties.
But, what are those? To whom do they apply? Are mine being violated?
The most popular, best known civil liberties are those called out in the First Amendment of the Constitution: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of press, and freedom of conscience.
Webster’s defines civil liberties thusly: “The state of being subject only to laws established for the good of the community, especially with regard to freedom of action and speech”.
Great; that makes sense to me. At present, “for the good of the community” is the most operative phrase. Our government officials, in whatever capacity, are exercising their legal power for the greater good and to continue to keep people safe, regardless of idiots that are dead-set on doing whatever they damned well please while breaking laws in the meantime.
If people were capable of policing themselves, this wouldn’t be necessary.
Interestingly enough, a secondary definition of civil liberties reads as such: “Individual rights protected by law from unjust governmental or other interference”.
Having a degree in law and being a huge fan of legal writing, I view this second description as contradictory to the first.
An argument could be made that, according to the subsequent definition, government action in this time of crisis is unconstitutional and meddling into our private lives that simply should not be taking place.
One could say that this law is breaking itself. It is confusing and very widely open to individual interpretation.
Legalese is like that. It can be spun in a million different ways to suit anyone making an argument for themselves.
Most of those arguments are ridiculous, without merit, and completely irrational. But they are still protected under law.
Welcome to our judicial and legal system, folks. Buckle up for the ride.
I ponder “civil liberties”. Mine. In terms of our present dire situation, I can’t remotely argue that MY civil liberties have been violated.
Why, you may ask?
Simply put: I’ve got a fucking brain that I pride myself on using often. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand: Disease bad, isolation from disease and infected good. Duh. It really is THAT simple.
I’ve never in my life had any issue policing myself – I’ve been quite happy to do it for myself, if for no other reason than to NEVER feel as though there is some government agency that I have put in any position to violate my civil liberties or to keep me so close under their watchful eye.
I assume full responsibility for me and my actions, that includes doing whatever is necessary to keep myself and my family – and whomever else I can help – out of harm’s way.
See how that works? Here is how and why:
First and foremost, any individual who believes that they are “owed” or entitled to “pure” freedom is delusional. There is no such thing; not really, if you give it a great deal of thought.
Freedom by definition is: “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint”.
That’s great…to a point. Pure, true, unadulterated freedom would go one step further to safeguard all people from any consequences stemming from that which they do, say, or practice.
That isn’t the case. Individuals are safeguarded under the Constitution to say or do whatever they’d like. They are NOT, however, protected from potential punishment stemming from their words or actions.
Ultimately, I believe that individuals screaming the loudest about their civil liberties being violating are those that have given their government officials and politicians far too much power to be in a position to control those rights in the first place.
These are the people who may or may not realize too late that they had empowered the government so greatly, and end up furious when it becomes apparent just how much they have relinquished, unwittingly or not.
They’re pissed and want someone to blame for their oversight or laziness.
Permit me an analogy: A person encounters a homeless person. Let’s call them citizen A, the person and citizen B, the homeless. Citizen A befriends citizen B and comes to trust them, knowing full well that citizen B is homeless and impoverished.
Citizen A hands citizen B a bag of potato chips for safe keeping. They don’t consider that citizen B may be hungry, nor do they give any thought that maybe citizen B will eat those potato chips. Citizen A leaves for a little while after having entrusted their precious bag of chips to citizen B with the only instruction being to hold the bag of potato chips until citizen A could return.
Upon returning, citizen A realizes that citizen B has eaten every last chip in the bag. Citizen A is livid, absolutely furious, and convinced that their trust has been completely shattered by citizen B.
At which point, one begs to question: what did you expect? What did you think was going to happen? You handed a hungry and wanting person food. You didn’t specifically instruct citizen B NOT to eat your potato chips. They probably would have emptied the bag, regardless of you instructing them not to. You thought of nothing and no one but yourself and the safe-keeping of your potato chips, and then become furious with an outcome that you should have anticipated.
One could argue that any one of our liberties as a nation are being violated on a daily basis. There is just no getting around that, yet, it only takes one highly-publicized event to get individuals to stand up and look.
Politicians are “citizen A” and their constituents are “citizen B”. The former simply cannot be trusted to not eat their constituents’ potato chips. The only best interest that any government has got in mind, first and foremost, is its own survival.
Their people’s rights will always come secondarily. That which individuals have given up freely, they have no position to complain about once lost.
Don’t give the government so much power, police yourself, and you’ll be able to live with most civil liberties intact.
It is no secret that I am a cynic. There are very good reasons for that. I watch everything. I question everything and I believe little that is fed to me by political heads. I just simply don’t, even less so in an election year. Campaign promises abound, yet evaporate into thin air once a governmental seat is filled.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to start my own militia, go on a bomb-slinging-Ted-Kaczynski-rampage, or build my own Davidian compound. Nah.
Instead of constantly being disappointed, I just filter it all. I keep to myself and safeguard my own civil liberties myself as best I can. It keeps me from ending up in some governmental cross hairs.
In this time of crisis, we still have freedoms. We still have rights and we still have liberties. We can go to grocery stores and have our food under our roofs before we sleep in our warm beds.
We have the liberty to assist those less-fortunate and make sure that they get their own potato chips with the expectation that they can be satisfied, too.
No government, no law, no cop will ever have any power to take away our humanity. However, it is our duty as humans and Americans to exercise discretion and best judgment in times such as these. Our humilty dictates that there will be times when we cannot have or get everything we want or need. These challenges truly define our strength and integrity.
An excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address: “…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth…”.
WE ARE THE PEOPLE. The government is of us, by us, and for us. We have the final say and command over what level of power we afford our government.
The voting box is our tabernacle and it is more effective than complaining about lost civil liberties being preached from a pulpit.
So is self-governance.