The real travesty here is in a little thing that us Americans call the “Bill of Rights” (mainly because that’s what it’s called). This is a document that was drafted prior to the United States becoming it’s own nation, and it outlines all of the human rights (that were recognized 200 years ago), enumerated in the first ten amendments. The Bill of Rights was drafted specifically to give balance to the Constitution and to prevent future leaders from grabbing “too much power”. How much is too much? Let’s take a look at the Bill and see if we can figure it out. (Some of you may be thinking, “Dude, we know what the Bill of Rights says.” and to those people I say “humor me.”
The transcript is here, although it is reproduced below, as I address each section.
The Bill of Rights: A Transcription
The Preamble to The Bill of Rights
Congress of the United States
begun and held at the City of New-York, on
Wednesday the fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.
Blah blah blah….
THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.
In short: Recognizing that Government is necessary is one thing, but after witnessing a multitude of failed tyrannies, oligarchies, monarchies, dictatorships, and democracies, our founders were smart enough to realize that there needed to be firm limitations to the reach of said government. You may think there’s a lot of assumption here – fortunately the written record of the feelings of the founders is fairly good, so we can confirm my assumptions with a few quotes:
Alexander Hamilton describes quite specifically his fears of putting our Rights into writing. In The Federalist No. 84 (and I don’t hesitate to point out that all of our Founders used pseudonyms so that their political opinions and views could not be held against them – why are so many social networking sites requiring that you use your real name? So that they can sell that information to the highest bidder, of course), he establishes quite clearly that by enumerating our rights, we are defining limits that shouldn’t exist in the first place. That’s right – he felt that any government would grab as much power as it could, even by using the equivalent of legal loopholes and playing with the language to claim more power than they should have. Seriously – read it…it’s fucking awesome. It’s so “on the nose” you’d almost get the impression that these folks had experienced the wrong side of a heavy-handed government before.
RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all, or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.
This was the defining Congressional meeting, when the original 13 states agreed that there needed to be a Governing body for some things – namely, to get out from under the thumb of England, France, and Spain. As a United body of States, they had far more power globally – just enough to establish and maintain Independence.
As a side-note here, I’d like to address all of the idiots that continue to say “for all intensive purposes”: Learn a phrase before you start trying to use it, or else you’ll look like a complete fucking idiot.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
They are establishing what is being applied – human rights, and the restriction of those rights by Government, enumerated in the Amendments. This also establishes that the document does not “give rights”, but instead limits the powers of the Government. After all, Governments already have more power than the citizens, by default…it wouldn’t make any sense to make a document giving them “more” power. Instead, the Constitution provides the rights of the people, that no Government can take away. (On that last link, be sure to read down to Madison’s statements, in particular: “First. That there be prefixed to the constitution a declaration That all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from the people.” Obviously not the most literate of our founders, but still completely unambiguous: A government’s power to control it’s citizens starts with the citizens giving that government the ability to control them.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Make no mistake – this wasn’t the first amendment by accident. Our founders felt so strongly about the free practice of religion (or abstinence thereof), that it was the most important thing for them to put down on parchment. Now, the text here is misleading, mostly because of the vast amounts of people that haven’t bothered to read it. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” (there will be no Government mandated religious belief, as people should be allowed to come to their own conclusions) “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (neither is the Government allowed to limit you in the practice of your religion) there is a semi-colon here, which indicates other things that the Government can never EVER limit) “; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances. The links should make my argument for me – our Government has gone out of it’s way in recent years to try to restrict and limit exactly that which our Founders prohibited the limitation of.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
This requires a bit of background – as many people point out, our forefathers could never have predicted assault weapons or nukes. The simple fact is that none of that should matter anyway, as our Government was never intended to be a “global power” or a babysitter. Our founders recognized that conflict and fighting would happen (as deplorable as they felt it was), and on many occasions in our nations’ infancy begrudgingly assembled arms against a common enemy. Back in those days, I guess, people didn’t think an “idea” was “the enemy”, or maybe our founders just forgot to mention it. Anyway, this amendment comes from the simple fact that there was never supposed to be a standing militia in the United States. The intent was to allow each state the ability to assemble their own militia, by whatever means, and since people work for a living (and they didn’t want to pay for a standing militia), the only “soldiers” they had were free men who volunteered to fight. Considering that most people still hunted for food (or at the very least, defense), this is establishing – essentially – the right to defend ones self (especially in the defense against hunger). I’m not going to get into what that means about assault weapons…maybe in another post, but not this one. This is about purpose and deviation from purpose – and believe me, we are certainly deviant. So the main point here is, “you can keep weapons to defend yourself and survive, and the Government does not have the right to do a goddamned thing about it”.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
This is strictly a limitation on the soldiers, should they be necessary. Since the Bill of Rights was written from the stance of “no standing militia”, they would have few areas to house soldiers, permanently or otherwise. This limitation prevented career soldiers from being held in a higher regard to the civilians – and they even told me when I was in the Army: A civilian outranks all of them, “technically”. Nobody ever explained the air quotes to me, but I think most of this amendment is fairly clear. “But in a manner prescribed by law” is saying that during wartime, there may be a requirement for soldiers to be housed in private residences, but that there would be democratically approved laws that would handle these situations in a fair and reasonable manner.
Does this in any way reflect on the security concerns that we’ve been discussing? Not in any way that I can see, no.