Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”— Justice William O. Douglas

Unjust. Brutal. Criminal. Corrupt. Inept. Greedy. Power-hungry. Racist. Immoral. Murderous. Evil. Dishonest. Crooked. Excessive. Deceitful. Untrustworthy. Unreliable. Tyrannical.

These are all words that have at some time or other been used to describe the U.S. government.

These are all words that I have used at some time or other to describe the U.S. government. That I may feel morally compelled to call out the government for its wrongdoing does not make me any less of an American.

If I didn’t love this country, it would be easy to remain silent. However, it is because I love my country, because I believe fervently that if we lose freedom here, there will be no place to escape to, I will not remain silent.

Nor should you.

Nor should any other man, woman or child—no matter who they are, where they come from, what they look like, or what they believe.

This is the beauty of the dream-made-reality that is America. As Chelsea Manning recognized, “We’re citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear.

Indeed, the First Amendment does more than give us a right to criticize our country: it makes it a civic duty. Certainly, if there is one freedom among the many spelled out in the Bill of Rights that is especially patriotic, it is the right to criticize the government.

The right to speak out against government wrongdoing is the quintessential freedom.

Unfortunately, those who run the government don’t take kindly to individuals who speak truth to power. In fact, the government has become increasingly intolerant of speech that challenges its power, reveals its corruption, exposes its lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

This is nothing new, nor is it unique to any particular presidential administration.

President Trump, who delights in exercising his right to speak (and tweet) freely about anything and everything that raises his ire, has shown himself to be far less tolerant of those with whom he disagrees, especially when they exercise their right to criticize the government.

In his first few years in office, Trump has declared the media to be “the enemy of the people,” suggested that protesting should be illegal, and that NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem “shouldn’t be in the country.” More recently, Trump lashed out at four Democratic members of Congress—all women of color— who have been particularly critical of his policies, suggesting that they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Fanning the flames of controversy, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway suggested that anyone who criticizes the country, disrespects the flag, and doesn’t support the Trump Administration’s policies should also leave the country.

The uproar over Trump’s “America—love it or leave it” remarks have largely focused on its racist overtones, but that misses the point: it’s un-American to be anti-free speech.

It’s unfortunate that Trump and his minions are so clueless about the Constitution. Then again, Trump is not alone in his presidential disregard for the rights of the citizenry, especially as it pertains to the right of the people to criticize those in power.

President Obama signed into law anti-protest legislation that makes it easier for the government to criminalize protest activities (10 years in prison for protesting anywhere in the vicinity of a Secret Service agent). The Obama Administration also waged a war on whistleblowers, which The Washington Post described as “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration,” and “spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records.”

Part of the Patriot Act signed into law by President George W. Bush made it a crime for an American citizen to engage in peaceful, lawful activity on behalf of any group designated by the government as a terrorist organization. Under this provision, even filing an amicus brief on behalf of an organization the government has labeled as terrorist would constitute breaking the law.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the FBI to censor all news and control communications in and out of the country in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt also signed into law the Smith Act, which made it a crime to advocate by way of speech for the overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence.

President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it illegal to criticize the government’s war efforts.

President Abraham Lincoln seized telegraph lines, censored mail and newspaper dispatches, and shut down members of the press who criticized his administration.

In 1798, during the presidency of John Adams, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to “write, print, utter or publish … any false, scandalous, and malicious” statements against the government, Congress or president of the United States.

Clearly, the government has been undermining our free speech rights for quite a while now, but Trump’s antagonism towards free speech is much more overt.

For example, at a recent White House Social Media Summit, Trump defined free speech as follows: “To me free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad. To me that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it. But that’s not free speech.”

Except Trump is about as wrong as one can be on this issue.

Good, bad or ugly, it’s all free speech unless as defined by the government it falls into one of the following categories: obscenity, fighting words, defamation (including libel and slander), child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, and solicitations to commit crimes.

This idea of “dangerous” speech, on the other hand, is peculiarly authoritarian in nature. What it amounts to is speech that the government fears could challenge its chokehold on power.

The kinds of speech the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation, prosecution and outright elimination include: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, left-wing speech, extremist speech, politically incorrect speech, etc.

Conduct your own experiment into the government’s tolerance of speech that challenges its authority, and see for yourself.

Stand on a street corner—or in a courtroom, at a city council meeting or on a university campus—and recite some of the rhetoric used by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, John Adams and Thomas Paine without referencing them as the authors.

For that matter, just try reciting the Declaration of Independence, which rejects tyranny, establishes Americans as sovereign beings, recognizes God (not the government) as the Supreme power, portrays the government as evil, and provides a detailed laundry list of abuses that are as relevant today as they were 240-plus years ago.

My guess is that you won’t last long before you get thrown out, shut up, threatened with arrest or at the very least accused of being a radical, a troublemaker, a sovereign citizen, a conspiratorialist or an extremist.

Try suggesting, as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin did, that Americans should not only take up arms but be prepared to shed blood in order to protect their liberties, and you might find yourself placed on a terrorist watch list and vulnerable to being rounded up by government agents.

“What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms,” declared Jefferson. He also concluded that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Observed Franklin: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!”

Better yet, try suggesting as Thomas Paine, Marquis De Lafayette, John Adams and Patrick Henry did that Americans should, if necessary, defend themselves against the government if it violates their rights, and you will be labeled a domestic extremist.

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government,” insisted Paine. “When the government violates the people’s rights,” Lafayette warned, “insurrection is, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.” Adams cautioned, “A settled plan to deprive the people of all the benefits, blessings and ends of the contract, to subvert the fundamentals of the constitution, to deprive them of all share in making and executing laws, will justify a revolution.” And who could forget Patrick Henry with his ultimatum: “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Then again, perhaps you don’t need to test the limits of free speech for yourself.

One such test is playing out before our very eyes on the national stage led by none other than the American Police State’s self-appointed Censor-in-Chief, who seems to believe that only individuals who agree with the government are entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.

To the contrary, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was very clear about the fact that the First Amendment was established to protect the minority against the majority.

I’ll take that one step further: the First Amendment was intended to protect the citizenry from the government’s tendency to censor, silence and control what people say and think.

Having lost our tolerance for free speech in its most provocative, irritating and offensive forms, the American people have become easy prey for a police state where only government speech is allowed. You see, the powers-that-be understand that if the government can control speech, it controls thought and, in turn, it can control the minds of the citizenry.

This is how freedom rises or falls.

As Hermann Goering, one of Hitler’s top military leaders, remarked during the Nuremberg trials:

It is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

It is working the same in this country, as well.

