Suspending The Constitution: In America Today, The Government Does Whatever It Wants

Zero Hedge – by John W Whitehead

“That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document.

The reality we must come to terms with, however, is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

“We the people” have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance by a government that cares nothing for our lives or our liberties.

The bogeyman’s names and faces may change over time (terrorism, the war on drugs, illegal immigration, etc.), but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.

Thus, in the so-called named of national security, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago.

Most of the damage, however, has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

A recitation of the Bill of Rights—set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches (all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, the courts and the like)—would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with heavily armed SWAT teams, military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance (corporate and otherwise) and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.

As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”

Americans are constitutionally illiterate.

Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one. Only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. And more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate.

A 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsonstelevision family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse. 

Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.

Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the Internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”

Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.

So what’s the solution?

Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.

As Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.

Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.

Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card. Use this card to teach your children the freedoms found in the Bill of Rights.

If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American Peoplewe have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, some argue that we need to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

As actor-turned-activist Richard Dreyfuss warned:

Unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable.You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”

14 thoughts on “Suspending The Constitution: In America Today, The Government Does Whatever It Wants

    1. You’re welcome mary. Sometimes if folks hear, what we’ve been telling them, by someone else, it somehow then has credibility. Regardless, just so long as they get it.

  1. An excellent article, very well focused on the problems we are must now overcome or become voiceless slaves — or worse.

  2. The truths expressed within this article are dangerous to the status quo. You will probably never see this in the mainstream, it is too upsetting.
    Cat videos, anyone?

  3. On the surface this seems like an important article that rings true with all lovers of liberty, but the author (a member of the Rutherford Institute) goes far in pointing out that most Americans are incapable of self-government, and are “constitutionally illiterate”.

    Wouldn’t this suggest that working, or fighting for our Bill of Rights is futile, because there’s no one capable of replacing what we have, or no way to do a better job?

    It’s hard to travel the roads or even walk the streets with experiencing a justifiable fear of police harassment, and this has slowly altered American lives over the last couple decades. Until they start rounding people up and slaughtering them, most Americans are content with their lives as they are, and don’t fear the eventual expansion of the tyranny into their own homes.

    It’s the boiling frog syndrome with the water being heated as quickly as the people will allow it, and as more and more of this is accepted by the American people, the tyranny will naturally increase until they’re walking into your home, seizing any person they choose, for whatever horror a cop decides they deserve. The need for search warrants is being eroded by both legislation and court decisions, so they’re already in your door, but as long as the majority is content with their TV brainwashing, they’ll sit there and allow it, get used to it, and let the tyranny advance unchecked.

    And since the tyranny has been allowed to advance as far as it has, we only have one solution left to us, and that is Americans resisting this as individuals, right at their own door. How much are you willing to accept? Should you let them in to squeeze your daughter for a while? Don’t think for a minute that it wont happen, but as long as there’s something good on TV to distract you from reality, I guess there’s nothing wrong with a little squeeze, is there?

    You can justify it in your own mind a hundred different ways, and you probably will, because the justifications allow you to wallow in your cowardice, and live life hoping that you’re not their next victim. They’ll get to you, and your cute little daughter, too.

    Yes, the government does whatever it wants to, and The Rutherford Institute wants you to think that there’s no alternative.

    1. Jolly, like you said, this is an individual responsibility to preserve our personal rights and when accepted as the reality that it is, I find it quite liberating in that my rights are not dependent on others preserving theirs nor the entire population waking up which I used to think and brought much frustration and accusation against my fellow peoples. We live our lives knowing who we are and what we possess, ready to defend it for ourselves.

    2. Thanks, Jolly. I had a similar take. And also wished that all articles mentioning “The Constitution” would qualify by pointing to its loopholes that flow power and wealth upward to the overlords. Also hoped all articles that mention The Bill of Rights would stop using “amendments,” instead of “articles.” That is such a hard nut to crack. This is the basic level of The Rutherford Institute being true to form, but still, some good points delivered. I guess it’s that old adage of “Take what you can use and leave the rest.” But sometimes “the rest” wreaks havoc on freedom and holds the state above the individual. What’s an outlier to do? Ha!

      ps: I wonder if Richard Dreyfuss ever called out Israel. Hmmm…


    3. The one thing I can think of in order to help deter this sort of action is the syndrome called, “Shot In The Face Syndrome” that is coming.

      What is SITFS?

      When agents of any form of government come to someones home(or any other contact outside it) and decides they are going to take property, persons, money or anything else via the threat of force they will understand what SITFS is.

      There are plenty of people out there who know what this is already and are willing to make it happen.

      Think not well then lets see how far this goes…..

      Many age groups are aware of the lies and deceit gov continues to bring in order to force what they want instead of following the letter of the law upholding the Bill Of Rights.

      There will come a day they realize their actions via their own hands(and greed via a paycheck and benefits provided by gov) have caused what the outcome is and what it has done at the cost of their families lives because they thought gov was the answer in order to protect them from government because they were part of it.

      If you work for gov you better start looking for a different profession(resign or retire before its too late) just saying because the writing is on the wall. You are still an American national just one who has been duped into the system long ago probably in grade school. Yeah get that gov job there is security there but at what cost to your fellow Nationals?

      If you work for the devil does that make you safe from the devil?

  4. Here is why people are “fearful”–because they want to be, or because that is all they know. Jolly makes a good point about fearing a police harrassment situation, but then again this is unlikely to happen in my neck of the woods–a rural remote POA subdivision. That’s why I live where I live (and why I warn the police state minions to “watch out for mountain lions”)…but, having been harrassed during the mid-90s and going to jail for no reason other than the bogus “failure to appear” crap, I am now fear-free. I will defend Christ, and my Bill of Rights, to my death, so be it.

  5. “Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. ”

    We need to quit thinking this way .. its allowing the pigs to kill us all ,, the pigs are the cabals front line , If we dont send them the right message , this republic will get steamrolled even further , Our rights will get further subjugated ..

    if they paint a cross hair on your chest , return in kind 10 fold , thats how this shit gets shut the hell down

    they also have a “boss” the one barking orders , while not getting his boots dirty ( at a desk ) , thats the head of the snake that needs the direct pressure put on, and hard , or send the message to.
    quit playing nice, it wins nothing, there is more to life than living like this

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