Our Trying Modern Times – Part 1, by Steve Vandiver

Editor’s Introductory Note: Reader Pam B. wrote to mention that the author has just recently been reported to have passed away. At l;east that is what I’m assuming, since his obituary matches several things he referenced in the article. If so, then we have lost a great patriot. Our condolences to his family.

“You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
But gropers both through fields of thought confined
We stumble and we do not understand.
You only saw your future bigly planned,
And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

When it is peace, then we may view again
With new worn eyes each other’s truer form and wonder.
Grown men more loving-kind and warm.
We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
When it is peace,

But until peace the storm,
The darkness and the thunder and the rain.”
– Charles Hamilton Sorley

Where has Courage Gone?

That we live in a time of acrimony and political hatred unseen since the times of our Revolution against England and the U.S. Civil War is not news. Although this does not bode well for the future of the Republic, ample opportunity for peaceful political reconciliation remains. Recent census demographics indicate that a population shift from some nanny states to conservative states is occurring that will affect the political constitution of the electoral college and congressional representation.

“These are the times that try men’s souls”, Thomas Payne famously penned during the hard winter of 1776. He observed, ‘Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Many have inherited this our government of the people, by the people, and for the people by birthright only without sacrifice whatsoever. Should it be any wonder, the privilege and duty of franchise is so easily neglected?”

Ever since Cain slew Abel in a fit of envy, this world has been a dangerous place. A carving over the inside portcullis of a MacDonald castle in Scotland vaguely echoes 1 Peter 5:8: “Be Ye Vigilant.” It proclaims to all leaving the safety of strong walls. Words for the ages – words to live by, then and now.

Modern governments have more social and technological capability for the repression of their citizenry than at any other time in history. During the last century there have been many horrible examples of repressive government, and a few very good if not even great examples of enlightened government.

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian governments whether Nazi or Communist.” – Winston Churchill

The Magna Carta

Long and difficult has been the struggle toward enlightened government. The Magna Carta (also known as the Great Charter) was signed by King John of England in 1215. This charter of British liberties constrained the power of British Kings. The concept of habeas corpus arose from a deficiency in its 39th clause that states: “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised (sic), or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” Unfortunately, this clause failed to limit the elapsed time between arrest and initial court appearance as well as to delineate exactly what constitutes lawful judgment.

Under the Magna Carta, subjects of the Crown could be arrested, removed from society, and then left to languish in British gaols (prisons) never coming before a judge. In 1679, Parliament enacted a law of habeas corpus to help address this practice. Habeas corpus, is a Latin phrase that means you have [or may have] the body. In medieval times and today, the writ of habeas corpus is a legal mechanism to counter arbitrary detention that commands the body (of any detainee) to be brought immediately before a judge to determine if that person has been legally imprisoned.

The British concept of habeas corpus is echoed in Article One, Section 9, Clause 2 of our Federal Constitution which states: “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Habeas corpus was suspended in both the U.K. and U.S. during World War and by President Lincoln during the Civil War. Citizens should be greatly concerned when the privilege of habeas corpus is suspended, ensure it is suspended only for legitimate cause – and when that cause is past, that habeas corpus be promptly re-established. Various speedy trial acts have been enacted in the U.S. to provide relief for the lawfully detained prisoner otherwise left to languish in jail. These acts set discrete time limits between the prisoner’s initial appearance before a judge and subsequent trial.

The Constitution: Restraining Government

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interest (Thomas Jefferson).

Law evolved to address violent asymmetric attack against the government and its citizens. The so-called Patriot Act was signed into law by President Bush following the September 11, 2001 attacks. This Act enabled the creation of extra-national imprisonment facilities such as at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Military Prison, cleverly bypassing Due Process clauses of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution as well as the privilege of habeas corpus redefining the concept to apply only to U.S. citizens and not foreigners confined elsewhere. Thanks to this Patriot Act, a foreigner could be imprisoned indefinitely without charge, held incommunicado with no redress to the courts by writ of habeas corpus.

“Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson

Governments, no matter how well-intentioned always accumulate power. Due to the wisdom and sacrifice of our forebears, we have inherited a largely benign representative government that by purposeful execution was designed to be a servant of those it governed. Ours was a radical form of government that burst upon the world’s stage, this government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The Framers of our Constitution were wise men who provisioned their new government with both the means of peaceful change through Amendment – and pursuant to the Second Amendment to that Constitution, the means for its violent annihilation. Because this was intended to be a government of the people, and not that of a dictator or of a king, the ultimate of power was gathered literally in the arms of the governed.

Disarming Civilians

Unfortunately, our Representatives and the courts consistently ignore the plain language protections of our Constitution and its Amendments beginning with the National Firearms Act of 1934, further with the Gun Control Act of 1968, and has enacted or tacitly approved patently proscribed surveillance of its citizens. If the current path of political divisiveness continues unabated, our professional politicians, those so-called Representatives of the people, may someday learn hard lessons concerning that ultimate of power guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution — that the right of the people to keep and bear arms (firearms), SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED).

The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it away.

Tyranny, not war between nations, was the biggest killer of the 20th Century and bad government has too often proven more dangerous to health than war between nations. Chairman Mao’s great leap forward, Stalin’s purges, Hitler’s Concentration (Death) Camps, and mad man Pol Pot killing everyone who wore glasses because by so doing, they had to be an intellectual; these and other tyrannical governments have murdered and murdered. War during the last century managed to kill 36 million extremely dead, but Tyranny trumped war by directly killing an estimated 119 million, a grim statistic, indeed. The worst evils that humankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments.

Tyranny is always a casus bello for revolution. Tyranny is to be feared more than war between nations because tyranny results in armed governments making war on their own citizenry. History has shown manifold times that tyranny must be stopped early – regardless of price. Tyranny must be stopped cold or it will surely exact increasing toll on civil liberty and limit personal freedom. Tyrannical governments move to quickly ensure resistance to their rule is made difficult if not impossible and Tyrannical governments are uniformly suspicious of their citizens. Tyrannical governments almost always confiscate methodology to project force at a distance (firearms) along with the means for their citizens to communicate physically and via technology, thus perchance to organize rebellion. Tyrannical governments always seek to control and even destroy those citizens deemed, ‘undesirable.’

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America

Tyranny owes its existence to people lacking fortitude to underwrite the sacrifices necessary to throw off tyrannical government. Consider the twin cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, two cities separated by a common river and occupying largely identical geography with same natural endowment. One city is busy with peaceful commerce engendered by good government operating under rule of law; violence is a way of life in the other city, violence engendered by drug cartels, la mordita, and the legacy of Code Napoleon. People flee from one city to the other and our generous people have largely opened their arms in welcome. But what kind of citizen are we receiving from Mexico and elsewhere? One that refuses to learn English, one that refuses to throw off Tyranny of their former government regardless of individual peril, one seeking to live off the generosity and sacrifice of others – or a new citizen eager to learn the linga franca of their new country; eager to shoulder the citizenship burdens of free men?

Jewish citizens of Germany were generally law-abiding and many were highly educated professionals. These citizens handed over their firearms as required by the Weimar Republic that preceded the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Government of the Third Reich). Many later wished, ‘only if we had met the Nazi with clubs and staves.’ Better yet I say, better yet, if the Nazi was met by the combined fire of thousands of rifles held by Jewish citizens. Unfortunately, that time had passed – along with the Weimar Republic. The inability of citizens to resist tyrannical government by force of arms paved the paths to Bergen-Belsen, Hinzert, Kaiserwald, Kauen, and Vaivera. We are more familiar with the extermination camps of Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau . Nazi death camps were used to carry out systematic mass murder of Jews as part of the Reich’s Final Solution, first inside gas vans, and later by gas chambers using Zyklon-B, a cyanide-based insecticide. By war’s end, the Nazi government operated almost a thousand sub-camps whose goal was control and extermination of undesirables.

In August 1588, Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi famously issued the following edict: “The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, short swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms.” Because he went on to explain, The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and tends to foment rebellion.

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, the blackest.” Mahatma Gandhi

George Orwell, a prescient who saw far in the future, wrote: “The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working class flat or laborer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” No functional rifles now hang from the walls of residences in the United Kingdom because laws have since been passed restricting access of weapons to a few and those meeting government requirements must secure their weapons disassembled with parts contained in one or more safes subject to unannounced spot inspection by the constabulary (law enforcement).

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)