Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The free men and women on this train

Sen. Rand Paul is out with a video that asks the question, “Do we no longer have a Fourth Amendment?” Well, no, nor a First or a Second or et cetera. The Ninth and Tenth are rarely even mentioned without a condescending smirk.

We lost the Fourth – in the “NSA is watching us” sense that Paul means – back in the Clinton years and probably much sooner. I remember being alarmed by talk of monitoring of personal emails somewhere around 1998.

During my early days of blogging, I started a series of posts called “The Constitution in Plain English,” intended to show how each amendment in the Bill of Rights has been compromised and ignored. I gave up after the Fourth or Fifth; it was too discouraging.

It was around that time that I began to understand fully that the purpose of a government is not to secure freedoms; it is to restrict them. A “governor” on a bus is a device that keeps the machinery from exceeding a certain speed – that’s the best illustration of the concept of “government” I have ever found.

It was also around that time that I began to understand that freedom is something we are each born with, and it exists between our ears and in our actions. It is not a privilege granted by fiat or law; it is part of our being, endowed at the moment of our creation. Outside influences may be brought to break or destroy that freedom, but only we have the power to surrender it.

There’s a poignant scene in the film Doctor Zhivago when the character Kostoyed Amourski is being tortured and scoffs at his captors, “I am the only free man on this train!” He dies, of course, but he is never beaten. That is why tyranny can triumph only for a while; it is against human nature to accept being tyrannized.

And that’s why instead of writing about the specifics of what’s being done to us, I write things like “Refuse to be Afraid. Free yourself. Dream.” So much of what is happening is out of the individual’s control – but your freedom? Your dreams? No one can take those from you without your permission.

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