Ye Know Not What Ye Do

by Edgar J. Steele

January 13, 2002

A government of our own is our natural right...If we omit it (formation of a Constitution) now, (one) may hereafter arise, who laying hold of popular disquietudes, may collect together the desperate and the discontented, and by assuming to themselves the powers of government, may sweep away the liberties of the continent like a deluge...Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do; ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny, by keeping vacant the seat of government.

             ----- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

Thomas Paine wrote and published his classic pamphlet, Common Sense, early in 1776 Philadelphia as part of an effort by a small minority to persuade others in America to break away from England and form an independent government, a constitutional republic.  At the time, America was merely another British colony, albeit the single most important in view of its vast natural resources.  Five months later, 56 patriots set their signatures to the single most important document in our nation's past, the Declaration of Independence.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Thomas Jefferson was later to advocate revolution at regular intervals - every fifteen years, in fact.  It is not for nothing that we remember him as a true revolutionary.  It has been 222 years and only one revolution has been attempted.  It failed.  We remember it as the Civil War. 

The victors have rewritten history to depict the Civil War as having been over the abolition of slavery, when in fact it was about the same old thing:  economics.  Exploitation of the few by the many.  The tyranny of the majority, to borrow Jefferson's words. 

There have been rumors of attempted military coups in modern times, coincident with the simultaneous retirement or death of a great many military officers, most recently during Clinton's first term as President.  However, aside from the South's attempt to break away a century and a half ago, there has been no serious overt attempt to overthrow or, even, radically overhaul the United States government.

The lack of revolution, many say, is the mark of how well our forefathers drafted this country's formative instruments.  Tell it to the southerners who lost so much a century later.  Tell it to William Cooper and other modern patriots who have lost so much in recent times.  Tell it to the many veterans today who regularly question why they served and fought to preserve America, only to see it become what it is today.

There has been a revolution, of course, because the America of today would not be recognizable to the founding fathers.  Indeed, it seems a weak imitation of itself as it was only 50 years ago, a time that I personally recall and can contrast with today.  This revolution has taken place gradually, one elected official, bought and paid for, at a time...one overreaching statute at a time...one corrupting influence at a time.

Before my time, George Orwell wrote the screenplay for today.  Even then, it was apparent where we were headed.  Perpetual war become "peace."  A Ministry of Truth charged with rewriting history by pushing reality down the memory hole.  Destroying whole populations in order to "save" them.  A citizenry too timid to speak its mind; propagandized and browbeaten into submission, but allowed two minutes daily of orchestrated hate.  The Thought Police watching one's every move, their efficiency in stark contrast to the inefficiency of other government agencies.  A Ministry of Plenty to oversee chronic shortages engendered by the neverending war's gaping maw.

We Americans crow about our Constitution and, particularly, the first ten amendments (the "Bill of Rights").  However, we pretend not to notice that those rights, every one of them, today has been neutralized or turned into action to be authorized in advance by the government.  With authorization, of course, comes restriction and the potential of denial, the very antithesis of a right

The conversion of rights to authorized acts might at first appear to be no big thing; that is, until the control inherent to authorization is actually exercised.  Thus, for example, gun registration becomes licensing becomes regulation becomes restriction becomes confiscation.  And there are always good reasons given, usually even believed by those giving them at the time, for the initial inroads taken.  Then others always find good reasons to expand those inroads.

Today we see an acceleration of the process as the general populace appears to clamor for more security.  We are told that the actions taken by Bush the Second are in response to a general outcry by Americans.  I wonder.

We have seen airline travel become a nightmare without becoming safer and serve as the single largest factor in hastening adoption of a national ID card.  

We have seen a flood of third-world immigrants, both legal and illegal, continue unabated, with their "benefits" expanded at a time when Americans are tightening their belts (witness Bush's call for food stamps for illegals).

We have seen elimination of any requirement for search warrants by the police; indeed, we have seen them authorized to conduct altogether secret searches and wiretapping.  

We have seen adoption of "star chamber" proceedings; trials without public access and no right to a jury. 

We have seen elimination of habeas corpus laws, which used to preclude prisoners being held without charges or formal accounting. 

We have seen a President conducting war unilaterally, without a nod to Congress. 

We have seen elimination of posse comitatus laws, so that now the military may be used against our own citizens.

We have seen Attorney General Ashcroft direct federal agencies to refuse to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests.

We have heard Attorney General Ashcroft characterize as treasonous any and all criticism of the actions of this administration.

These and many other things have we seen in just the past few months.  Normally, it takes years to advance this sort of an agenda.  Like a dude-ranch horse, catching sight of the barn on the return leg, our government seems bent upon quickly covering what little ground is left before America is fully socialized, controlled and locked up tight.  It's as though they are afraid someone might notice and force a course change before they have completed the journey.  Someone like Thomas Jefferson, perhaps. 

Many think these recent changes are no great price to pay for increased security.  Perhaps not, if only increased security were the result.  But it isn't.  Increased control is the result and that is far from being the same thing as security.  They fail also to notice that these changes are placed atop those wrought by over 200 years of increasingly powerful and corrupt government.  The sum total change is enormous.

We have seen a judiciary continuously defer to the executive branch and a legislature that has become irrelevant in its lust for individual self-aggrandizement.

The Declaration of Independence is but a bittersweet memory today.  The Constitution and its amendments largely a dead letter, with only ceremonial significance.  What we are today easily could have been the result of a revolution, given the marked change in government that has resulted.  In fact, that is just what has taken place.  It just took place so gradually that nobody really noticed or cared.  It is only in the past few months that the pace has picked up so much that the transformation has become apparent.

And yet, people seem (if you believe the media's report of poll numbers) to support what is taking place.  As Thomas Paine certainly would say, "Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do; ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny."   Or, as enunciated by Pogo, Walt Kelly's creation:  "We have met the enemy, and he is us." 

Ye know not what ye do.

-ed

"I didn't say it would be easy.  I just said it would be the truth."
            - Morpheus

Copyright © Edgar J. Steele, 2002

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