On this somber occasion, allow me to say a few brief words over the body of The Bill of Rights. Is this overly dramatic? Just gaze on this beautiful corpse and pose the question once again. Glance at those orderly Amendments, the clear and stately language extending a staying hand against a current government now charting your every move. The deceased looks restful in death but this is only due to a citizenry that was not restive enough in life. The ceremony is appropriate but very few mourners occupy the seats. You know how it is; work, family commitments, dentist appointments, the football season starting and Facebook. Who has the time to defend the Constitution these days?
Who indeed? On September 5, 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia and on September 7th, a verse from the Anglican prayer book, Psalm 35, was read before that day’s business began. It said in part;”Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me…Let them be ashamed, and brought to confusion together, that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me. Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause; yea, let them say continually, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of the servant. And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness, and of thy praise, all the day long.”
In the comparatively short span of 237 years, this country has morphed from a foundation of precisely carved values to one that holds its founding principles in ignorance and disdain. How do I know? Edward Snowden is en route to Russia at this hour for hinting at the all consuming grasp of the National Security State. Congressmen and Senators call him traitor while they ignore the oaths they took to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The oft quoted line from Walt Kelly. “We have met the enemy and they are us”, has never held more unnerving insight. The enemy populates Congress. The enemy collects three billion phone records every day.
The enemy created the FISA court, a body that has turned down only five NSA requests since it was founded. The enemy force feeds prisoners on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay while denying due process to those it imprisons. The enemy knows where you have been on line and has your credit card activity. The enemy has drones aloft under American skies. The enemy knows that they are America, not you. The enemy created The Patriot Act to whitewash The Bill of Rights, lying in grim repose on its funeral bier today.
Ask most people about these things and you will encounter indifference in every shape, texture and flavor. Mention PRISM or BLARNEY, just two of the NSA secret programs harvesting your privacy at this moment, and they will snort and return to their IPhones. Our addiction to technology has suborned us into a waking sleep and for the Constitution, a living death. Antonin Scalia even called the Constitution, “dead”. Shaping this country took risking the lives, fortunes and the sacred honor of men like James Madison, Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The Bill of Rights lies dead because we have risked nothing to keep it breathing.
The NSA hacks have grunted to Congressional committees that over 50 terrorist attacks have been thwarted, thanks to the widespread and illegal surveillance of American citizens. 9/11 could have been stopped and it wasn’t. The Boston bombings could have been prevented and they were not. I am all for throwing the bad guys in permanent lock down but it has to be done in harmony with the Fourth Amendment. The rule of law; how quaint!
“Let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me”, read that Anglican prayer in 1774. I have all but concluded that God is imaginary, powerless or indifferent to be so conspicuously absent in the minds and hearts of the heirs of that deceased Bill of Rights. We have magnified ourselves against a legacy that was born in the fire to live freely. We are simply not worthy of that flame if we do not burn to keep it aglow.
Please sign the guest book on the way out, no refreshments will be served and drive safely.