Special to The Sun
During our Independence Day reflections, let’s keep something in mind. It’s the non-delegable responsibility of every generation to treasure, preserve and pass on the full measure of freedom we received from generations before us. At this time of year, we should take stock of our precious liberties. In doing so, we must be mindful of two important truths. First, we enjoy these liberties because previous generations were stubborn and courageous in their determination to hand them down. Next, we have a duty — a sacred duty — to hand these liberties undiminished to the generations that follow. To the extent we squander, sell, barter or permit these liberties to be stolen, we break faith with those who came before us and we betray those who come after.
The patriots who founded this country knew to a certainty their sacrifices, labors, studies, compromises and their faith had established the greatest foundation for individual liberty the world had ever seen. They also knew to a certainty government by its nature, chafes at the exercise of individual liberty. Government is never satisfied with its quantum of power. It always wants more control. Government is never satisfied with its portion of the national wealth. It always wants a greater share of everything. Government is never comfortable when its shortcomings are exposed to the light of day. By its nature government craves obedience and predictability. Consequently, individual liberty can only be guaranteed when a constitution serves as a restraining bit in the teeth of government quest for power and wealth.
Since the founding of this country, we have seen government’s relentless efforts to restrain the vote, disadvantage the weak, amass the wealth, deceive the electorate, silence dissent and weaken constitutional restraints on its power. Most of these efforts have been thwarted by the solid safeguards built into the Constitution of the United States.
Throughout this country’s history, the bulwark against governmental intrusion into the personal liberties of American citizens was the fidelity of the United States Supreme Court. So long as the members of the court were committed to impartial application of the law, the rights of American citizens were, more or less, in safe hands.
Since there are no meaningful checks and balances when it comes to Supreme Court constitutional decisions, the confidence of American citizens in the integrity of the American political system depends on a competent, dedicated and impartial court. Some years ago, the majority of the Supreme Court realized they had the power to so “elasticize” the wording of the Constitution that it could be made to mean whatever a majority of the court decided it meant.
More recently, the court has attempted to bring its decisions more in line with the “original intent” of the Constitution’s drafters. Predictably, when the court’s decisions were more to the liking of the liberals, conservatives cried “foul.” Today, as the court has more conservative leanings, liberals warn that the sky is falling.
But there’s something new in the air. When the Supreme Court was at its most liberal, conservatives were urging a return to the Constitution. Today, finding the Constitution is an impediment to liberal social planning, a number of important liberal legal scholars are suggesting that we “scrap” the Constitution.
On Dec. 30, 2012, constitutional scholar Michael Seidman published an op-ed piece in the New York Times titled “Let’s Give up on the Constitution.” In this article, he described the framers as “… a group of white propertied men who had been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves.” Simon has now written a book “On Constitutional Disobedience” in which he argues that the Constitution is outdated and should be scrapped. The July 11 issue of “The New York Review of Books,” carries David Cole’s review of that book under the headline “Should We Discard the Constitution?” To his credit, Mr. Cole, another noted constitutional scholar, argues in favor of keeping the Constitution.
Whether we like it or not, this generation faces an assault on individual freedom unlike any that ever threatened this country before. There were never more blatant government intrusions into the day-to-day decisions of American citizens. There was never more widespread government discrimination on those holding views the government finds troubling. There was never such rampant abuse of governmental power in America’s history.
In this nation’s history, it has never been more important for the citizens to demand that all public servants be faithful to their oath to “Uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States.” I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
MIKE HINKLE is a retired attorney and Edmond resident.