I RECEIVE REGULAR missives proposing that we rewrite the Constitution. You've probably seen them, too. They come in chain letters passing from computer-to-computer around the Internet. They originate with members of both sides of the ideological divide. I don't pass them on because, more often than not, their concerns are rooted in their ignorance of constitutional law. The problem is that schools today are staffed by teachers who were never properly educated in the Constitution. How can they possibly teach anything they so poorly understand themselves?
There hasn't been much attention paid to the Constitution in our schools since this episode of Schoolhouse Rock
, “The Preamble”, was aired in 1975. Civics has disappeared from most school curricula. Today, civics education testing is required in only nine states for graduation from high school. Citizens are urged to vote to fulfill their civic responsibility, but there is no emphasis placed on their responsibility to understand what they are voting for.
I don't suppose that anyone would be thinking about the Constitution if it weren't for the Tea Party. Much maligned as racist, homophobic, Islamiphobic, etc, the truth is that they have at least brought the Constitution into the public conscience. People are talking about it. Some few may have even read it. In essence, it has come back into our lives. It's been absent far too long.
As a student of law and history, I have frequently been frustrated in discussing anything across the ideological divide because few others know anything about the structure of our government. They want to change what they do not understand. When I ask them to explain their understanding, they become frustrated by their ignorance.
The Public Broadcasting System has chosen this moment to stimulate the dialog. They are producing a four-part series, Constitution USA
, that will begin airing on May 7th at 9:00 pm EDT (check local listings).
I can't say if the PBS program content will be fair and unbiased. Many argue that PBS management is biased towards a liberal/leftist/progressive ideology, and there is evidence that this may be true. However, in my opinion, any discussion of the Constitution must be helpful. Even if PBS distorts it, those distortions may then serve as talking points from which future dialog can grow.
So, mark it on your calendars – May 7th. Watch the series. We can get together afterwards and debate. However, if you are inclined to argue that the present Constitution is out of date, in need of reform, or should be replaced, you should first understand the one we already have otherwise I won't lend much credence to what you have to say.
PJTV host Scott Ott produced a fair overview of the U.S. Constitution. It can be viewed in eighteen bite-sized pieces of four minutes or less each. Unfortunately, only Chapter 1, embedded above, is available free on YouTube. You'll have to subscribe to PJTV to view the other seventeen. If you can get through them in a month or less, it will only cost you five dollars (US). That's a small investment for such an important subject. However, if you put at least this much effort in learning about the Constitution, you will be better able to form opinions on current events and defend them, especially when you encounter someone like me.
TRADITIONAL WISDOM WAS that anyone caught in a shooting should drop and take cover. That hasn't worked out too well, has it? How many mass murderers have calmly stalked their chosen venue, shooting and killing whomever they found until they met resistance? I know. That's what I told my children, too. Based on recent experience, law enforcement officers have changed their tune. They now advise citizens to run, hide, or fight
They're also advising armed first responders to take immediate action. In the past, the first policemen to arrive on the scene of a mass killing were instructed to secure the area. Don't let other potential victims wander into the killing zone. Wait for SWAT to arrive and deal with the situation. This hasn't worked very well either, has it? Indeed, think of how often we hear of the perpetrator turning his weapon on himself when faced with armed resistance. Better that the first police officers responding enter the killing zone and encourage this outcome before other innocent citizens become victims.
Recently, as crowds gathered for the Long Beach Gran Prix, which occurred shortly after the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon, I saw a police official warning spectators to be aware of their surroundings. Report suspicious activity to the nearest uniformed officer. Even though they had taken every conceivable precaution to prevent a terrorist attack in Long Beach, officials were willing to admit that a perpetrator could slip through the safety net and that each person should take responsibility for their personal safety.
Times have changed. Law enforcement officials seem to be recognizing their limitations. “To protect and serve” appears on many of their patrol vehicles, but they would be more accurate if they used the opening line of the popular Law & Order television series.
The police investigate crime. They are rarely on hand to protect us from it. In rural areas, the first responder to a call for help may be a half hour or more away. Even in major cities, where response times may be measured in minutes, the blood has long since stopped flowing from bodies before they arrive.
I was disappointed when President Bush told us to hunker down following the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. Don't worry. He was taking the fight to the terrorists. We attacked in Afghanistan. We attacked in Iraq. The Patriot Act was passed and a new army was loosed on the streets of America. I was prepared to accept the attacks on foreign soil so long as they were directed at terrorists and their supporters. I was reluctant to see our forces hanging around to build new democracies. My disappointment grew into distrust with the Patriot Act. I hardly trusted President Bush with such sweeping powers. I am totally distrustful of the current President with them. He has schooled me to fear that some future President may use them to become a tyrant.