Americans of all stripes would do well to remember that those who question the motives of government provide a necessary counterpoint to those who would blindly follow where politicians choose to lead.

We don’t have to agree with every criticism of the government, but we must defend the rights of allindividuals to speak freely without fear of punishment or threat of banishment.

Never forget: what the architects of the police state want are submissive, compliant, cooperative, obedient, meek citizens who don’t talk back, don’t challenge government authority, don’t speak out against government misconduct, and don’t step out of line.

What the First Amendment protects—and a healthy constitutional republic requires—are citizens who routinely exercise their right to speak truth to power.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, tolerance for dissent is vital if we are to survive as a free nation.

While there are all kinds of labels being put on so-called “unacceptable” speech today, the real message being conveyed by those in power is that Americans don’t have a right to express themselves if what they are saying is unpopular, controversial or at odds with what the government determines to be acceptable.

By suppressing free speech, the government is contributing to a growing underclass of Americans who are being told that they can’t take part in American public life unless they “fit in.”

Mind you, it won’t be long before anyone who believes in holding the government accountable to respecting our rights and abiding by the rule of law is labeled an “extremist,” is relegated to an underclass that doesn’t fit in, must be watched all the time, and is rounded up when the government deems it necessary.

It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what politics you subscribe to, or what God you worship: we are all potential suspects, terrorists and lawbreakers in the eyes of the government.

In other words, if and when this nation falls to tyranny, we will all suffer the same fate: we will fall together.

The stamping boot of tyranny is but one crashing foot away.

Source: https://bit.ly/32xFNXZ

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

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HOUSTON, Tex. — The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has agreed to withdraw a fine against a Texas man who, after successfully passing through an airport security metal detector and then being randomly selected to pass through a whole-body imaging scanner, chose not to board a flight rather than be subjected to a third search—an invasive pat-down—by TSA agents.

Jonathan Cobb was fined $2,660 by the TSA and charged with “interfering” with airport screening after he politely refused, based on past traumatic experiences with the TSA, to be subjected to a pat-down search at George W. Bush International Airport and opted instead not to board his ticketed flight. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute came to Cobb’s defense, challenging the $2660 fine as excessive and arguing that Cobb had a Fourth Amendment right to opt out of the search and elect not to travel.

Affiliate attorney Jerri Lynn Ward of Garlo Ward, P.C., assisted The Rutherford Institute in defending Cobb.

“What we are witnessing is an unofficial rewriting of the Fourth Amendment by government agencies and the courts that essentially does away with any distinctions over what is ‘reasonable’ when it comes to searches and seizures by government agents,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “The rationale, of course, is that anything is ‘reasonable’ in the war on terrorism. By constantly pushing the envelope and testing the limits of what Americans will tolerate, the government is thus able to ratchet up the level of intrusiveness that Americans consider reasonable. As Justice Robert H. Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, recognized, ‘Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.’”

Jonathan Cobb was scheduled to travel to Chicago from Houston’s George W. Bush International Airport on February 25, 2019. Prior to boarding his ticketed flight, Cobb entered a TSA screening area. After passing through the metal detector without any alarms, Cobb was randomly selected for additional screening and told to proceed through the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanner. Although Cobb offered to remove his belt because he feared it would cause an alarm, the AIT operator instructed him to leave the belt on.  The machine did alarm and Cobb was told that he must submit to a third search—a pat-down—of his body. Cobb politely and calmly refused, telling the agents that he would rather leave the airport and miss his flight than submit to a pat-down.

After Cobb refused to submit to the pat-down, he was taken to a private area, where a TSA supervisor told him he must submit to a pat-down because of the AIT alarm. Cobb explained that his refusal to endure a pat-down search was based upon a traumatic TSA screening in 2012 when he was selected for a pat-down, which he found excessively invasive and demoralizing. However, Cobb offered to allow a full visual inspection of his person or to reenter the AIT scanner without his belt. TSA agents reported the matter to local law enforcement. When Cobb continued to insist, calmly and firmly, that he would not submit to the pat-down and would instead choose to miss his flight, police escorted Cobb out of the airport. Two months later, Cobb received a notice that he was being fined $2,660 dollars for “interfering” with TSA screening. In coming to Cobb’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys argued that Cobb had a Fourth Amendment right to opt out of traveling rather than be subjected to an objectionable pat-down search by TSA screening agents.

Source: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/victory_tsa_agrees_to_drop_2600_fine_against_texas_man_who_opted_not_to_board_a_flight_rather_than_be_subjected_to_invasive_pat_down_search

“As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensating to increase. And the dictator (unless he needs cannon fodder and families with which to colonize empty or conquered territories) will do well to encourage that freedom.”—Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Power corrupts.

Anyone who believes differently hasn’t been paying attention.

Politics, religion, sports, government, entertainment, business, armed forces: it doesn’t matter what arena you’re talking about, they are all riddled with the kind of seedy, sleazy, decadent, dodgy, depraved, immoral, corrupt behavior that somehow gets a free pass when it involves the wealthy and powerful elite in America.

In this age of partisan politics and a deeply polarized populace, corruption—especially when it involves sexual debauchery, depravity and predatory behavior—has become the great equalizer.

Take Jeffrey Epstein, the hedge fund billionaire / convicted serial pedophile recently arrested on charges of molesting, raping and sex trafficking dozens of young girls.

It is believed that Epstein operated his own personal sex trafficking ring not only for his personal pleasure but also for the pleasure of his friends and business associates. According to The Washington Post, “several of the young women…say they were offered to the rich and famous as sex partners at Epstein’s parties.” At various times, Epstein ferried his friends about on his private plane, nicknamed the “Lolita Express.”

This is part of America’s seedy underbelly.

As I documented in the in-depth piece I wrote earlier this year, child sex trafficking—the buying and selling of women, young girls and boys for sex, some as young as 9 years old—has become big business in America. It is the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

Adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

It’s not just young girls who are vulnerable to these predators, either.

According to a 2016 investigative report, “boys make up about 36% of children caught up in the U.S. sex industry (about 60% are female and less than 5% are transgender males and females).”

Who buys a child for sex?

Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life. “They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

Ordinary men, yes.

But then there are the extra-ordinary men, such as Jeffrey Epstein, who belong to a powerful, wealthy, elite segment of society that operates according to their own rules or, rather, who are allowed to sidestep the rules that are used like a bludgeon on the rest of us.

These men skate free of accountability by taking advantage of a criminal justice system that panders to the powerful, the wealthy and the elite.

Over a decade ago, when Epstein was first charged with raping and molesting young girls, he was gifted a secret plea deal with then-U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s current Labor Secretary, that allowed him to evade federal charges and be given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist: allowed to “work” at home six days a week before returning to jail to sleep. That secret plea deal has since been ruled illegal by a federal judge.

