The Bi-Partisan Assault On Liberty Since Orlando
Words cannot adequately describe the horrific shooting at an Orlando nightclub on Sunday the 12th that killed 49 and wounded 53. Such unthinkable acts deserve to draw strict scrutiny. When things like this happen, it’s important to bear in mind that we are America, and that we were founded on the bedrock principles of freedom. Further, as Ben Franklin was quoted as saying, those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.
It’s a lesson we did not learn after 9/11, passing the Patriot Act and creating the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration. These three things, in addition to others, did nothing to adequately address the threat of terrorist actors while severely curtailing the liberty, and therefore the quality of life, of the average American, subjecting them to excessive lines at airports, the security theatre of removing their shoes and “joke-free” zones, and the 100 mile “Constitution free zone” that encompasses the entire land mass of at least six states. Arguably, these laws, regulations and standing orders made Americans less secure, due to the illusion of safety and the increased reliance on government.
The days since the Pulse shooting are shaping up to be along those lines, as we continually learn the exact wrong lessons from an act of terror by an individual who was clearly unhinged. In an effort to do something, government is overreaching – never let a good tragedy go to waste, after all – and a complicit public is allowing it on a bipartisan level. Even if their goals are different, the end result is the same.
The political left has made a point of pushing for stronger gun control, as is their wont. I am at least somewhat sympathetic to this; I’m probably the only person on TLP that is accepting of federally enforced background checks into all prospective gun buyers, or at the very least, I’ll back off on this when the right wing stops trying to bludgeon Roe vs. Wade out of existence by finding every way possible to legislate around it. But naturally, people have taken things too far. Forget the fact that the Omar Mateen actually did everything he had to do to be able to purchase his guns legally, and was fully licensed; last night, Chris Murphy (D-CT) filibustered the Senate pushing for stronger gun controls. This is understandable, considering Sen. Murphy’s (and my) state is where Sandy Hook happened, but the answer that the left is coming to isn’t universal background checks, it’s to tie prospective gun ownership to the no-fly list.
The no-fly list is the worst aspects of a police state put into practice. People placed on the list do not know they’ve been put there until they board a plane, and the process for trying to get off of it is pathetically weak. As it exists, it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment; for the government to use it to potentially violate the Second is unacceptable. It should be telling that Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump is OK with using the list – or, specifically, other vaguely defined watch lists – to keep guns away from people. When the most authoritarian – and most petty – Presidential candidate in modern American history is in favour of something, even willing to take on the NRA to get it, that should be a huge red flag. Instead of trying to use the no-fly list as some sort of sacred document, we should be working to abolish it as it exists; or at the very least, require a signed warrant and due process.
That doesn’t mean that Republicans are on the right side of this issue. Whereas the left blames all of society’s ills on weak gun control laws, the right blames them on Muslims. Sure, they say ISIS, or if they’re speaking broadly, “radical Islam”, but what they really mean is scary brown people. So the calls to deport Muslims increase. The cries to expand the no-fly list – finally, bipartisanship! – increase. The screams for Muslims to loudly denounce any act of terror committed, even by closeted gay man who wanted to be a cop but was clearly mentally incompetent, will increase, willfully ignorant to the truth that terrorism knows no race or religion. That they are joined and comforted by charlatans from the left as well offers no comfort.
Then there’s the case of Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, who blamed “due process” as the real reason for terrorist attacks. By his mindset, we should just round up anyone who even looks like they could commit a terrorist act. I wonder what racial and religious group THAT would affect the most.
Then there’s Newt Gingrich, a statist hack if there ever was one, recommending that we bring back the House Un-American Activities Committee. For our younger readers, if that sounds vaguely McCarthyesque, it’s not vague: it’s literally what Joseph McCarthy used to silence and destroy political enemies. Suggesting to bring back the HUAC is openly suggesting destroying the Constitution so that Republicans can attack Muslims; the fact that Republicans run the House and therefore would run the HUAC is not lost on me, but as Kevin points out, Democrats would be no better.
The consistent, coordinated assault on liberty isn’t even limited to shootings, at that. Early last week, the Senate voted to require women to register for the draft via selective service. It’s being celebrated, particularly on the left, as a win for feminist rights. What would really be a victory for everyone – including feminists – is, if instead of requiring women to sign up to be shot overseas, we abolished selective service, and the draft, altogether. I was born five years after the Fall of Saigon, but even a selective reading of the history of the Vietnam War shows how little the government should be trusted when it comes to forced conscription. The answer to inequality should never be to screw over both sides.
