“The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts” Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Irish statesmen, author and political philosopher
One of the first things I purchased with my own money after I got my first job after college was a leather bomber jacket. I loved the retro look, especially the antiqued American flag on the back. That $200 was the most I had ever spent on clothing in my life, and since I lived in the Arizona desert at the time, it was not exactly a practical purchase. Nevertheless, I really loved that jacket.
As a Midwestern transplant back then, I was still learning the ins and outs of living in a desert, where I had to share my space with rattlesnakes, coyotes, mule-deer, bobcats, and other small critters. At the time I also drove a truck, and regularly had to park it outside, but since I had an alarm and was in the middle of nowhere I did not really worry. Well, after winter one year, I tossed my beloved leather jacket into the backseat of my truck, where it sat for most of the following summer. As the weather again got cold, I went to get my jacket, only to find to my horror little holes and gnaw marks in the leather. It was then that I learned that car alarms are no match to the smallest of determined creatures. Desert mice had somehow found a way into my truck and eaten portions of my leather jacket.
I had carelessly neglected something that was very important to me, and as a result, critters had started to nibble it away. I had assumed that it was safe, and because I was not paying attention, I nearly lost it. You could say the same thing now about our individual liberty. Over the last several decades we have ignored the slow eating away of our constitutional freedoms. Slowly, through legislative action, regulations, executive order, or judicial fiat, we have surrendered up our liberties a nibble at a time.
If you enter an airport you are now assumed to be a criminal and must choose between your 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure or getting on a plane (we are all possible terrorists now). And, despite the Constitutional prohibitions to the contrary, the newly signed National Defense Authorization Act now allows the military to indefinitely detain American citizens without warrant or trial on just the mere suspicion of terrorism. If your faith prohibits the support of contraceptive, sterilization, abortifacients or abortion, you no longer have the right to act according to the dictates of your conscience without paying a fine because the government’s definition of women’s preventative health care is more important than the 1st Amendment (I did not know that pregnancy is now considered a preventable disease). If you voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to say that marriage is between a man and a woman, your vote won’t matter if a federal court says the constitutional amendment is unconstitutional (the 9th Circuit federal court actually believes that this actually makes sense). And, if you are a church that owns a facility that it rents out to people who want to get married, you are now required to allow gay couples to use it for their ceremonies as well, even though such acts run contrary to your church’s beliefs (New Jersey Division of Civil Rights vs. Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association). Nibble, nibble, anyone?
Like my car alarm was no match for the desert mice, our trust in third parties to remain vigilant over something most precious to us, our individual constitutional liberty, has proven to be misplaced. Like my leather jacket, we have discovered that our freedoms have been slowly nibbled away, with the culprits scurrying away to avoid the consequences of their actions. It seems that when the Constitution runs in conflict with what our government wants to do, the Constitution is deemed inconvenient and quickly ignored. I know that the Obama administration feels that they are offering compromises to us in terms of security, healthcare mandates, and religious liberty, but they are missing an important point. Agreeing to a compromise over something the federal government is not allowed to do in the first place is not a compromise at all, it is surrender. A surrender of liberty by nibbles is still a surrender.
Although I could not repair my jacket and it still bears the scars from the desert mice, I still wear it today because I love it. In fact, those scars remind me to always remain vigilant about those things most precious to me. We need to do the same with our liberties, as government continues to try to “protect us” by stealthily regulating away our constitutional freedoms and controlling more of our lives. We can no longer abdicate the responsibility of protecting the liberty of future generations to only those we elect – we need to constantly watch and remind all branches of government of their proper Constitutional role. As sovereign citizens, in sovereign states, we set the boundaries, not the other way around.
As to what happened to those pesky critters that ate up my jacket long ago? One word: mousetraps.
“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves” Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) American broadcast journalist