Yet here’s the thing: Epstein did not act alone.

I refer not only to Epstein’s accomplices, who recruited and groomed the young girls he is accused of raping and molesting, many of them homeless or vulnerable, but his circle of influential friends and colleagues that at one time included Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. Both Clinton and Trump, renowned womanizers who have also been accused of sexual impropriety by a significant number of women, were at one time passengers on the Lolita Express.

As the Associated Press points out, “The arrest of the billionaire financier on child sex trafficking charges is raising questions about how much his high-powered associates knew about the hedge fund manager’s interactions with underage girls, and whether they turned a blind eye to potentially illegal conduct.”

In fact, a recent decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals allowing a 2,000-page document linked to the Epstein case to be unsealed references allegations of sexual abuse involving “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders.”

This is not a minor incident involving minor players.

This is the heart of darkness.

Sex slaves. Sex trafficking. Secret societies. Powerful elites. Government corruption. Judicial cover-ups.

Once again, fact and fiction mirror each other.

Twenty years ago, Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut provided viewing audiences with a sordid glimpse into a secret sex society that indulged the basest urges of its affluent members while preying on vulnerable young women. It is not so different from the real world, where powerful men, insulated from accountability, indulge their base urges.

These secret societies flourish, implied Kubrick, because the rest of us are content to navigate life with our eyes wide shut, in denial about the ugly, obvious truths in our midst.

In so doing, we become accomplices to abusive behavior in our midst.

This is how corruption by the power elite flourishes.

For every Epstein who is—finally—called to account for his illegal sexual exploits after years of being given a free pass by those in power, there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) more in the halls of power and wealth whose predation of those most vulnerable among us continues unabated.

While Epstein’s alleged crimes are heinous enough on their own, he is part of a larger narrative of how a culture of entitlement becomes a cesspool and a breeding ground for despots and predators.

Remember the “DC Madam” who was charged with operating a phone-order sex business? Her clients included thousands of White House officials, lobbyists, and Pentagon, FBI, and IRS employees, as well as prominent lawyers, none of whom were ever exposed or held accountable.

Power corrupts.

Worse, as 19th-century historian Lord Acton concluded, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a politician, an entertainment mogul, a corporate CEO or a police officer: give any one person (or government agency) too much power and allow him or her or it to believe that they are entitled, untouchable and will not be held accountable for their actions, and those powers will eventually be abused.

We’re seeing this dynamic play out every day in communities across America.

A cop shoots an unarmed citizen for no credible reason and gets away with it. A president employs executive orders to sidestep the Constitution and gets away with it. A government agency spies on its citizens’ communications and gets away with it. An entertainment mogul sexually harasses aspiring actresses and gets away with it. The U.S. military bombs a civilian hospital and gets away with it.

Abuse of power—and the ambition-fueled hypocrisy and deliberate disregard for misconduct that make those abuses possible—works the same whether you’re talking about sex crimes, government corruption, or the rule of law.

It’s the same old story all over again: man rises to power, man abuses power abominably, man intimidates and threatens anyone who challenges him with retaliation or worse, and man gets away with it because of a culture of compliance in which no one speaks up because they don’t want to lose their job or their money or their place among the elite.

It’s not just sexual predators that we have to worry about.

For every Jeffrey Epstein (or Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein or Roger Ailes or Bill Cosby or Donald Trump) who eventually gets called out for his sexual misbehavior, there are hundreds—thousands—of others in the American police state who are getting away with murder—in many cases, literally—simply because they can.

The cop who shoots the unarmed citizen first and asks questions later might get put on paid leave for a while or take a job with another police department, but that’s just a slap on the wrist. The shootings and SWAT team raids and excessive use of force will continue, because the police unions and the politicians and the courts won’t do a thing to stop it.

The war hawks who are making a profit by waging endless wars abroad, killing innocent civilians in hospitals and schools, and turning the American homeland into a domestic battlefield will continue to do so because neither the president nor the politicians will dare to challenge the military industrial complex.

The National Security Agency that carries out warrantless surveillance on Americans’ internet and phone communications will continue to do so, because the government doesn’t want to relinquish any of its ill-gotten powers and its total control of the populace.

Unless something changes in the way we deal with these ongoing, egregious abuses of power, the predators of the police state will continue to wreak havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives.

Police officers will continue to shoot and kill unarmed citizens. Government agents—including local police—will continue to dress and act like soldiers on a battlefield. Bloated government agencies will continue to fleece taxpayers while eroding our liberties. Government technicians will continue to spy on our emails and phone calls. Government contractors will continue to make a killing by waging endless wars abroad.

And powerful men (and women) will continue to abuse the powers of their office by treating those around them as underlings and second-class citizens who are unworthy of dignity and respect and undeserving of the legal rights and protections that should be afforded to all Americans.

As Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the at the University of California, Berkeley, observed in the Harvard Business Review, “While people usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others, such as empathy, collaboration, openness, fairness, and sharing; when they start to feel powerful or enjoy a position of privilege, those qualities begin to fade. The powerful are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior.”

After conducting a series of experiments into the phenomenon of how power corrupts, Keltner concluded: “Just the random assignment of power, and all kinds of mischief ensues, and people will become impulsive. They eat more resources than is their fair share. They take more money. People become more unethical.They think unethical behavior is okay if they engage in it. People are more likely to stereotype. They’re more likely to stop attending to other people carefully.”

Power corrupts.

And absolute power corrupts absolutely.

However, it takes a culture of entitlement and a nation of compliant, willfully ignorant, politically divided citizens to provide the foundations of tyranny.

As researchers Joris Lammers and Adam Galinsky found, those in power not only tend to abuse that power but they also feel entitled to abuse it: “People with power that they think is justified break rules not only because they can get away with it, but also because they feel at some intuitive level that they are entitled to take what they want.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, for too long now, Americans have tolerated an oligarchy in which a powerful, elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots. They have paid homage to patriotism while allowing the military industrial complex to spread death and destruction abroad. And they have turned a blind eye to all manner of wrongdoing when it was politically expedient.

We need to restore the rule of law for all people, no exceptions.

Here’s what the rule of law means in a nutshell: it means that everyone is treated the same under the law, everyone is held equally accountable to abiding by the law, and no one is given a free pass based on their politics, their connections, their wealth, their status or any other bright line test used to confer special treatment on the elite.

This culture of compliance must stop.

The empowerment of petty tyrants and political gods must end.

The state of denial must cease.

Let’s not allow this Epstein sex scandal to become just another blip in the news cycle that goes away all too soon, only to be forgotten when another titillating news headline takes its place.

