Since the death of George Floyd, our country’s cities have been besieged by protesters both peaceful and violent. Thousands of peaceful protesters have walked arm in arm on city streets, highways and bridges to bring attention to their cause – Black Lives Matter. They are not quiet and should not be. Social injustice is pervasive in America no matter how many laws have been passed to eradicate it. It is the single most blatant failure of the great American experiment.
Hundreds of violent protesters who burn, loot, vandalize and otherwise create chaos are the bad apple that spoils the bunch and police are loath to stop it. After all, police brutality is what started this chain of events. Violent protesters are using the shield of legitimate protesters to wield their brand of destruction and there isn’t a black face among them. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are criminals getting away with breaking the law. They cower behind what every American thinks is the bulwark of our democracy – the United States Constitution.
First Amendment rights under the Constitution have been given such broad definitions that many rights we hold dear are in jeopardy. Our right to public safety is at risk because the police are afraid to use force against these mobs. Violent protesters are using their free speech right which now seems to include throwing Molotov cocktails at police, breaking down fences designed to protect property, vandalizing property, tossing bricks, stones and other lethal projectiles just to antagonize as a means to who knows what end. We used to call this kind of activity riots. Today it is violent protests protected under the banner of free speech. I doubt that our founding fathers ever intended free speech to go this far.
The right to life is in jeopardy when free speech consisting of untruths, insults, fake news and worse can result in someone’s ruined reputation or worse. The right to liberty is in jeopardy when federal storm troopers invade our streets on the premise of protecting public property and arbitrarily detain anyone that dares question their actions. Our right to the pursuit of happiness is in jeopardy when Republicans allow our democracy to devolve executive order by executive order into a white supremacist autocracy. Even our right to free speech is in jeopardy when it is given absurdly to an entity, a corporation that can only speak with money. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Money talks.”
As the current administration continues to chip away little by little at the Constitution, either legally or illegally, we run the risk of losing our democracy and the rights which we, as American citizens, enjoy today. Abetted by a Justice Department that seeks to give more and more power to an illegitimate president – a president that was elected not of the people, by the people and for the people, but by an outmoded process that ignores the premise of majority rule — our rights may no longer be our rights much longer.
Democracy is not a thing to be taken for granted. How quickly we forget lessons from the past. Despots so easily undermine democracies when the people become complacent and turn a blind eye to obvious wrongs, to administrations/regimes that fail to be accountable to their constituencies and to the gross societal inequities such power produces over time. Rights given can just as easily be taken away. Our single most important inalienable right is to make sure that doesn’t happen.