In the defiance of checks and balances, we lose every freedom we once claimed
A drastic situation
What we take for granted is easily taken away.
We have long assumed that the freedoms for which men and women have fought and died, once secured, would remain our forever. We would fight any invading force. We would stand in the face of tyranny, rise up together as a mighty throng, and turn back the forces of oppression, bigotry, and injustice. We would not let anyone invade out shores, occupy our hallowed halls, or threaten the precious democracy we hold dear.
And we’ve done that. There have been no invaders. No one has sent their troops to our shores. No one snuck into our country in the dead of night. No bullets were fired. No bombs exploded. They didn’t need to.
Instead, we elected tyranny for ourselves. In thinking that we needed to fight against the status quo we opened the door to an unholy regime of panderers, white supremacists, elitists, and power mongers whose ideals and philosophies are worse than any external foe we could ever face. By choosing a billionaire whose inherited fortunes are buoyed through deception and unethical practices, we did not choose one who would “drain the swamp,” but rather a swamp rat who delights in the mud and the muck and the filth.
In two very short but eventful weeks, we have moved from being a flawed democracy to one that it on the brink of utter collapse and, interestingly enough, there remain millions of people standing by and cheering. They somehow think that by giving up all pretense of freedom that they, themselves, will obtain more power. The foolhardy believe that in the destruction of liberty for all that they will somehow retain liberty for the few. There is no such hope, however, for when liberty is erased for some, it is destroyed for all. There is no such thing as a partial implementation of liberty.
Our country is in grave peril. The lives of many might actually be at stake. We not only need to remove the cancer infecting us, but as with any oncology surgery, we must remove the supporting tissue around it as well. We currently exist in a precarious state of hospice where our very next breath could be our last.
Everyone Sees It But Us
Edel Rodriguez, a Cuban immigrant who came to the US in 1980 to escape the tyranny of his home country, created an interesting cover for the German magazine, Der Spiegel. The image depicts a faceless image of the 45th US president holding a knife in one hand and the bloodied decapitated head of Lady Liberty in the other. Toward the bottom of the image are the words, “America First.”
The cover is alarming and, for many, disconcerting. Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, vice president of the European Parliament, described the cover as “tasteless.”
The artist told the Washington Post: “It’s a beheading of democracy, a heading of a sacred symbol.”
Like it or not, this is how most people see the United States now. The president has been widely mocked, often with no small amount of hilarity. Leaders of other countries, including our closest allies, have rebuked his actions.
Yet, it is the Der Spiegel cover that may resonate the most. Germans, and Cubans, understand from experience what it is like to voluntarily put their freedoms into the hands of a tyrant. Both countries have had the sad experience of having done so. Both countries understand what it is like to suffer from their actions. Now, they see the United States heading down the exact same path. They are yelling and screaming at us in an attempt to warn us away from the inevitable outcome of our intentionally ignorant actions.
We are not listening.
Instead, the president and his team of autocrats push all the harder toward absolute authoritarian control and bluster loudly at any attempt to reign them in. Just yesterday, in response to a federal judge blocking the illegal travel ban created by presidential order, the president took to the lowest form of communication possible, Twitter, in an attempt to vilify the judge:
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
While the tactic the president is using is not a new one, his attitude shows tremendous disdain and a lack of respect for the balance of powers, the checks and balances that make a democracy possible. Remove those checks and balances, remove the judiciary that enforces the letter of the law, and we do not have a democracy. Our liberty is dead. Our freedoms are gone. In their place, we have a totalitarian regime where personal rights and freedoms are non-existent.
A Litany of Wounds
Without considering anything that occurred prior to the president’s January 20 inauguration, the new administration has attacked Lady Liberty repeatedly with actions, orders, and embarrassments that each act like another stab wound to our freedoms. We don’t even have to add the aforementioned immigration ban to the list to be concerned. Here are a few misdeeds, in no particular order.
- The now-Republican-dominated FCC blocked nine companies from providing affordable Internet service to the poor. The project, known as Lifeline, provided subsidies for both telephone and broadband access for low-income families. Think Internet access isn’t important to the poor? Try applying for a job, even a minimum wage job, in person. Companies don’t do that much anymore. They tell you to go to the company’s website. Yet, for the poor, that act is practically impossible because they can’t afford the ever-increasing cost of home Internet access.