Sex trafficking, like so many of the evils in our midst, is a cultural disease that is rooted in the American police state’s heart of darkness. It speaks to a far-reaching corruption that stretches from the highest seats of power down to the most hidden corners and relies on our silence and our complicity to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing.

If we want to put an end to these wrongs, we must keep our eyes wide open.

Source: https://bit.ly/30yJqLx

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

PALMYRA, Va. — In a victory for the right to freedom of expression under the First Amendment, especially as it relates to political expression, county officials in one Virginia locality have agreed to temporarily suspend their enforcement of ordinances limiting the display of political signs to a 60-day period preceding an election.

Officials with Fluvanna County have agreed to not enforce its time limit on campaign signs while it reviews First Amendment concerns raised by The Rutherford Institute that the sign restrictions discriminate against political speech. In a June 26 letter, Institute attorneys pointed out that the County’s regulations on the display of political signs, which impose no similar time limitations on other signs without political messages, discriminate against political speech in violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speech.

“The First Amendment is very clear: Americans have the right to freedom of political expression, whether that ‘expression’ takes place at a podium, on a t-shirt, a billboard, a picket sign, or on a campaign sign,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “In a day and age when the freedom of speech is under attack across the board, it’s time to re-establish the idea that political speech is essential to and is the essence of self-government. It is for this reason that the protections afforded to expression under the law should have the fullest and most urgent application to speech as it relates to politics.”

Fluvanna County has a number of ordinances that restrict the erection and display of signs within the County. As a general rule, a person must obtain a permit from the County in order to erect a sign, but certain kinds of signs are exempted from the permit requirement. Certain “temporary signs” which advertise an event or seasonal activity, are exempt from the permit requirement. Fluvanna’s ordinances include “political signs” within the category of temporary signs, but also limit the time during which political signs may be displayed to 60 days before and 10 days after the election to which the sign refers. Dr. Elizabeth Alcorn, the Democratic Party nominee for Virginia’s 58th House of Delegates seat, turned to The Rutherford Institute for help in challenging the County’s 60-day sign limit restriction for campaign signs. The 58th District encompasses several central Virginia counties, including the most populous areas of Fluvanna County.  While planning their efforts in Fluvanna County, Alcorn’s campaign became aware of the 60-day limit and the County’s history of enforcing the restriction against campaign signs, which would prevent her supporters from posting signs until September 6 (the general election will be held on November 5, 2019).

In a June 26 letter to Fluvanna’s County Administrator, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute pointed out that the County’s 60-day sign restriction violates the First Amendment’s guarantee to freedom of speechbecause the limit discriminates against political speech because of its content. The letter also pointed out that while a sign expressing support for a political candidate may only be displayed for a 70-day period (60 days before the election, with the sign having to be removed within 10 days after the election), other signs with non-political messages, such as “for sale” signs or “no trespassing” signs, may be displayed permanently. The U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that this kind of content-based regulation of signs is subject to strict scrutiny under the First Amendment. In acknowledging the constitutional problems raised by Rutherford Institute attorneys, County officials agreed to suspend enforcement of the ordinance while its planning commission considers changes to the regulations.

Source: https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/victory_virginia_officials_agree_to_suspend_campaign_sign_restrictions_that_discriminate_against_political_speech


Case History

July 1, 2019 • Rutherford Institute Challenges Unconstitutional Sign Restrictions That Discriminate Against Political Speech

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine, December 1776

It’s time to declare your independence from tyranny, America.

For too long now, we have suffered the injustices of a government that has no regard for our rights or our humanity.

Too easily pacified and placated by the pomp and pageantry of manufactured spectacles (fireworks on the Fourth of July, military parades, ritualized elections, etc.) that are a poor substitute for a representative government that respects the rights of its people, the American people have opted, time and again, to overlook the government’s excesses, abuses and power grabs that fly in the face of every principle for which America’s founders risked their lives.

We have done this to ourselves.

Indeed, it is painfully fitting that mere days before the nation prepared to celebrate its freedoms on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the City Council for Charlottesville, Virginia—the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration—voted to do away with a holiday to honor Jefferson’s birthday, because Jefferson, like many of his contemporaries, owned slaves. City councilors have opted instead to celebrate “Liberation and Freedom Day” in honor of slaves who were emancipated after the Civil War.

This is what we have been reduced to: bureaucrats dithering over meaningless trivialities while the government goosesteps all over our freedoms.

Too often, we pay lip service to those freedoms, yet they did not come about by happenstance. They were hard won through sheer determination, suffering and sacrifice by thousands of patriotic Americans who not only believed in the cause of freedom but also had the intestinal fortitude to act on that belief. The success of the American revolution owes much to these men and women.

In standing up to the British Empire and speaking out against an oppressive regime, they exemplified courage in the face of what seemed like an overwhelming foe.

Indeed, imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials.

Imagine that in this very same country, you’re watched all the time, and if you look even a little bit suspicious, the police stop and frisk you or pull you over to search you on the off chance you’re doing something illegal.

Keep in mind that if you have a firearm of any kind (or anything that resembled a firearm) while in this country, it may get you arrested and, in some circumstances, shot by police.

If you’re thinking this sounds like America today, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

However, the scenario described above took place more than 200 years ago, when American colonists suffered under Great Britain’s version of an early police state. It was only when the colonists finally got fed up with being silenced, censored, searched, frisked, threatened, and arrested that they finally revolted against the tyrant’s fetters.

No document better states their grievances than the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

A document seething with outrage over a government which had betrayed its citizens, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, by 56 men who laid everything on the line, pledged it all—“our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”—because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free.

Labeled traitors, these men were charged with treason, a crime punishable by death. For some, their acts of rebellion would cost them their homes and their fortunes. For others, it would be the ultimate price—their lives.

Yet even knowing the heavy price they might have to pay, these men dared to speak up when silence could not be tolerated. Even after they had won their independence from Great Britain, these new Americans worked to ensure that the rights they had risked their lives to secure would remain secure for future generations.

The result: our Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

Imagine the shock and outrage these 56 men would feel were they to discover that 243 years later, the government they had risked their lives to create has been transformed into a militaristic police state in which exercising one’s freedoms—at a minimum, merely questioning a government agent—is often viewed as a flagrant act of defiance.

In fact, had the Declaration of Independence been written today, it would have rendered its signers extremists or terrorists, resulting in them being placed on a government watch list, targeted for surveillance of their activities and correspondence, and potentially arrested, held indefinitely, stripped of their rights and labeled enemy combatants.

The danger is real.

We could certainly use some of that revolutionary outrage today.

