We watched the Inauguration. We toasted the new Administration – our new President, our new Vice-President. Rosalie cried.
The strength, the resilience, the glory of a government that makes us the envy of most of the world. The place just about everyone would like to call home.
And we thought about the Great Civics Lesson that we lived through, that we watched on television as it happened. And a pretty interesting experiment in sociology as well. How does a group of patriotic, American citizens interested in bettering our government turn into a confused, stumbling, aimless mob?
The embarrassment, the indignation, the horror, the sadness we felt when we saw that mob turn from Constitutionally protected behavior to just plain criminality. You saw it just as we did.
In a way, all the ill preparedness of the security entities, Capitol Police, Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police and such speaks to the deep-seated belief that we, the citizens of the United States of America would, as we always have, respect the foundations and traditions of our government.
When you study the beginnings of our government, our initial Constitution, you see, over and over, how our ancestors truly believed men of goodwill would rise to positions of power within that government because they were, for the most part, men of goodwill themselves. And then we discover the other guys, those ancestors who were willing to hope that the men of best intentions would rise in our government, but, just in case, they said, let’s throw in a few amendments to that Constitution, ten or so, just to even a crew of bad apples would be constrained by those amendments.
And right there, in the first of those just-in-case amendments is the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Not assemble way over there in Southern Maryland or Northern Virginia but assemble where the government will take notice and so will the rest of the country.
When the right to peacefully assemble for purposes of communicating without government is diluted by “protest areas”, “trespasser laws”, “curfews” and such, we should be alarmed – no matter what political party supports that violations of the First Amendment, no matter how we feel about the people assembling or the subject of their petitioning.
The only consideration should be the requirement of peace during the assembly. Sure, there can be good reasons (sometimes) for limiting that assembly, but those reasons must be very powerful to stand against the constitutional right guaranteeing peaceful assembly and petitioning.
Distance, time of day, volume of dissent, safety of people, things, places, weighing the rights of citizens desiring to protest against the rights of citizens feeling otherwise, or not caring all must be considered, but the presumption of the weight of the argument must always be on the side of protest, demonstration, petitioning our government for redress of grievances.
And that’s how it started out. Peaceful assembly. Varied messages. Signs and flags and chants and yells. Protected, some might even say encouraged, perhaps necessary behavior in a republic like ours. Restrained by trespassing laws, curfews, designated “Protest Areas”? Yes, and maybe unconstitutionally so. But that’s what the Judicial arm of our government is for: to decide when too much control is exerted by the government over protests and demonstrations against it.
What we saw happening was truly terrible. Our liberty, a major responsibility of our government, was placed in jeopardy by a band of clowns playing dress-up. And what if they had been successful in locating the Representatives and Senators hiding from them? And hurt some or all of them? What then you chowderheads? Blame it all on the leprechauns in the crowd who pressed for more action, more violence, more destruction than most of the crowd would ever have indulged in on their own? And it just wasn’t people in the crowd, was it? Some of these dipsticks carried firearms and some probably had ammunition as well. No way that could go sideways, right?
Let us not gloss over the fact that every single person in the crowd was a free individual that could have turned around at any time, set that computer down on a table, dropped that lectern, risen from the Speaker’s desk, stepped away from the House floor, tossed that can of spray paint away, climbed back out that smashed window, and gone home.
“The President told us to do this!” Really? And as my Mother would no doubt have asked, “If the President told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”
Was that mob interested in overthrowing our government and replacing it with a better one? Are you kidding? Imagine these nutballs trying to nail down a budget or assure my Social Security benefit. They were there, I think, just to raise a little hell. Just to inform all of us watching that they were displeased in some fashion with our government.
Fine! Peacefully demonstrate. Protest. Better yet, run for public office, collect the support of family, friends, neighbors, and like-minded strangers and when elected to office, go right ahead and change that government for the better. One thing that we have all learned over the last few decades: given the right phase of the moon and a little luck (and a little inattention on the part of the electorate) anyone, ANYONE can be elected to any office, any office at all.
If you don’t like the way things are going, toss your hat in the ring and if successful change things. Or maybe you think things would be better if you just burned the place down.
What will be the result of this mob’s vandalism? Less freedom for us to peacefully demonstrate? Less accessibility to our government; more “security” around government entities and personnel meaning more difficulty in reaching, speaking to, questioning our government? More excuses for governmental inefficiency just like Covid-19 is now being used to explain failures in so many aspects of our lives? Justifying greater governmental scrutiny of our private lives? Doesn’t this mob behavior just give those who are interested in limiting our freedom more reason to do so?
Sure, after the overreactions we can expect from this insane behavior settle down, the pendulum of freedom will swing back, eventually, but like all free pendula never quite back to the position from which it started, always a little less swing always a little less liberty.
If you are as old as I am you easily remember times when we were much freer to do and say, to be than we are today. Mandatory automobile seat belt usage, bicycle helmets, hate speech laws, whistling at girls… Heck, if we were told then how things are now, we would have laughed and said something like, “That could never happen here!” Well, it did, didn’t it? And all “for our own good”, for “our protection”, to make life “better for all of us”?
I was proud and pleased as I hope you were when these jellybeans were swept from our capitol and our government went right back to work. But I see now more and more energy being expended to make this collection of dithering louts seem like an organized attack on our government, and I am fearful of what we will be asked to condone, what liberty we will be asked to sacrifice to protect us from such “organized insurrection”.
What do you think?