- The US Department of Agriculture removed all animal welfare information from its website, instituting a requirement that any request for such information must be made through a Freedom of Information Act request. This includes inspection reports and other information regarding the treatment of animals at the thousands of laboratories, research facilities, breeding centers, zoos, and other facilities over which the USDA has authority. How does that impact you? Let’s say you want to buy a new pure-bred puppy and want to make sure the breeder is reputable and uses approved breeding method. Get in line. You’ll have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request first. The pup is likely to be a full-grown dog with puppies of its own by the time you get the information. In short, the government is now withholding information you need to make an informed purchase. Seems small, but the overall ramifications of any government agency withholding information are significant.
- The president signed orders re-starting both the KeystoneXL and Dakota Access pipelines even as two new spills demonstrate how faulty and dangerous the pipeline structure is. The orders demonstrate the administration’s willingness to put corporate profits above proven health and safety concerns. Each spill brings with it the possibility of fuel and other contaminants flowing into the soil and water supply. Environmental groups and native American tribes have protested both pipelines over fears of contaminated water, but the president and his advisors refuse to listen. Having clean drinking water is a rather fundamental right, but the president is willing to take that right away if it means making a profit.
- Cabinet choices such as Betsy DeVoss, Jeff Sessions, and Scott Pruitt, all still needing confirmation from the full Senate, represent further intentions to dismantle the freedoms of Americans. DeVoss, nominated for Secretary of the Department of Education, is a strong advocate of charter schools and school vouchers, both of which strip funding from public schools to pay for those run by private, for-profit companies while taking away oversight from the community. Jess Sessions, nominated to be the next Attorney General, has a long history of racial bias especially in regard to voting rights and favors the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency, favors removing regulations on dumping chemicals into waterways and dismantling clean air regulations. All support policies that put big business above the rights and freedoms of individuals.
Reasonable use of time and space prevent me from continuing the list. Over half of the executive orders signed in the past two weeks infringe in some way on the individual freedoms of some or all Americans.
Accessories to murder
To the point we stand by and allow this systematic rape of Liberty while we do not take every conceivable action to stop it, we become accessories to the murder of our freedoms. Some go their willingly. The silence of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle make them complicit in the activities of the president and his administration. The cheering of those who voted the administration into power dooms them for eternity.
But what about those who oppose what is happening to our freedoms? How do we fare in this endless nightmare?
Compare your actions to the person who is sitting in the room as another injects themselves with a lethal dose of heroin. What do you do? Do you call 911? Do you attempt to wrangle the needle from your friend? Or do you just sit there uncomfortably and watch?
My fear is that far too many are willing to sit there and watch. They make no noise that matters. They might say in far too calm a voice, “Hey, don’t do that,” but no one hears them. No one pays any attention because there are no actions behind the words.
If Liberty is going to be saved, if our freedoms are going to be preserved, we have to, at the very least, make sure our voice is heard. Repeatedly. Calling your members of Congress, as we have advocated so frequently the past two weeks, is like making that 911 call. While there’s no guarantee that call will be sufficient to stop the death that seems inevitable, at last you will have made some attempt at preventing the disaster.
More importantly, though, Liberty needs people who are willing to physically take part in the fight, to make deliberate moves to wrestle away the syringe that threatens our very existence. Marches and protests are a start, but we may need to go even further, filing lawsuits and engaging in whatever means of resistance necessary in order to stop the actions of a regime that cares only about their own power and profit.
We have the power. It doesn’t matter that 63 million people voted for this travesty. More than 75 million specifically voted against this president and his administration. The majority of Americans did not ask for this. Yet, the will of that majority is being blatantly and intentionally ignored with malice.
Americans find themselves on the precipice of a decision whether to act against this government more strongly than has ever been necessary or to sit by and let Liberty slip into death. One could get very messy and may ultimately involve uncertain days of turmoil. The other destroys us all and crushes the very foundation upon which the United States of America was founded.
Only you can decide what you’re going to do. You need to make that decision now.