Certainly, we would do well to reclaim the revolutionary spirit of our ancestors and remember what drove them to such drastic measures in the first place.

Then again, perhaps what we need to do is declare our independence from the tyranny of the American police state.

It’s not a radical idea.

It has been done before.

The Declaration of Independence speaks volumes about the abuses suffered by early Americans at the hands of the British police state.

Read the Declaration of Independence again, and ask yourself if the list of complaints tallied by Jefferson don’t bear a startling resemblance to the abuses “we the people” are suffering at the hands of the American police state.

If you find the purple prose used by the Founders hard to decipher, here’s my translation of what the Declaration of Independence would look and sound like if it were written in the modern vernacular:

There comes a time when a populace must stand united and say “enough is enough” to the government’s abuses, even if it means getting rid of the political parties in power.

Believing that “we the people” have a natural and divine right to direct our own lives, here are truths about the power of the people and how we arrived at the decision to sever our ties to the government:

All people are created equal.

All people possess certain innate rights that no government or agency or individual can take away from them. Among these are the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The government’s job is to protect the people’s innate rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The government’s power comes from the will of the people.

Whenever any government abuses its power, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government and replace it with a new government that will respect and protect the rights of the people.

It is not wise to get rid of a government for minor transgressions. In fact, as history has shown, people resist change and are inclined to suffer all manner of abuses to which they have become accustomed.

However, when the people have been subjected to repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the purpose of establishing a tyrannical government, people have a right and duty to do away with that tyrannical Government and to replace it with a new government that will protect and preserve their innate rights for their future wellbeing.

This is exactly the state of affairs we are under suffering under right now, which is why it is necessary that we change this imperial system of government.

The history of the present Imperial Government is a history of repeated abuses and power grabs, carried out with the intention of establishing absolute Tyranny over the country.

To prove this, consider the following:

The government has, through its own negligence and arrogance, refused to adopt urgent and necessary laws for the good of the people.

The government has threatened to hold up critical laws unless the people agree to relinquish their right to be fully represented in the Legislature.

In order to expand its power and bring about compliance with its dictates, the government has made it nearly impossible for the people to make their views and needs heard by their representatives.

The government has repeatedly suppressed protests arising in response to its actions.

The government has obstructed justice by refusing to appoint judges who respect the Constitution and has instead made the Courts march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

The government has allowed its agents to harass the people, steal from them, jail them and even execute them.

The government has directed militarized government agents—a.k.a., a standing army—to police domestic affairs in peacetime.

The government has turned the country into a militarized police state.

The government has conspired to undermine the rule of law and the constitution in order to expand its own powers.

The government has allowed its militarized police to invade our homes and inflict violence on homeowners.

The government has failed to hold its agents accountable for wrongdoing and murder under the guise of “qualified immunity.”

The government has jeopardized our international trade agreements.

The government has overtaxed us without our permission.

The government has denied us due process and the right to a fair trial.

The government has engaged in extraordinary rendition.

The government has continued to expand its military empire in collusion with its corporate partners-in-crime and occupy foreign nations.

The government has eroded fundamental legal protections and destabilized the structure of government.

The government has not only declared its federal powers superior to those of the states but has also asserted its sovereign power over the rights of “we the people.”

The government has ceased to protect the people and instead waged domestic war against the people.

The government has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, and destroyed the lives of the people.

The government has employed private contractors and mercenaries to carry out acts of death, desolation and tyranny, totally unworthy of a civilized nation.

The government through its political propaganda has pitted its citizens against each other.

The government has stirred up civil unrest and laid the groundwork for martial law.

Repeatedly, we have asked the government to cease its abuses. Each time, the government has responded with more abuse.

An Imperial Ruler who acts like a tyrant is not fit to govern a free people.

We have repeatedly sounded the alarm to our fellow citizens about the government’s abuses. We have warned them about the government’s power grabs. We have appealed to their sense of justice. We have reminded them of our common bonds.

They have rejected our plea for justice and brotherhood. They are equally at fault for the injustices being carried out by the government.

Thus, for the reasons mentioned above, we the people of the united States of America declare ourselves free from the chains of an abusive government. Relying on God’s protection, we pledge to stand by this Declaration of Independence with our lives, our fortunes and our honor.

That was 243 years ago.

In the years since early Americans first declared and eventually won their independence from Great Britain, we—the descendants of those revolutionary patriots—have through our inaction and complacency somehow managed to work ourselves right back under the tyrant’s thumb.

Only this time, the tyrant is one of our own making: the American Police State.

The abuses meted out by an imperial government and endured by the American people have not ended. They have merely evolved.

“We the people” are still being robbed blind by a government of thieves.

We are still being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and monsters.

We are still being locked up by a government of greedy jailers.

We are still being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms.

We are still being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers.

We are still being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and corporate pirates.

And we are still being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army in the form of a militarized police.

Given the fact that we are a relatively young nation, it hasn’t taken very long for an authoritarian regime to creep into power.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan coup that laid siege to our nation did not happen overnight.

It snuck in under our radar, hiding behind the guise of national security, the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on immigration, political correctness, hate crimes and a host of other official-sounding programs aimed at expanding the government’s power at the expense of individual freedoms.

The building blocks for the bleak future we’re just now getting a foretaste of—police shootings of unarmed citizens, profit-driven prisons, weapons of compliance, a wall-to-wall surveillance state, pre-crime programs, a suspect society, school-to-prison pipelines, militarized police, overcriminalization, SWAT team raids, endless wars, etc.—were put in place by government officials we trusted to look out for our best interests and by American citizens who failed to heed James Madison’s warning to “take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties.”

In so doing, we compromised our principles, negotiated away our rights, and allowed the rule of law to be rendered irrelevant.

There is no knowing how long it will take to undo the damage wrought by government corruption, corporate greed, militarization, and a nation of apathetic, gullible sheep.

The problems we are facing will not be fixed overnight: that is the grim reality with which we must contend.

Frankly, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we may see no relief from the police state in my lifetime or for several generations to come.

That does not mean we should give up or give in or tune out.

Remember, there is always a price to be paid for remaining silent in the face of injustice.

That price is tyranny.

As Edmund Burke, the eighteenth-century British statesman and author who supported the American colonists warned, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Source: https://bit.ly/2xnEmNi

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“She was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80 percent could be moved in either direction.”—Kurt Vonnegut

Please spare me the media hysterics and the outrage and the hypocritical double standards of those whose moral conscience appears to be largely dictated by their political loyalties.

Anyone who believes that the injustices, cruelties and vicious callousness of the U.S. government are unique to the Trump Administration has not been paying attention.

