A month ago, a man was rushed to the hospital in an unconscious state. In abject fear that he may have contracted CV-19, he went online and found a recommended cure for the disease.
Following the advice of someone he perceived to be an expert, he consumed a bottle of 91% Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Not only did he develop scarring in the lining of his lungs from the concentration of fumes but he did permanent damage to his esophagus and stomach. What can we learn from this? Fear can lead to irrational and destructive behavior.
Much like the warning label on a bottle of rubbing alcohol, our founders documented several warnings of their own for all subsequent generations. We know how to apply the Constitution, and we also know when it is being misused. Well, I can tell you with certainty, this government is not using the Constitution in the manner directed. Not only are people willing to allow its abuse in a time of “crisis,” they are actively enlisting our government to do so.
Whether this virus is a genuine threat, a crisis and a plague of biblical proportions, or it is the product of mass hysteria, panic and unreliable data, is irrelevant. What matters is how violating Americans’ rights can be justified without question from so many quarters of our citizenry. The fundamental infringements are (too) broadly viewed as a matter of inconvenience rather than state transgressions on our sovereignty. To many Americans, these actions are necessary for the greater good…or are they?
Stay at home orders, “lock downs,” limitations to “essential travel,” and the prohibition on groups larger than 10 people, cuts to the heart of some of our most critical freedoms. This is why:
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Numerous state governments, at the guidance of our current administration, adopted a variety of policies to prevent the spread of CV-19. Among them was a direct violation of our protected right to peaceably assemble. There are few places in the country where a more peaceable group of people will congregate than a church. Yet, in the past few days a number of pastors have been jailed for inviting their members to attend services (note, this was not forced or compulsory attendance). While standing on faith, they chose to follow God’s command rather than that of man.
I will not call into question their doctrinal views. I merely illustrate that just attending church warrants a visit by the police in 2020 America. The irony of releasing jailed inmates out into the streets at a time when the police have admitted limiting their responses to many calls for the safety of their officers should not be lost on most. The fact that in any county in America, criminals can be released but pastors can be jailed speaks volumes to my greater point.
Am I blowing this out of proportion or oversimplifying this? I don’t know. Are you? It would seem to me, if congregants want to come together in prayer at a time of national concern, I will leave it to their discretion as to how they conduct such a service.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Numerous stay at home orders have been issued across the country (I literally just got notice that the governor of Indiana has extended ours by another two weeks). Other states have refrained thus far. When it comes to violation of our rights, harassment by Law Enforcement for going about our daily business, is among the most egregious.
In ordinary times, stop and frisk policies are a clear violation of this amendment. Under extraordinary circumstances such as those we find ourselves in, the police are utilizing stay at home orders as a broad license to pull people over, interrogate them as to what business they are conducting and arbitrarily determining (in lieu of vague definitions) what constitutes a breach of these sweeping orders.
Keep in mind that deliberation on the necessity of a #SAHO is not required for a mayor, county commissioner or governor to initiate it. They just pen the policy, and the population’s 4th Amendment right is subject to officer Miller’s discretion. Anyone who has had to justify their actions to the state, knows it is easier to just roll over rather than fight.
The Ninth Amendment of the United States Constitution:
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
For any magistrate to assume the power to deem entire industries, education, livelihoods, careers, or proper business non-essential under power of a signature, is to deny the people the right to commerce, the right to pursue property/prosperity/happiness, independent movement, and the right of self-determination. These nationwide orders have blatantly disparaged several of our natural rights that, at one time, were determined to be so obvious as to not warrant mention.
However, our founders knew that such circumstances may arise when government would attempt to usurp authority with which it was not invested. For this cause, the Ninth Amendment was written. With the limited number of rights specifically mentioned in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, in any conflict arising from a dispute between government and the citizenry, the mediator should ere on the side of the citizens to the limitation of the government.
In the year 1777, the population of the United Colonies was approximately 2.5 million people. Of that number, 100,000 died of Small Pox. The very existence of the fledgling nation was in jeopardy, not only at the hands of the British but by this deadly virus spreading like wildfire through the United States. John Adams was quoted as saying, “Disease has destroyed ten men for us where the sword of the enemy has killed one.” All that was on the line, the weakness of the colonies, the disorganization of the adopted governing body, and the epidemic of Small Pox raging through the army, General Washington remained reluctant to force inoculation of his soldiers.
One of Washington’s greatest strengths was his unwillingness to utilize the broad powers imparted to him as the Commander in Chief. Though he did eventually proclaim the order to do so, he was well behind the entrepreneurship of the soldiers under his charge. While he hesitated to do what he believed needed done, his men were taking it upon themselves to self-inoculate. Recognizing the danger, they actually disobeyed orders against self-inoculation. With defeat of the Revolution in the balance, the people saw the need, did what had to be done, and did not wait on permission (or instruction from public officials).
Context, both contemporary and historical, is important to maintain a balanced perspective. We must always be careful to weigh the long-term implications against temporary imperatives. Skepticism of unprecedented action, though unpopular at the moment, is of the utmost importance. In an atmosphere of panic, hysteria, fear, and an abundant trust in government’s willingness (and ability) to do the right thing, it would seem too few are questioning the narrative being invoked to fundamentally transform the way America responds to a threat.
Americans are calling the authorities on neighbors for perceived violations of Stay at Home Orders. Pastors are being jailed for holding church services. Millions are being laid off (I am among them). $2.2 Trillion dollars of our grandchildren’s money is being spent to bail out our industries, and it was passed through “unanimous consent” with only about half of our representatives present.
Thomas Massie (R-KY) offered his justification for dissent with these words: “I came here to make sure our republic doesn’t die by unanimous consent in an empty chamber, and I request a recorded vote.” Calling for adherence to the Constitution, which requires a quorum (no less than 218 members) to be present to conduct business in the House of Representatives, is pretty unpopular when you are standing between Americans and their government money. However, Thomas Massie did what I am trying to do: tell America to remember what is on the line, what it is willing to surrender in exchange for safety, and what we have taken from subsequent generations to maintain our contemporary ease.
This dissent may be perceived as crass, callous, or unconscionable to some circles, but holding and expressing unpopular opinions was not the part of the 1st Amendment that was placed on the back burner (at least as of time of this writing). I needed to be on record as begging people to keep their wits about them.
Just a month ago, I stood among a broader coalition of patriots who opposed government overreach, outrageous spending, bailouts, welfare, government intervention in the free market, authoritarian tactics to extract compliance from the people and believed in private sector solutions to our problems (large and small). The mentality that seems to have swept away reason among so many is: government must step in and protect us from ourselves. It is the same case that was made against the 2nd Amendment for decades; potential danger justifies and even requires government intervention.
Inevitably there are reasons, personal to every individual, where they begin to question how steadfast they hold their values. It must be said — forgive me, but I really never expected the line to falter over concern for a natural phenomenon like a nasty virus — the precedents being set are profound, but most see them merely as a nuisance.
There are significant implications in our actions right now. We have granted government passive permission to use these measures and more for every future crisis. This is a mudslide on liberty where once it was merely a gradual erosion. If this virus proves incapable of killing more people than the Flu, then we have demonstrated that We The People are the greatest threat to our own rights. There is nothing left for the government to do but exploit that.
Eric Buss is an avid reader and studies history, military, philosophy and politics.
Eric considers himself a Christian Conservatarian.