What happened to oour freedoms??!?

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I found this on Backwoods Home Mag:


By John Silveira

I have a real problem with some of the messages we are getting from today's politicians and bureaucrats regarding everything from a National I.D. Card to military tribunals for suspected terrorists. Specifically, I have a problem with the way they view our rights and the Bill of Rights. Some say National ID Cards will protect immigrants living in this country who are not protected by constitutional rights. Others say military trials, conducted in secret without the same rules of evidence and conviction that apply to citizens, are okay because foreigners are not protected by the Constitution.

In opposition to these politicians and bureaucrats, there are civil libertarians afraid that National I.D. Cards and military tribunals infringe on our constitutional rights.

I want to side with the civil libertarians, but I can't. I can't because there are no such things as constitutional rights. They don't exist.

That's right. There are no constitutional rights.

This country was founded on the premise that rights exist independent of the government and the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was not written to provide our rights, but to assure the government did not have the power to administer, alter, or nullify our rights. Read the Constitution and the first 10 Amendments. Nowhere does it say our government is the source of our rights nor does it state the government is allowed to either administer or protect our rights. What is does say is that government may not infringe on our rights.

The Founders believed rights simply existed, whether they were God-given or natural rights. John Adams, who was deeply religious and who became our second President, may have felt they were God-given rights. Thomas Jefferson, a deist, which is another word for agnostic, felt they were natural rights. So did Patrick Henry, an avowed atheist. None of these men, so important to the founding of a new nation based on individual rights and freedoms, thought of our rights as American or government issued. They just existed. And they didn't exist just for Englishmen, Frenchmen, or Americans alone. They existed for "all men."

Soon after the country was founded, there was an argument as to whether a statement of our rights should be included as a government document. The Federalists, men like Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, didn't want a Bill of Rights.

Today, some historians assume the Federalists must not have believed in rights or didn't want us to have them, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Federalist's objection to a Bill of Rights was twofold. First, they feared that if our rights were incorporated into the Constitution, it would be assumed that instead of being God-given or natural rights, they would be viewed as "civil" or government-issued rights. Furthermore, they feared that, once in the Constitution, the government would assume the power to change them or withhold them at its whim. Second, they feared that by trying to list all of our rights, some would invariably be forgotten when the list was drawn or would have seemed so obvious no one would have thought they had to be included in such a list. And if left out, whatever the reason, a future government could simply conclude that all of the unlisted rights simply do not exist.

In opposition to the Federalists were Anti-Federalists, which included Thomas Jefferson and--my hero--George Mason. The Anti-Federalists were afraid that unless we had a Bill of Rights the Federal government would eventually act as though no rights existed. This, of course, is an expansion on the Federalist's second argument that any rights not accounted for would be ignored.

In the end, the Anti-Federalists won out and we got a Bill of Rights. And to assuage Federalist fears that the government would abrogate unlisted rights, they included among the first ten amendments an all-inclusive amendment, the Ninth, which says:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

This amendment is supposed to remind the people that not all our rights are listed in the Constitution and remind the government it isn't supposed to try to take those unlisted rights away.

But sadly, it turns out both groups were right.

First, the government and much of the population have made the assumption that, because some of our rights are listed in the Constitution, they are in fact government-provided rights that can be applied, interpreted, or revoked at government whim. There is the insinuation that our rights are interpreted and assigned by the courts. This idea would have appalled the Founding Fathers. They assumed the courts would exist to protect our rights, not to interpret them.

Second, the government has successfully argued that anything not specifically listed in the Constitution is not a right. The Ninth Amendment may as well not exist.

The next time you hear someone argue for National I.D. cards, ask yourself if you have a God-given right to privacy, privacy the government may not intrude on. And when politicians and bureaucrats argue the right to a fair and open trial by a civilian jury does not apply to foreign citizens, ask yourself whether this is another of the natural rights that belongs to you. For if it doesn't belong to them, it doesn't belong to you, either.

And neither, soon, will other rights, like freedom of assembly, or speech, or any others because, when it becomes clear to politicians and bureaucrats we are willing to give up one right, you can bet your life they'll start working on another. And another. And another. Until one day, our children will look back and wonder how it was we could have been so stupid and how it was we were so easily enslaved.

-- Kevin R (kreffitt@dark-star.com), November 22, 2001

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