Last night I posted about a US Army Master Sergeant who had a very unpleasant encounter with the Temple, TX police department. I made several unflattering references to the latter force. This produced some comments in favor of my approach, and others objecting to it, claiming that the Master Sergeant - in so many words - 'asked for it'.
I was thinking about this today as I responded to one such critic. It seems to me that this disparity in responses is, in fact, a primary determination of who we are as individuals. I submit that the problem boils down to the distinction between two approaches to life, the universe and everything:
I'd go further, and submit that the first approach is statism writ large; the presumption that the authorities have the right to state explicitly what they're prepared to allow, and then forbid their subjects to do anything else - up to and including taking action against them if they do. The second approach is that of freedom and liberty; the presumption that the individual is the master of his or her own destiny, which may not be restricted or obstructed by the authorities except in matters of overriding common concern (and those matters must be clearly demonstrated to be overriding, and be accepted as such by those who elect the authorities).
It's also worth noting that prohibiting something has never yet stopped it from happening. Forbid murder? It happens every day - once every 36 minutes in the USA, in fact, according to the FBI's crime statistics for 2011 (the last full year for which they're available at the time of writing). Forbid alcohol? Yeah . . . we all know how well that worked last time it was tried! Forbid drugs? Yeah, right. Forbid extramarital sex, even on the grounds that it's a Divine command, not just a civil law? I was a pastor. I daresay that 99 out of every 100 couples I married were already sexually active - and between a quarter and a third of them were already pregnant! No, never in human history has forbidding something actually stopped or eradicated it. Not once.
The only thing forbidding something has achieved, from a historical perspective, is to expand the authorities' power to crack down on their subjects. Note that I didn't say 'citizens', because citizens are free people almost by definition. Authority uses legislation and regulation to transform citizens into subjects; to force them to conform; to coerce them into giving up some or all of their freedoms; to make them allow those in power to dictate to them how they are to behave. The events of 9/11 have led to precisely this reaction in the USA, with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, the erection of massive new state security organs and organizations (including the Transportation Security Administration), warrantless phone taps, warrantless searches, and so on. It's even led to the indefinite detention, without legal representation or trial by a jury of their peers, of alleged 'terrorists' or 'criminals', despite the provisions of the Sixth Amendment.
Any and all of these developments would have been anathema to our Founding Fathers, who enacted the Bill of Rights specifically to guard against such developments. Unfortunately, the present 'herd mentality' evident in much of the USA has tolerated such intrusions onto and erosions of our constitutional freedoms and liberties. This meek, unthinking acquiescence merely ensures that the authorities will continue to impose more such measures upon us - and treat us as Master Sergeant Grisham was treated.
I absolutely, categorically refuse to consent to, co-operate with, or permit such treatment of myself or my loved ones by the authorities. I stand upon the platform set out so well by Patrick Henry, who also reminded us:
Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.
It's our 'public liberty' that's at stake if we permit the authorities to behave towards us as those Temple, TX cops behaved towards Master Sergeant Grisham. Their actions defied and defiled his liberty. They acted as if what was not explicitly permitted, was forbidden. Since Texas law does not explicitly address the situation in question, then clearly, what is not forbidden by law should be permitted - the diametric opposite of their approach.
Samuel Adams' pre-Revolution words to the timid are, I think, germane to the point at issue:
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
I submit that one's reaction to Master Sergeant Grisham's predicament is a very clear indicator of whether one is, at heart, a subject or a citizen - a statist or a libertarian. I submit that the former prefers 'the tranquility of servitude'; the latter, 'the animating contest of freedom.'
(If you feel differently, of course I welcome alternative points of view in Comments.)