December 6, 2010
By Wesley Strackbein
Face reality, good citizens. It’s not wise to question the tyranny behind the TSA’s groping of innocent travelers or gawking at your loved ones’ naked bodies. Never mind the Constitution; we must abridge your liberties in order to protect you from harm. Show loyalty to America—these new measures are for your good.
We live in a world turned upside down. Our rights are being violated in the name of keeping us safe. And in this new Orwellian reality where civil liberties are being trampled on in the name of the Patriot Act, and loyalty to our country is being measured in terms of willing compliance with tyrants, we must wake from our confused stupor and look to the past.
What Americans need to know is this: Our Founding Fathers decried these specious arguments and warned the citizenry not to fall prey to them.
As England grew increasingly despotic toward Americans in the days leading up to 1776, liberty-minded patriots rose up in opposition to violations of their rights. Their response was not well-received by the King and Parliament who demanded slavish fealty to the British Crown. The patriots insisted on loyalty to the law instead. Boston patriot Sam Adams declared:
True loyalty . . . cannot subsist in an arbitrary government, because it is founded in the love and possession of liberty. . . . it is the scourge of the griping oppressor and haughty invader of our liberties. . . . Whoever, therefore, insinuates notions of government contrary to the constitution, or in any degree winks at any measures to suppress or even weaken them, is not a loyal man. Whoever acquaints us that we have no right to examine into the conduct of those who, though they derive their power from us to serve the common interests, make use of it to impoverish or ruin us, is, in a degree, a rebel to the undoubted rights and liberties of the people.
Adams’s point was clear: Fidelity to fundamental laws, not fealty to a despotic state, is what defines true loyalty, and anyone who seeks to subvert constitutional rights for some pretended greater good is a traitor. Those who would silence objections to tyranny are rebels. Those truly loyal to the Constitution must resist.
James Otis, a fellow Boston patriot, agreed with Adams’ point. When Parliament issued the Writs of Assistance in 1760 which established general warrants which authorized customs officials to search for smuggled material within any American colonists’ premises—regardless of whether there was probable cause for wrongdoing or not—Otis objected, describing England’s policy as an “[instrument] of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other. . . . It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law that ever was found in an English law-book.”
While Otis acknowledged in a five-hour speech that special search warrants were at times necessary to fight crime, he staunchly opposed general warrants that allowed for officers to indiscriminately search homes, stating: “the writ … being general, is illegal. It is a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.”
We must not equate lawless policies with liberty, Otis maintained, arguing that England’s formal policy to molest law-abiding colonists without just cause under the guise of nabbing traitors to the English Crown was an illegal act of villainy. His battle against the Writs of Assistance, in time, led to the establishment of the 4th Amendment to the Bill of Rights:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The new search-anybody policy instituted by the TSA—apart from probable cause or even reasonable suspicion—is an old lawless ploy which directly violates Americans’ 4th Amendment right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The disloyal Americans are those who condone and carry out this breach of liberty, not those who question it.
The TSA’s policy to violate Americans’ 4th Amendment liberties has shown them to be petty tyrants. The TSA—and those who support their intrusive tactics—are rebels to the law and traitors to the Constitution.
As freedom-loving Americans, what should our response be? According to Senator Jay Rockefeller, we must “face reality” and dutifully comply: “There really isn’t any choice. Others have learned how to live with this, and I think we can too.” Rockefeller, who chairs the Commerce Committee, stated these exact words in response to those who are outraged at the TSA’s invasive new measures.
Rockefeller is wrong. If we acquiesce to traitors, we cease to be loyal Americans. Our 4th Amendment right to be “secure in [our] persons” is being egregiously violated by the TSA, and fealty to the Constitution, in Sam Adams’ words, requires that we be “the scourge of the … haughty invader of our liberties” by contending for our rights.
This must be done prudently and lawfully, yet fight we must, lest our families be abused under the guise of safety and tyrants prevail.
True loyalty requires nothing less.