Am I paranoid? We've now seen the Patriot Act perverted. Homeland Security is being equipped with armored vehicles and weapons more commonly found on conventional battlefields. Furthermore, Congress and the President are vigorously attempting to disarm us. Maybe some degree of paranoia is healthy, especially when so many of my fellow citizens are succumbing to fear tactics. I wonder, why can't they see the hypocrisy of these lawmakers. Witness the testimony of Diane Feinstein who has led the most recent charge to disarm us even though she admits that she raced to arm herself when faced with danger.
Local law enforcement agencies appear to have gotten the message. Witness the actions cited at the beginning of this article. Indeed, many sheriffs and police chiefs have publicly announced that they will not enforce efforts to disarm American citizens even if Congress and the President succeed. A few have begun organizing community militias. Thirty-eight states now have chapters. The few remaining states that are willing to submit to Washington, and entrust their protection to others, are those that have already done everything in their power to disarm their law-abiding citizens. Even though these jurisdictions have the worst crime rates, they refuse to accept reality and continue to do what they believe ought to work regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
Alert: DHS Rounding Up Veterans, Throwing Them In Mental Institutions – Aug 24, 2012 – Infowars
Vets Rapidly Losing 2nd Amendment Gun Rights – Feb 4, 2013 – The Examiner.com
“Breaking News” About Veterans Losing Gun Rights Are Not New – Feb 23, 2013 – The Western Center For Journalism
Change on veterans gun rights lights fire – Dec 2, 2012 – The Washington Times
Senators: VA has denied gun rights to more than 100,000 veterans – Oct 18, 2011 – The Daily Caller
Granted, a couple of these sources are open to scrutiny. Many may argue that they are colored by political or ideological agendas, however the same may be said of every news source. But many are quoting members of Congress and respected attorneys. Thus, we have to look everywhere, even at new sources we may find disagreeable, to ferret out whatever shard of truth hasn't been trampled in the debate.
Before you dismiss me as a wacko conspiracy theorist, give me a chance. I don't believe in secret cabals and alien bodies stored at Area 51. We simply aren't capable of keeping a secret in this nation. My final posting in the Army was as the Operations Officer at a Strategic Communications Center where secrets of the highest levels passed through my hands. Amazingly, the greatest ones that I ever saw became front page news in little time despite our best efforts.
Thus, my concerns aren't based on anything secret. I'm more worried about everyday things that are happening right under our noses, like the stories mentioned above. Our government seems to be treating those of us who served as enemies.
Obviously, there is a strident minority who are opposed to the government's campaign to change America and the Administration must be concerned about them. Look at the recent arming of Homeland Security. Inasmuch as the military is predominantly composed of conservatively-oriented Americans sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution”, the Administration must have its doubts about using them to subdue citizens. Thus, they have directed Homeland Security to deploy an army equipped with armored vehicles and manned by heavily armed “operatives” onto the streets of America.
What enemy was Homeland Security anticipating when they decided to deploy armored vehicles on the streets of America? No individual, no matter how well armed, can resist an organized assault by a well-trained team. Surely, they don't need a war wagon for that. Are they afraid that Americans will organize militias that might represent a greater challenge?
It's reasonable to expect that Americans who fear a growing threat of tyranny might then form community militias to respond to well-organized threats more effectively. If Americans begin organizing militias, who will train and lead them? I suspect that they will turn to our veterans. Former soldiers might even gladly volunteer. I would. At 70 I wouldn't be much use in the trenches but could at least help with the organization and training of militias.
Imagine yourself as a President who is on a mission to change America and fear resistance. Wouldn't you suspect that veterans would be enlisted to help that resistance? What would you do? It seems that someone is already doing it. Explore these links and let me know what you think.
However, we must wonder if this isn't just another waste of time and, more importantly, the nation's dwindling wealth. Are militias being formed? I haven't heard of any. What else would Homeland Security do with its fleet of armored vehicles? Stage a grand demolition derby? They certainly are helping to demolish the economy.
Lacking the threat of organized militias, isn't the government simply overreacting? Federal agencies have been able to handle fringe group militias in the past using the resources already available to them. Local police and sheriffs have SWAT teams fully capable of subduing armed criminals and mobs. Look at how well the LAPD responded to the riots in Watts when Rodney King's persecutors were acquitted. Why do we need a domestic army? To intimidate us? That is, after all, what Homeland Security is becoming and that is what they are doing.
