Is freedom in America a birthright or is it in our blood?
Over the past two weeks, as our country continues to struggle with Covid-19, there have been multiple news reports of government officials taking liberties with the constitutional rights of Americans living in their jurisdictions.
In Los Angeles, the mayor threatened owners of “non-essential” small businesses with shutting off their power and water if they didn’t close. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” he said.¹ Here in my home state of Texas, a judge in Dallas sentenced a mother and small business owner to jail for 7 days. This was not because her beauty salon was open for business, rather it was because she defied a subsequent order from the judge to close her business, hence she was charged with contempt of court. The judge chastised her saying, “Your actions were selfish, putting your own interests ahead of the community in which you live.”² Fortunately, the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the state Attorney General and the Texas Supreme Court stepped in and this law-abiding citizen was ultimately freed from jail.
In both cases I find it laughable when government officials characterize Americans as being “selfish” for engaging in legal commerce so they can provide for themselves, their employees, and their families. It is the epitome of hubris when government officials and even the media elite make character judgments on people who are struggling financially while they themselves enjoy a financial security which is totally unaffected by Covid-19. As Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake..?”
Whether you agree with these small business owners or not, there are some serious civil rights issues at play here.
Firstly all Americans, these small business owners included, have very specific civil and constitutional rights. Municipalities tasked with providing water and power utilities, cannot arbitrarily turn off that service. There are policies and regulations in place which require them to have valid, legal reasons for doing so, and most states require that a minimum of ten or more days notice be given, as well as an appeals process. Legally, no government official can just say “flip the switch” and cut off your utilities without following state-mandated protocols. To do so violates state laws which are in place for your protection.
Secondly, the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution provides our citizens with certain inalienable rights which cannot be simply be ignored for political expediency. The First Amendment provides for Freedom of Assembly. If a small business owner wants to provide personal services (as in the Texas case, hair salon services) in their own place of business to a handful of clients, that is their constitutional right. The First Amendment also ensures that the government cannot prohibit the Free Exercise of Religion. The closing of houses of worship and the collecting of license plate numbers of those who met to worship in defiance of these government orders (Easter Day in Hillview, KY), is blatantly unconstitutional and moreover, frightening.
So back to my opening question: “is freedom a birthright or is it in our blood?”
Contrary to popular belief, freedom in America is not a birthright. There are no guarantees in life. As Americans, we have no guarantee that government officials will not attempt to overstep their authority, or that unscrupulous individuals won’t abuse their positions of power.
No, freedom is not a birthright and freedom certainly isn’t free.
But as Americans, freedom is definitely in our blood. We are born with it, we can feel it, and “we the people” get a strange twinge in the pit of our stomachs when we sense it being infringed upon.
When anyone attempts to take away, that which others are accustomed to having, there will inevitably be conflict.
Recently, many Americans have taken to the streets in protest and this is a good thing. We should and must stand up for our constitutional freedoms. History is replete with examples of governments curtailing freedoms, ostensibly for the good of the people – and the people have always lived to regret it.
We must each do our part and stand up for what is right. Whether you are liberal or conservative, left or right – it doesn’t matter. No political party stays in power indefinitely, and both sides are equally prone to abusing newly-acquired powers.
Remember, as our founding fathers would tell us, it is much easier to protect our freedoms than it is to try and get them back…