No matter what the team colors might be at any given moment, the playbook remains the same. The leopard has not changed its spots. Scrape off the surface layers and you will find that the American police state that is continuing to wreak havoc on the rights of the people under the Trump Administration is the same police state that wreaked havoc on the rights of the people under every previous administration.

Brace yourselves.

While we squabble over which side is winning this losing battle, a tsunami approaches.

Case in point: in Charlottesville, Va.—home of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, champion of the Bill of Rights, and the nation’s third president—city councilors in a quest for so-called “equity” have proposed eliminating Jefferson’s birthday as a city holiday (which has been on the books since 1945) and replacing it with a day that commemorates the liberation of area slaves following the arrival of Union troops under Gen. Philip Sheridan.

In this way, while the populace wages war over past injustices, injustice in the here and now continues to trample innocent lives underfoot. In Charlottesville, as in the rest of the country, little is being done to stem the tide of the institutional racism that has resulted in disproportionate numbers of black Americans being stopped, frisked, shot at, arrested and jailed.

Just recently, in fact, Phoenix police drew their guns, shouted profanities, assaulted and threatened to shoot a black couple whose 4-year-old daughter allegedly stole a doll from a dollar store. The footage of the incident—in which the cops threaten to shoot the pregnant, young mother in the head in the presence of the couple’s 1- and 4-year-old daughters—is horrifying in every way.

Tell me again why it’s more important to spend valuable political capital debating the birthdays of dead presidents rather than proactively working to put a stop to a government mindset that teaches cops it’s okay to treat citizens of any color with brutality and a blatant disregard for their rights?

It doesn’t matter that Phoenix and Charlottesville are 2100 miles apart. The lethal practices of the American police state are the same all over.

No amount of dissembling can shield us from the harsh reality that the danger in our midst is posed by an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution, Congress, the courts or the citizenry.

We’ve got to get our priorities straight if we are to ever have any hope of maintaining any sense of freedom in America. As long as we allow ourselves to be distracted, diverted, occasionally outraged, always polarized and content to view each other—rather than the government—as the enemy, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny (or government corruption and ineptitude) in any form.

Mind you, by “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law.

This is the hidden face of a government that has no respect for the freedoms of its citizenry.

So stop with all of the excuses and the hedging and the finger-pointing and the pissing contests to see which side can out-shout, out-blame and out-spew the other. Enough already with the short- and long-term amnesia that allows political sycophants to conveniently forget the duplicity, complicity and mendacity of their own party while casting blame on everyone else.

This is how evil wins.

This is how freedom falls and tyranny rises.

This is how good, generally decent people—having allowed themselves to be distracted with manufactured crises, polarizing politics, and fighting that divides the populace into warring us vs. them camps—fail to take note of the looming danger that threatens to wipe freedom from the map and place us all in chains.

Anytime you have an entire nation so mesmerized by the antics of the political ruling class that they are oblivious to all else, you’d better beware. Anytime you have a government that operates in the shadows, speaks in a language of force, and rules by fiat, you’d better beware. And anytime you have a government so far removed from its people as to ensure that they are never seen, heard or heeded by those elected to represent them, you’d better beware.

The world has been down this road before.

As historian Milton Mayer recounts in his seminal book on Hitler’s rise to power, They Thought They Were Free:

Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people‑—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies’, without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us.

We are no longer living the American Dream. We’re living the American Lie.

Indeed, Americans have been lied to so sincerely, so incessantly, and for so long by politicians of all stripes—who lie compulsively and without any seeming remorse—that they’ve almost come to prefer the lies trotted out by those in government over less-palatable truths.

The American people have become compulsive believers: left-leaning Americans are determined to believe that the world has become a far more dangerous place under Trump, while right-leaning Americans are equally convinced that Trump has set us on a path to prosperity and security.

Nothing has changed.

The police state is still winning. We the people are still losing.

In fact, the American police state has continued to advance at the same costly, intrusive, privacy-sapping, Constitution-defying, heartbreaking, soul-scorching, relentless pace under the current Tyrant-in-Chief as it did under those who occupied the White House before him (Obama, Bush, Clinton, etc.).

Police haven’t stopped disregarding the rights of citizens. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip, shoot and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials are no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace. Indeed, they continue to keep the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies and slaves rather than citizens.

SWAT teams haven’t stopped crashing through doors and terrorizing families. Nationwide, SWAT teams continue to be employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activities or mere community nuisances including angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. With more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans for relatively routine police matters and federal agencies laying claim to their own heavily armed law enforcement divisions, the incidence of botched raids and related casualties continue to rise.

The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security haven’t stopped militarizing and federalizing local police. Police forces continue to be transformed into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. In training police to look and act like the military and use the weapons and tactics of war against American citizens, the government continues to turn the United States into a battlefield and “we the people” into enemy combatants.

Schools haven’t stopped treating young people like hard-core prisoners. School districts continue to team up with law enforcement to create a “schoolhouse to jailhouse track” by imposing a “double dose” of punishment for childish infractions: suspension or expulsion from school, accompanied by an arrest by the police and a trip to juvenile court. In this way, the paradigm of abject compliance to the state continues to be taught by example in the schools, through school lockdowns where police and drug-sniffing dogs enter the classroom, and zero tolerance policies that punish all offenses equally and result in young people being expelled for childish behavior.

For-profit private prisons haven’t stopped locking up Americans and immigrants alike at taxpayer expense. States continue to outsource prison management to private corporations out to make a profit at taxpayer expense. And how do you make a profit in the prison industry? Have the legislatures pass laws that impose harsh penalties for the slightest noncompliance in order keep the prison cells full and corporate investors happy.

Censorship hasn’t stopped. First Amendment activities continue to be pummeled, punched, kicked, choked, chained and generally gagged all across the country. The reasons for such censorship vary widely from political correctness, safety concerns and bullying to national security and hate crimes but the end result remained the same: the complete eradication of what Benjamin Franklin referred to as the “principal pillar of a free government.”

The courts haven’t stopped marching in lockstep with the police state. The courts continue to be dominated by technicians and statists who are deferential to authority, whether government or business. Indeed, the Supreme Court’s decisions in recent years have most often been characterized by an abject deference to government authority, military and corporate interests.

Government bureaucrats haven’t stopped turning American citizens into criminals. The average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day, thanks to an overabundance of vague laws that render otherwise innocent activity illegal, while reinforcing the power of the police state and its corporate allies.

The surveillance state hasn’t stopped spying on Americans’ communications, transactions or movements. On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether it’s your local police, a fusion center, the National Security Agency or one of the government’s many corporate partners, is still monitoring and tracking your every move.

