Monthly Archives: February 2017

“Put your bodies upon the gears…”

There sure is a lot of talk lately about that venerable old document we call the “Constitution.”  There’s a lot of disagreement over how it is to be interpreted, and the intentions of the original Framers regarding language, but one thing everyone seems to 0105-wires-constitution_full_600agree on:  No one is getting it right…except for ourselves, of course, whenever we want to use it to enforce our views.

Our Constitution is the supreme law of the United States and defines the rules and separation of powers by which the three branches of federal government will operate.  It is the charter that outlines how our government is to work.

Within the Constitution is Article 5 which defines the Amendment Clause; the process by which the Constitution can be changed.  The first 10 Amendments are known as the Bill of Rights, however, 17 more have been added since.  This was created because the bill of rightsFramers, collectively visionary, knew that the world and their young country would change.

Thomas Jefferson was even more bold and wrote that every generation of citizens should analyze the constitution of their government to determine whether it truly serves the public`s needs.  And he used this image to clarify his assertion: “Because as we grow older, as a republic, you cannot expect a man to wear a boy’s jacket.”

The Founding Fathers realized they could not foretell the evolution of American values, inventions and ethics and they knew that their charter, if it is to remain relevant, would have to have a process by which to reflect societal change and growth.

The 19th Amendment is one of the clearest realizations of that necessary Constitutional function.

thCAPCD7LOThe 2nd Amendment is the only amendment that states a purpose and that is to protect the security of a free state.  But the meaning and relevance of a “well-regulated militia” will forever be questioned, leaving the 2nd Amendment like a middle child; a little too social and a little too vague.

The one that I want to talk about here is their oldest sibling:

The 1st Amendment.

This addendum is the one that holds the most latitude and relevance in understanding our Constitution.   The First Amendment prohibits the making of any “law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Framers quickly realized after constructing the parameters for representative government that the principles by which it would govern would have to be as resolute.  Opposition to the ratification of the original Constitution was due to a concern for the lack of guarantees regarding civil liberties and the First Amendment, thereby, established fundamental rules to protect individual freedom.

It made clear that we must be free to worship (or not to worship) as we please, that the state cannot restrict the elocution of the mind to express ideas (including a free press), and finally, it sets the stage for a redress of grievances so as to secure the power of the people within that government.

Religious freedom is the tenet that is most often discussed these days, but it is Freedom of Speech that stands at the center of our agreements and our thCAWY8G6Dmisunderstandings.  What does it mean specifically?

It was recognized as a “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” when it was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, meaning that (according the UN’s Article 19) the right to speak one’s mind is an unalienable right of all people.

There is a gray area, though.  “Libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (inciting ethnic hatred, for example), copyright violation, and revealing classified information” are not included.  Nor should they be, but now we have a problem.  Who is free to say what and to whom?  Who owns an idea?  When does libel or slander impose upon another and where does it not?  What is obscene and who determines it?

Am I free to hate?  Can I assemble others to join me and how far can I, or can I not, go to further that cause?

When the American Nazi Party petitioned Skokie to stage a march was that an exercise of free speech or sedition?Downs-1986

Unfortunately, objective clarity will never exist, but what we can do is investigate why freedom of expression must be upheld.  One of the greatest examples of Free Speech consciousness began in 1964 at the University of California’s Berkeley Campus.

The seeds were planted back in 1958 when Berkeley students formed SLATE as a political party to support Civil Rights, also creating a climate of awareness regarding student’s rights, and when the Berkeley establishment declared in 1964 that strict rules prohibiting advocacy of political causes or candidates would be enforced, the campus erupted.

thCAL5ZXODA young man named Mario Savio was part of a crowd that had gathered as a former student named Jack Weinberg was arrested for manning a table for the Congress of Racial Equality outside Sproul Hall. The University police had just put him in a police car when Savio emerged from the crowd and yelled, “Sit down!” so that the car would be blocked.

Savio then climbed on top of the police car to give the most inspiring speech in the history of the Free Speech Movement; the last 85 words became legendary:

“…There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part!  You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!  And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

Savio capsulized the essence of our cornerstone Amendment, from free speech to a redress of grievances:  “And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

The People have the power, but only if they exercise that power.  That’s why we must have the authority to speak our minds, why we must covet our individual liberties and challenge the forces that try to contain them.  It also means that people who offend us, people who harbor hatred and ignorance, also have that authority, but as Savio eloquently expressed, freedom is what can moderate the will of the machine.

The machine can become tyranny and the freedom to express ourselves and to stand up for our rights is the only force with the aggregate strength to overcome it.

FreeSpeech 3A few years ago I made a pilgrimage to Berkeley with a friend so that we could see Sather gate and Sproul Hall where the Freedom of Speech Movement began.  I stood in awe as I imagined the passion and conviction of Mario Savio and others who created a movement that clearly reverberates to this day.

And what struck me is that it hasn’t changed.  The trees have grown, but, the student’s tables with causes and speakers, inviting passersby to join clubs and rallies to support equal rights, environmental issues and First Amendment freedoms, still line the path…

We are strong, America, but we are corroding the principle of freedom by limiting its relevance in a political dogfight to define it according to our specific agendas.  We will remain strong only if we respect the freedom our Constitution protects, not simply by stating our entitlement to it, but by recognizing the challenges that come with it.

