Hours after marking the New Year ( Navroze ) – militants have once again attacked Europe, this time in Brussels. Cries of “Je suis Charlie and “Vive la France” are now joined to “Vive la Belgique” – and the resolve of Western nations against such actions grows exponentially with each barbarity. However, the electioneering processes in the US have gone into overdrive to conjure their rhetoric. It would be too much to expect logic and reason from political candidates, but it would have been useful, in this instance. It is this rhetoric that is of concern, and is the tack to this edition of my blog – and my apologies, but no photo images are appropriate. Aside from firm resolve, how should we behave, and more importantly, what should we NOT do?
The answers lie in our ‘not so distant’ past. Firstly, let’s understand that no good dialogue of any meaningful value can be held or bear results in a presidential election year. We should probably not accept any solution to National Security and Policing decisions until this time next year, when these important decisions are not clouded by political pretensions. People are trying to win elections – and they do that most successfully by rancour and division. Finding a group to blame for one’s lot in life is the easiest political maneuver and appeals directly to an electorate not comfortable with books. In fact, burning books as you march in your ascendancy, or finding a minority group in your society that can be ‘scapegoated’, or appealing to base instincts about whose responsible for general hardship is staring us in the face from our past and our present. Am I referring to the Third Reich, or Islamic Militant Governments, or about the political climate in the United States today, that is about to introduce a version of either one on American soil? Take your pick, but if this nonsense goes unchecked – what a victory for the ‘so-called’ Caliphate!
Even with our Constitution in place, during uneasy times, we homo sapiens – quite easily drop our ‘sapiens’ and return to scavenging on the savannah. State statutes that prevented the teaching of German during World War I – or the disgraceful internment of Japanese Americans in World War II with the Korematsu verdict from the Supreme Court, and countless other scenarios have undermined our dignity and humanity. Lost because we cease to be a nation of laws, and become a nation of people. Everyone knows, or should know, that a nation of laws remains strong. A nation of people is always brought down – and quickly – by its weakest link. Beware of being led into the dark recesses of our minds – carried forward by slogans similar to “Make America Hate Again”. Yet, demonizing sections of society at mass rallies to gain political power and stoke public fervor sounds so familiar does it not. Yes, it can happen here, and our resolve against the attacks in Paris, San Bernardino or Brussels is to not give in to the base desires that drive our enemies. If we are to win, we cannot – must not – become like them.
Which brings us to our Fourth Amendment rights – barring unwarranted intrusion by government on the lives of citizens, and enshrining a sense of a right to privacy as being fundamental to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is an extraordinary passage in American Law that comes from Justice Louis Brandeis’ dissent in the 1928 Olmstead case. This eloquent pillar of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence is worth recounting now.
Brandeis in Olmstead vs. United States
The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings, and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone—the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the Government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
…Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
And there you have it, in these last three lines, – what is so easy to see in our current discourse and what we must guard against in this next election.
It is perhaps a strange quirk of our existence, that our most compelling and most precious virtues are designed in our conscience when we are alone. Our self-governance as righteous beings, is a product of our lone thoughts. Our successful attempts to connect with alternate powers or a Supreme Being are a product of our lone thoughts. Belief itself, we are told is a byproduct of stillness.
Psalm 46, Vs. 10 “Be still, and know that I AM”
In Justice Brandeis’ language, the “right to be let alone” goes far beyond Fourth Amendment rights. It is fundamental to our existence.
When we think on our own, and make our decisions for ourselves, without the pressures of a group dynamic, or come to make a decision in an election cycle based on internal thoughts and not the mentality of the mob, it might be that we will find a way to uphold a nation of laws and obedience to our fine Constitution.
Our adversary, the militant, disenfranchised teenager has drunk the cool-aid of mass taught hatred and hysteria. He has been denied his own thoughts, or his own conscience – and even to the point of death is the epitome of the mob mentality. He is not allowed to imagine life without theocratic brainwashing and he is certainly not allowed the “right to be let alone”. Ask yourself why there are no suicide bombers in their fifties. Because those in this apparatus who are in their fifties are the macabre and sinister controllers unwilling and too cowardly to do their own business, but happy to send their youth to inconsequential death. Beware of creating the beginnings of a system, couched, hidden and shrouded in the language of National Security that remove the freedoms enjoyed by the Fourth Amendment. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects has never been more fundamental to our future well-being than it is now.
This is not intended to be a “preachy” moment, but we must resist the temptation to label and compartmentalize groups of people, whether African-American, Latino, Muslim, immigrant, foreign or any other part of our society, just because it seems appropriate for election results. A sycophantic need to say the appropriate thing depending on your company and not on your principles is the grand betrayal by politicians who see us as a nation of people and not a nation of laws. Don’t fall for their rhetoric. Don’t ask yourself what is politically correct, or incorrect. It couldn’t matter less, and I’m all for calling a spade a shovel when necessary. Ask yourself – in the privacy of your own mind – what is constitutionally correct and remember the passage from Robert Bolt’s great drama “A Man For All Seasons”.
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.
If we become a police state governed by xenophobia and religious intolerance, we will have transformed the hope of the Founding Fathers into something much worse than the tyranny they overthrew in 1776. We have already fought several ‘honest to goodness’ battles for the soul of our nation. Let us not be thrown into the abyss by misguided teenagers who drank the cool-aid.