Finally, what threat would organized militias represent if they are dedicated to preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution? Remember, the Second Amendment affirms that “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state...” not only reminds us that citizens have a natural right to arm and defend themselves, but also to organize themselves into militias.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED to you, Senator? I have long celebrated your courage and your service, both in the military and elected office. However, your stance on gun control escapes all logic. It's as though you have been replaced by someone, the polar opposite of the hero I knew. It flies in the face of all wisdom. We know that prohibiting certain categories of weapons just because they appear dangerous has never accomplished anything. Good heavens, just writing that sentence reminds me that the people who believe that one gun "appears" more dangerous than another exposes how little they know about guns.
Senator McCain as a young man with his father. Click here to read about my brush with them and history
Most importantly, please remember the oath you swore on that day when you were commissioned. I swore it also under similar circumstances and later served in Vietnam. I can still recite it. Can you? "I will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution..." It's virtually the same oath you swore when you entered elected office. Sir, the 2nd Amendment is an integral part of the Constitution, possibly the most important part because it allows all citizens to defend it.
Please, Senator, remember your heritage. Remember how you suffered in the defense of the nation you loved. Any attempt to infringe on the 2nd Amendment will be applauded only by America's enemies as well as its criminals. Prohibitions of all kinds have only ever favored them. Prohibitions gave rise to the major crime syndicates of the past as well as today. Imagine the black market that will arise in guns and ammunition when this one is passed. Imagine how the law abiding will suffer when they stand defenseless against the well-armed criminal. Even worse, imagine how tyrants may be tempted to inflict themselves upon America when its citizens are laid bare.
Please, Senator, please reconsider your stance. Be a hero again.
HISTORY IS FULL of examples of people struggling to solve the same problems that we face today. Some of their efforts were successful, some not. It's unfortunate that history is so poorly taught that most are unaware of valuable insights that might help us better react to the issues that confound us today. Take, for example, the right to bear arms. I cringe whenever I hear someone declare that it's time for a national debate on the Second Amendment. Seriously? We've been debating the Second Amendment ever since the founding of the United States, and there is ample evidence to show us how we can best employ our right to bear arms to promote peace and safety.
Click to enlarge
One of the great adventures of all times provides some insight, the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Expedition diaries recount an extraordinary trek across the undiscovered expanse of the North American continent from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. In many cases, Lewis and Clark and their men were the first new Americans that native Americans ever met. Although the natives had a long history of xenophobia and tribal warfare to protect their claims to territory and resources, the Expedition journeyed among them without losing one person, an amazing achievement.
Like most Americans, I was exposed as a schoolchild to a rough outline of the expedition and its historical significance; however, I did not learn more of it except through my own efforts. I was greatly assisted in this by reading Undaunted Courage
by Stephen Ambrose. Unfortunately, the book itself appears to be out of print but still may be found in used bookstores and on library shelves. Studying the expedition diaries
is a daunting task. If you are interested, you can obtain a copy free-of-charge from various sources on the Internet. Also, a Summary and Study Guide for Undaunted Courage
is available from Amazon.
Like much of history, the real story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition is shrouded in the mists of controversy and propaganda. For example, many argue that it blazed the trail for pioneers who stole the land from its rightful heirs. Those on the other side of the ideological divide find arguments to defend the settling of the continent by a new breed of Americans. Although it is highly unlikely (and that's putting it mildly) that the land will revert to the heirs of its original inhabitants, people seem to enjoy investing boundless energies into the continuing debate.
Like most students of history, I was taught that Lewis and Clark successfully completed their mission without losing a single member of their expedition by virtue of the diplomatic skills of the leaders and their native guide, Sacajawea. However, no rational analysis could support any such conclusion. When in all of history has anyone or any group so confounded potential enemies with only their words?
Lewis and Clark had to convince potential enemies that their firepower was sufficient to withstand any attack. Of course, they carried a variety of firearms on their journey. They needed to hunt. The men needed thousands of calories of wild game every day. Such meat is extremely lean, and many pounds are needed to provide the energy equivalent of a much smaller cut of beef. Unfortunately, the weapons they carried were not sufficient to withstand a determined attack. Lacking modern, cartridge-fed, repeating rifles, their small force could be overwhelmed in minutes by a mass attack. Rather than defend themselves in combat, Meriwether Lewis contrived a ruse which seems to have dissuaded the natives from even attempting to attack.
