Freedom or Else!

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The headline, the morning following the inauguration, made me laugh. That bothered me. Are headlines supposed to be humorous? Or should they display the editor’s derision of some person or idea? I didn’t think so. What the headline said was, "Bush calls for global liberty." Does Dave Barry write the President’s stuff?

"Global liberty" seems a bit presumptuous. I would be pleased if officials undertook to repair the potholes in the street.

During the Catholic liturgy there is an opportunity for those attending to ask their fellow worshippers to pray for their intentions. Quite often some pious soul will say, "For world peace, let us pray to the Lord." Evidently a miracle is intended; no hint is ever given of anything we should or could do to effect this transformation. Well, a little old lady praying for world peace is just a little old lady. But when the President of the U.S. calls for "global liberty," it’s another matter. He can, with a phone call, set rolling a juggernaut of destruction unimagined by previous generations. Destruction, in fact, is what he does. What constructive measures can he take? With Iraq as an example (one of many!) it is apparent that governments impose peace with war. They bomb, strafe, and imprison to impose freedom. They liberate with napalm and machine guns. I prefer the little old lady’s approach: at least nobody dies.

"The United States," said Mr. Bush, "will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." Who, exactly, is this "we" that will be standing with "you?" Are the President and his advisers going to duke it out with the bad (in their opinion) guys? That’s not likely, since even as the President was speaking these inspiring words, he was protected by bullet-proof shields, with snipers on every nearby rooftop, and secret service agents at the ready to "take a bullet," for the President if necessary.

The irony! Moments before speaking these brave words, the President took his oath of office, in which he swore to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution. No one else in government takes such a strong oath. Yet, with those words still ringing in our ears, he then announces programs which are so breathtakingly unconstitutional and, therefore, clearly unlawful, as to leave one aghast. Except that no one was aghast. Time after time, his dutiful worshippers broke into applause as he announced, one after another, plans to do precisely what he had just sworn not to do. The commentators throughout the day following the speech, whether his supporters or opponents, never hinted at the utter impropriety of what he proposed. That, I suppose, is the saddest thing of all.

The President’s job is not very important — at least according to that Constitution to which he swore his fealty. He administers a government that was intended to be small and unobtrusive, not playing a prominent role in the lives of Americans. What happened? Today, one can hardly fault the President — any President in recent decades, at least — for confusing himself with Caesar. At his carefully staged appearance at the inauguration, the most important people in the world rose to their feet. The band played the tune that can only be played for the President. A dying Chief Justice felt it his duty to administer the oath, although there is no requirement that he do so. Tens of millions of people around the world watched the spectacle. Dutiful crowds cheered. (Dissenters were kept out of sight) There was not one inaugural ball, but nine! The beautiful and influential fawned on him. It would be a remarkable man indeed who did not think, "I must be somebody to be treated like this."

The American republic didn’t last very long. Probably some of the founding fathers were still alive when it began its disintegration. Can anyone today argue that our government bears even the slightest resemblance to the one contemplated by the Constitution? Does anyone who gets himself elected and swears an oath to the Constitution deserve our support, just because of that? If we are to have government at all, better to have the one envisioned by the founders. The fact that their inspired creation quickly succumbed to the lust for power should make one suspect that government, of its very nature, is a danger. The founders thought that the restrictions imposed by their Constitution would protect the people. They were wrong.

One occasionally hears the remark that our government is "out of control." In fact, it is in control of almost everything. What is meant, no doubt, is that the rulers themselves acknowledge no control over their actions. They can do as they like, and they do. The problem is that they do it to us, and, if the President’s plans come to fruition, to everyone else in the world! Despite their guns and bombs, however, they would be unable to accomplish anything without our cooperation, or at least, acquiescence. We outnumber them, and we produce, while they only consume. Is it time for us to go on strike?

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is a retired ophthalmologist in St. Louis, and the author of All Work & No Pay.

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