Everything in the paragraphs above happened in one week. This past week have been even worse, because much of what’s gone wrong has been ensconced in law by the Supreme Court.
Before we get to the trials and tribulations of the Court, we got to see Democrats – upset that gun control bills got no traction in the Republican controlled House of Representatives, decided to do a sit-in on the floor of the House, led by John Lewis (D-GA). Lewis is a redoubtable man, who organized sit-ins and served as a leader during the Civil Rights Movement. He knows, having experienced it himself, full well what a vengeful government is capable of, laws be damned. That’s why it was so disappointing to see this great man, who I admit I admire, to be the one leading a movement that looks to force a vote on a bill that would use the – and I realize I’m about to repeat myself – secret, process-less, racist-by-design no fly list as a law of the land, without considering reforms for it. And of all the things to sit in about, this? These bills? Not the Iraq War that helped to cause ISIS in the first place? This is a nakedly transparent political stunt intended to force Republicans into a vote they know will not pass, so they can use it on the campaign trail, nothing more.
Then the Supreme Court got going. That we can a ruling that upheld Affirmative Action was one of the least damaging rulings they made is shocking, but true. I hold no sympathy for the petitioners in Fisher v. University of Texas, largely mediocre students who didn’t perform well enough to get into the University’s automatic acceptance policy (top 10%) of one’s class, but that doesn’t obscure the damaging effects that affirmative action has on minorities that get into places and positions they have not qualified fairly for, which presents splash damage consequences down the road in terms of performance, increased anxiety, and being ostracized by their peers.
But the ruling in Utah v. Strieff upends any boundaries of judgement, of freedom, and of protection against an increasingly hostile police state. The 5-3 ruling – completely along gender lines, surprisingly – ruled that police, on an arrest for even a minor traffic violation, can arrest anything they find in a subsequent search as evidence of any other crime, even if the initial stop was made in bad faith (something even the state’s defence lawyers argued was the case; the officer clearly stopped the plaintiff with the intention of finding *something*, no matter what).
This ruling takes the already weakened Fourth Amendment and delivers a crushing blow to it. Already, the police have been militarized with hand-me-downs designed for war, and even this past week, one of the architects of the death of Freddie Gray was acquitted, extending a pattern where only those found guilty of the most heinous crimes with the most unimpeachable evidence are ever found guilty, and even those found guilty of misconduct that leads to death are given no jail time.
Now, police have yet another tool in their arsenal against anyone they deem to be an unperson. The fourth amendment was written to protect the people from unreasonable search and seizure, but now, all a policeman has to do is find a minor traffic violation, and if (when?) it’s found – and would you look at that, another racial minority group is disenfranchised! – the police can go from there. Even if they don’t, it’s OK; other strikes against the fourth amendment have ensured they can get their man, no matter what. It’s all a technicality.
Everyone is focusing on the dissent of Sonia Sotomayor, and how harsh it was on the majority decision. That is true, as are the words she used, but it’s pissing in the wind. I don’t care about Sotomayor’s dissent specifically because it’s a dissent, and the people sharing it, complete with clickbait headlines that amount to schoolyard children snapping their fingers and screaming “OH NO SHE DII’NT” like they’re in a WorldStar video, will forget this even happened a week from now. A dissent is meaningless in the context of the bad guys getting a tactical nuke in the war against poor and minority people.
Since the shooting in Orlando, politicians and thinkers have launched broadside attacks on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 14th and arguably the 13th amendments to the Constitution1, as well as basic common sense. None of the proposed changes would have prevented Orlando, and even my modest acceptance of background checks would have a marginal effect on gun deaths overall. The proposals are simply “fuck you” laws; laws proposed by one group of people to stick it to a group of people they don’t like, because they see an opportunity to do so. They would only cause us harm in the long run, and worse, I think many of the people behind them know that. Police will continue to arrest any black or brown person that looks funny, scared people will cheer them on while gladly giving up their essential individual rights in the process, and more dangerous criminals will slip through the cracks. We’ll be having the same conversations a few months from now, wondering why everything we did didn’t work, going down the same dangerous path all over again.
The worst elements of statism are out in force, and this time, they’re even being open about it.
1 – A year after the Edward White Supreme Court ruled in Arver v. United States that conscription was not a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment against involuntary servitude, the same court ruled in Schenck v. United States that leaflets urging men to oppose the draft were not protected by the First Amendment. Both cases were ruled unanimously.