The ruse employed by the Expedition centered on an unusual weapon, a Girandoni air rifle. Yes, an air rifle, such as a BB gun or pellet rifle. It shot a large projectile (.42 inch caliber) with sufficient force to drill through a one inch pine board at 100 yards. A compressed air reservoir in the weapon's stock could power almost 50 rounds without recharging (pumping it up with compressed air). A tubular chamber held twenty-two balls that could be discharged in less than thirty seconds. Reloading took a few seconds more, and another twenty-two rounds could be shot, again, in less than thirty seconds. Thus, if every member of the Expedition of thirty-eight men was armed with a Girandoni air rifle, they could fire almost 1,700 rounds with deadly accuracy in one minute.
Meriwether's strategy was to demonstrate this firepower to induce “shock and awe” in the natives. Upon meeting a native tribe for the first time, the Expedition members dressed in their best uniforms, uncased their flags, and approached the council playing drums and fifes. In addition to presenting the natives with gifts to solicit their friendship, Lewis conducted demonstrations of his air rifle. Inasmuch as the barrel of the weapon was rifled (that is, it had grooves to spin the projectile thus insuring the stability of its flight), he could fire all twenty rounds with deadly accuracy. The natives must have been suitably impressed. Expedition diaries record the wonderment expressed by the natives at every demonstration. The Expedition members never allowed anyone outside their small group to know that they only carried one Girandoni air rifle.
The story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition is but one that clearly demonstrates how just the threat of superior firepower can help promote peace and safety in our homes, our community, and our nation. Its lessons have been reaffirmed repeatedly over the decades that followed. For example, the Japanese weren't dissuaded from invading America following their successful attack on Pearl Harbor by our armed forces. Not the Army. We had none. Not the Navy. It was lying on the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Not any militia. No, they feared America's ordinary citizens armed with weapons comparable to those that their soldiers carried. They were turned away by their fear of our armed citizenry or, as they said it, “a gun behind every blade of grass”.
Potential tyrants balk at the threat of armed citizens. Every socialist leader including Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, and others, delayed their assault on their own citizens until they first disarmed them. Death tolls rose by millions, second only in all of history to death by disease. Arguments that such a thing couldn't happen in America are echoes of the same statement heard in homes and meeting halls of Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union, and China as well as every other socialist state that ever hosted a holocaust. Ultimately, these mass murders could have been prevented not only by weapons but also the fear of them.
Similarly, criminals may be dissuaded from victimizing us without ever firing a shot. The threat that victims may be carrying weapons, even though they are not, has been proven to deter crime. Jurisdictions that responsibly issue concealed-carry permits enjoy far lower rates of crimes than those that don't.
Read the story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition for yourself. Read the testimony of Japanese warlords who cowered before the threat of free American citizens bearing arms. Read the stories of holocausts. Read the statistics on crime in America as compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, not the inflated propaganda of organizations seeking to ban guns. Then ask yourself, why would anyone want to deny us the right to protect ourselves?
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? The Fourth of July is a legal holiday, a paid day off from work. Unfortunately, it isn't even that important to the children since they already have "off" unless they're in summer school. It's a picnic or a backyard barbeque. It's a fireworks display. Independence day celebrates, Independence. Liberty. Freedom.
Okay, I can see you now. You're glancing at the photo of the soldier to the right, then up at the man with white hair at the top of the web page, and you're thinking "Old Fart." Yeah, I am.
And, yes, I'm feeling melancholy. I feel that way every year at this time.
It's obvious that independence, liberty, and freedom just aren't as important as they once were. How can I say that? Simple. We've been surrendering it for decades. (Oh God, here he goes.) Well, yeah, here I go.
In fact, if you really don't care, you may as well stop reading here. It's only going to get worse, and I don't expect that I have a snowball's chance in hell of changing your mind. If you care, read on.
From now on, let's call it like it is: "Independence Day." Take time to tell your kids and your grandkids what it's all about.
I think that I'm going to begin celebrating Independence Day like the Jews celebrate Passover. They tell the story of their deliverance from slavery. They use food to symbolize key parts of the story. It seems to work. They've been telling the same story for several thousand years and every Jew knows it. Our country is only a couple hundred years old and few know what it's all about.
If you're not sure what to tell them, watch Dennis Prager. He'll explain American values in terms you can understand.
His book, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph
, will explain in greater detail and help you defend your children against the lessons they are being taught in American schools.
Finally, when you next hear the Star Spangled Banner being played or sung, pay especial attention to the last lines. When asked, "O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave?" you can answer, "Yes" and, hopefully, so will your children for generations to come.