Back to the Future

Planned-Parenthood-Logo-SquareLast year marked the 100th anniversary of the creation of Planned Parenthood which has become America’s preeminent provider of reproductive health care for women and for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

19 years later in 1935 American retirees first became protected by Social Security, reducing poverty among senior citizens from nearly 50% to 10%, making it one of the most successful programs in history.

JFK1962-620x490In 1963 President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act to improve and protect fair wages for women. In 1964 his Equal Rights Act was passed posthumously under President Johnson.

One year later Congress enacted Medicare to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older.

In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was created under President Nixon andEPA_logo the clean water act to restore and protect the nation’s water supply was strengthened.

Union membership was nearing 40%, the middle class was strong, and wage earners were upwardly mobile.

Could any of us imagine that today we would be fighting for the very existence of every one of these things?  Programs designed to protect and improve our lives?

We are because an extreme movement has coaxed the Republican Party toward their extreme narrative for America.  What was once considered our moderate center is now viewed as far left.  Our actual left, which once led the charge for social justice in the most formative moments of American history, is now dismissed as far left and too idealistic.

But, idealistic is what we must be.  Idealism is what will stop the decades long drift away from the promise of the Preamble to the Constitution: “..to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty…”

Realism has replaced idealism as our modern operating system and while we must be realistic in order to achieve our goals-  our goals must still be forged from idealism.   That is how we will achieve great things.  Things like genuine civil rights, access to medicine for all Americans, affordable education, sane, moral and effective foreign policy, and curbing the dangerous course of a changing climate.

Edward Kennedy said it best when he eulogized his brother, Robert, by quoting George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and ask why….I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

That is the essence of the modern Democratic Party.  But no party can make an exclusive claim on great ideas.  Dreams and ideas are not partisan; they belong to our collective consciousness to improve lives.  This is not a time to compromise our ideals of liberty, justice and tranquility – this is the moment we must seize to inspire America back to the idealism that once moved us forward.

No Country For Old Liberals!


Ok. Let’s rid the country of liberals. I read a conservative post that said that “liberalism is a disease.” Others chimed in and made it clear that liberals are “destroying America” that they are “stupid” and “don’t live in reality.”

So. Let’s deport them. That seems like an up and running directive these days for “undesirables.” Let’s get rid of all of the liberals. I know that I am sealing my own fate as the scarlet “L” emblazoned across my chest will surely reveal me, but I am willing to accept this exile. If we are, in fact, sick, stupid and diseased, I don’t want to be part of what is bringing down America. I love this country that much.

Let’s not worry at the moment about where the liberals will be sent, they (we) might be lost without government handouts, but there’s enough Hollywood money to buy half of Australia since that continent has been designated a terrorist waystation. Suffice to say that America will be populated entirely by the conservatives who, after all, have always been the true Patriots. I mean, unless, of course, you are considering the original conservatives who wanted to reconcile with King George, but I digress…

Who’s left? What does the landscape of America look like now? Let’s not even consider the bad haircuts and baseball caps as fashion accessories, let’s just consider who is still on American soil.

Not too many actors will be left. Well, Chuck Norris and Steven Baldwin, I suppose. The literary community is at least cut in half. There certainly won’t be many dancers. And singers? Trace Adkins, I’m sure, but even in country music, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks will be headlining in the Outback.

3 Doors Down is around performing their one good song. And, oh, yeah- Kid Rock and Ted Nugent (has anyone ever seen them in the same room at the same time? Just asking)

Comedy is looking a little thin, too. Outside of Dennis Miller, there’s…..give me a moment.

Artists? Painters? Television show hosts who are actually entertaining? Not many.

Chuck Woolery is still in America, but didn’t he retire already?

At least we got rid of SNL! There’s a coup! No more Trump satires. Now the actual Trump can be the sole satirist of Donald Trump. And THAT (all kidding aside) is at the very least- entertaining.

I would imagine that “mainstream” media has been exiled. I don’t think they wanted to leave, but with no one left who will watch them, they’ll have little choice. For some reason, people who are drawn to the discipline of fact gathering have gone wonky-liberal.

Without much film or television content, movie theaters simply run Dinish D’Souza films and television is 24/7 Fox News. But wasn’t television already 24/7 Fox News? Maybe that isn’t too much of a jump for the New America.

Entertainment, journalism and art are just by-products of liberalism, however. What about the sinister foundation of liberal ideology? The scaly underbelly of progressivism that preaches peace, diplomacy, diversity and compassion. What about the politicians, social workers, scientists and teachers who have been shipped out so that the new home-schooled America can focus on the work those self-anointed “intellectuals” dismissed or dismantled?

It will mean no more tree-hugging, climate-whining, science-insisting, liberals to impede oil-consuming, education-draining, military-spending conservatives who will make America GREAT! No more work weeks limited to 40 hours or paid vacations to slow results. No labor laws, maternity leave, Social Security and pensions to siphon profits. No more Disease Control, Food and Drug, Aviation, Environmental and all those other tax consuming, “protection” agencies.

The new Conservative America is free to prosper without us!

Ok. I’m done for now. I’ve heard there’s a show tonight at Ayers Rock. In fact, it’s called “Rock Ayers” and it features: Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam, Beyonce, James Taylor, John Legend, and Neil Young….

That’s the warm up set for Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks. With Jon Stewart as the emcee, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”