The TSA hasn’t stopped groping or ogling travelers. Under the pretext of protecting the nation’s infrastructure (roads, mass transit systems, water and power supplies, telecommunications systems and so on) against criminal or terrorist attacks, TSA task forces (comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams) continue to do random security sweeps of nexuses of transportation, including ports, railway and bus stations, airports, ferries and subways, as well as political conventions, baseball games and music concerts. Sweep tactics include the use of x-ray technology, pat-downs and drug-sniffing dogs, among other things.

Congress hasn’t stopped enacting draconian laws such as the USA Patriot Act and the NDAA. These laws—which completely circumvent the rule of law and the constitutional rights of American citizens, continue to re-orient our legal landscape in such a way as to ensure that martial law, rather than the rule of law, our U.S. Constitution, becomes the map by which we navigate life in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security hasn’t stopped being a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” Indeed, this is the agency that is notorious for militarizing the police and SWAT teams; spying on activists, dissidents and veterans; stockpiling ammunition; distributing license plate readers; contracting to build detention camps; tracking cell-phones with Stingray devices; carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities; using the TSA as an advance guard; conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners; carrying out soft target checkpoints; directing government workers to spy on Americans; conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers; carrying out Constitution-free border control searches; funding city-wide surveillance cameras; and utilizing drones and other spybots.

The military industrial complex hasn’t stopped profiting from endless wars abroad. America’s expanding military empire continues to bleed the country dry at a rate of more than $15 billion a month (or $20 million an hour). The Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. Yet what most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with enriching the military industrial complex at taxpayer expense.

The Deep State’s shadow government hasn’t stopped calling the shots behind the scenes.Comprised of unelected government bureaucrats, corporations, contractors, paper-pushers, and button-pushers who are actually calling the shots behind the scenes, this government within a government continues to be the real reason “we the people” have no real control over our so-called representatives. It’s every facet of a government that is no longer friendly to freedom and is working overtime to trample the Constitution underfoot and render the citizenry powerless in the face of the government’s power grabs, corruption and abusive tactics.

And the American people haven’t stopped acting like gullible sheep. In fact, many Americans have been so carried away by their blind rank-and-file partisan devotion to their respective political gods that they have lost sight of the one thing that has remained constant in recent years: our freedoms are steadily declining. And it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican at the helm, because the bureaucratic mindset on both sides of the aisle now seems to embody the same philosophy of authoritarian government.

So you can try to persuade yourself that you are free, that you still live in a country that values freedom, and that it is not too late to make America great again, but to anyone who has been paying attention to America’s decline over the past 50 years, it will be just another lie.

The German people chose to ignore the truth and believe the lie.

They were not oblivious to the horrors taking place around them. As historian Robert Gellately points out, “[A]nyone in Nazi Germany who wanted to find out about the Gestapo, the concentration camps, and the campaigns of discrimination and persecutions need only read the newspapers.”

The warning signs were definitely there, blinking incessantly like large neon signs.

“Still,” Gellately writes, “the vast majority voted in favor of Nazism, and in spite of what they could read in the press and hear by word of mouth about the secret police, the concentration camps, official anti-Semitism, and so on. . . . [T]here is no getting away from the fact that at that moment, ‘the vast majority of the German people backed him.’”

Half a century later, the wife of a prominent German historian, neither of whom were members of the Nazi party, opined: “[O]n the whole, everyone felt well. . . . And there were certainly eighty percent who lived productively and positively throughout the time. . . . We also had good years. We had wonderful years.”

In other words, as long as their creature comforts remained undiminished, as long as their bank accounts remained flush, as long as they weren’t being discriminated against, persecuted, starved, beaten, shot, stripped, jailed and turned into slave labor, life was good.

Life is good in America, too.

Life is good in America as long as you’re not one of the hundreds of migrant children (including infants, toddlers, preschoolers) being detained in unsanitary conditions by U.S. Border Patrol without proper access to food and water, made to sleep on concrete floors, go without a shower for weeks on end, and only allowed to brush your teeth once every 10 days.

Life is good in America as long as you don’t have to come face to face with a trigger-happy cop hyped up on the power of the badge, trained to shoot first and ask questions later, and disposed to view people of color as a suspect class.

Life is good in America as long as you’re able to keep sleep-walking through life, cocooning yourself in political fantasies that depict a world in which your party is always right and everyone else is wrong, and distracting yourself with bread-and-circus entertainment that bears no resemblance to reality.

Life is good in America as long as you’ve got enough money to spare that you don’t mind being made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the 99%.

Life is good in America for the privileged few, but as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s getting worse by the day for the rest of us.

Source: https://bit.ly/2Li61Ya

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

 

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence and illegal immigration have been convenient ruses used to terrorized the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Case in point: on June 17, the same day President Trump announced that the government would be making mass arrests in order to round up and forcibly remove millions of illegal immigrants—including families and children—from the country, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Gamble v. United States that placed the sovereignty (i.e., the supreme power or authority) of federal and state governments over that of the citizenry, specifically as it relates to the government’s ability to disregard the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.

At first glance, the two incidents—one relating to illegal immigration and the other to the government’s prosecutorial powers—don’t have much to do with each other, and yet there is a common thread that binds them together.

That common thread speaks to the nature of the government beast we have been saddled with and how it views the rights and sovereignty of “we the people.”

Now you don’t hear a lot about sovereignty anymore.

Sovereignty is a dusty, antiquated term that harkens back to an age when kings and emperors ruled with absolute power over a populace that had no rights. Americans turned the idea of sovereignty on its head when they declared their independence from Great Britain and rejected the absolute authority of King George III. In doing so, Americans claimed for themselves the right to self-government and established themselves as the ultimate authority and power.

In other words, in America, “we the people”— sovereign citizens—call the shots.

So when the government acts, it is supposed to do so at our bidding and on our behalf, because we are the rulers.

That’s not exactly how it turned out, though, is it?

In the 200-plus years since we boldly embarked on this experiment in self-government, we have been steadily losing ground to the government’s brazen power grabs, foisted upon us in the so-called name of national security.

The government has knocked us off our rightful throne. It has usurped our rightful authority. It has staged the ultimate coup. Its agents no longer even pretend that they answer to “we the people.”

So you see, the two incidents on June 17 were not hugely significant in and of themselves.

Trump’s plan to carry out mass arrests of anyone the government suspects might be an illegal immigrant, and the Supreme Court’s recognition that the government can sidestep the Constitution for the sake of expediency are merely more of the same abuses that have been heaped upon us in recent years.

Yet these incidents speak volumes about how far our republic has fallen and how desensitized “we the people” have become to this constant undermining of our freedoms.

How do we reconcile the Founders’ vision of our government as an entity whose only purpose is to serve the people with the police state’s insistence that the government is the supreme authority, that its power trumps that of the people themselves, and that it may exercise that power in any way it sees fit (that includes government agents crashing through doors, mass arrests, ethnic cleansing, racial profiling, indefinite detentions without due process, and internment camps)?

They cannot be reconciled. They are polar opposites.

We are fast approaching a moment of reckoning where we will be forced to choose between the vision of what America was intended to be (a model for self-governance where power is vested in the people) and the reality of what she has become (a police state where power is vested in the government).

This slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what happened in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

We are walking a dangerous path right now.

The horrors of the Nazi concentration camps weren’t kept secret from the German people. They were well-publicized. As The Guardian reports:

The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust… They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand. They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them. They knew because the camps and the measures which led up to them had been prominently and proudly reported step by step in thousands of officially-inspired German media articles and posters… The reports, in newspapers and magazines all over the country were phases in a public process of “desensitisation” which worked all too well, culminating in the killing of 6m Jews….

Likewise, the mass of ordinary Americans are fully aware of the Trump Administration’s efforts to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

These mass arrests of anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant may well be the shot across the bow.

You see, it’s a short hop, skip and a jump from allowing government agents to lock large swaths of the population up in detention centers unless or until they can prove that they are not only legally in the country to empowering government agents to subject anyone—citizen and noncitizen alike—to similar treatment unless or until they can prove that they are in compliance with every statute and regulation on the books, and not guilty of having committed some crime or other.

It’s no longer a matter of if, but when.

You may be innocent of wrongdoing now, but when the standard for innocence is set by the government, no one is safe. Everyone is a suspect, and anyone can be a criminal when it’s the government determining what is a crime.

Remember, the police state does not discriminate.

At some point, once the government has been given the power to do whatever it wants—the Constitution be damned—it will not matter whether you’re an illegal immigrant or a citizen by birth, a law-breaker or someone who marches in lockstep with the government’s dictates. Government jails will detain you just as easily whether you’ve obeyed every law or broken a dozen. And government agents will treat you like a suspect, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, simply because they have been trained to view and treat everyone like potential criminals.

Eventually, all that will matter is whether some government agent—poorly trained, utterly ignorant of the Constitution, way too hyped up on the power of their badges, and authorized to detain, search, interrogate, threaten and generally harass anyone they see fit—chooses to single you out for special treatment.

We’ve been having this same debate about the perils of government overreach for the past 50-plus years, and still we don’t seem to learn, or if we learn, we learn too late.

All of the excessive, abusive tactics employed by the government today—warrantless surveillance, stop and frisk searches, SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, asset forfeiture schemes, private prisons, indefinite detention, militarized police, etc.—started out as a seemingly well-meaning plan to address some problem in society that needed a little extra help.

Be careful what you wish for: you will get more than you bargained for, especially when the government’s involved.

Remember, nothing is ever as simple as the government claims it is.

The war on drugs turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with SWAT teams and militarized police.

The war on terror turned out to be a war on the American people, waged with warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention.

The war on immigration is turning out to be yet another war on the American people, waged with roving government agents demanding “papers, please.”

Whatever dangerous practices you allow the government to carry out now—whether it’s in the name of national security or protecting America’s borders or making America great again—rest assured, these same practices can and will be used against you when the government decides to set its sights on you.

If you’re inclined to advance this double standard because you believe you have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide, beware: there’s always a boomerang effect.

As commentator Shaun Kenney observed:

What civil liberties are you willing to surrender in the apprehension of 12 million people? Knock and drags? Detention centers? Checkpoints? House-to-house searches? Papers, please? Will we be racially profiling folks to look for or are we talking about people of Chinese… Indian… Irish… Polish… Italian… people-who-might-look-like-you descent as well? If the federal government makes a 1% rounding error and accidentally deports an American citizen, that’s 120,000 Americans… what means will be used to restore their rights? Who will remunerate them for their financial loss? Restore their lost homes? Personal property? Families? … What happens when these means are turned against some other group of undesirables in America by a president who does not share your political persuasion, but can now justify the act based on previous justifications?

We are all at risk.

The law of reciprocity applies here. The flip side of that Golden Rule, which calls for us to treat others as we would have them treat us, is that we shouldn’t inflict on others what we wouldn’t want to suffer ourselves.

In other words, if you don’t want to be locked up in a prison cell or a detention camp—if you don’t want to be discriminated against because of the color of your race, religion, politics or anything else that sets you apart from the rest—if you don’t want your loved ones shot at, strip searched, tasered, beaten and treated like slaves—if you don’t want to have to be constantly on guard against government eyes watching what you do, where you go and what you say—if you don’t want to be tortured, waterboarded or forced to perform degrading acts—if you don’t want your children to be forcibly separated from you, caged and lost—then don’t allow these evils to be inflicted on anyone else, no matter how compelling a case the government makes for it or how fervently you believe in the cause.

You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t live in a constitutional republic if you allow the government to act like a police state.

You can’t claim to value freedom if you allow the government to operate like a dictatorship.

You can’t expect to have your rights respected if you allow the government to treat whomever it pleases with disrespect and an utter disregard for the rule of law.

Indeed, when the government is allowed to operate as a law unto itself, the rule of law itself becomes illegitimate. As Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.”

In other words, there comes a time when law and order are in direct opposition to justice.

Isn’t that what the American Revolution was all about?

Finally, if anyone suggests that the government’s mass immigration roundups and arrests are just the government doing its job to fight illegal immigration, don’t buy it.

This is not about illegal immigration. It’s about power and control.

It’s about testing the waters to see how far the American people will allow the government to go in re-shaping the country in the image of a totalitarian police state.

It’s about the rise of an “emergency state” that justifies all manner of government misconduct and power grabs in the so-called name of national security.

It’s about how much tyranny “we the people” will tolerate before we find our conscience and our voice.

It’s about how far we will allow the government to go in its efforts to distract and divide us and turn us into a fearful, easily controlled populace.

Ultimately, it’s about whether we believe—as the Founders did—that our freedoms are inherently ours and that the government is only as powerful as we allow it to be. Freedom does not flow from the government. It was not given to us, to be taken away at the will of the State. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

We must get back to this way of thinking if we are to ever stand our ground in the face of threats to those freedoms.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to draw that line in the sand.

The treatment being meted out to anyone that looks like an illegal immigrant is only the beginning. Eventually we will all be in the government’s crosshairs for one reason or another.

This is the start of the slippery slope.

Martin Niemöller understood this. A Lutheran minister who was imprisoned and executed for opposing Hitler’s regime, Niemoller warned:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Source: https://bit.ly/2WWkfjO

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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