July 6, 2002
What's At StakeRebecca Knight's piece "Liberty" posted on buzzflash.com is a clear explanation of the principles involved and the stakes of the Bush administration's attack on civil liberties. Knight makes a very important point often obscured in debates about what is "constitutional" and what isn't. The founding documents state clearly that our civil rights are not granted to us by the "founding fathers" or by the Constitution or any other document. They are inherent, given to us not by men, but by God, by heaven, by the fact of being born a human being.
The Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
It is very clearly established in these words that government is established to secure those rights. Government is not an all-powerful entity that grants its subjects rights, if it is in the mood to be benign.
It is clear that the Bush administration is trying to push history back to a form of government that turns this principle upside down, with government primary and its subjects secondary, as was the case with monarchy. Most monarchies were abolished by the mid-20th century, but the autocratic impulse was reborn in the form of dictatorship. Fortunately, dictatorships have not shown themselves to have much staying power in the 20th century. People no longer believe in the divine right of kings and they certainly don't believe in the divine right of dictatorships.
The Bush administration and the feudal corporate oligarchy obviously do believe they have the divine right to lord over other people, however, and are doing their damnedest to roll history back to pre-democratic forms of government. Hitler and Mussolini believed fascism was the way of the future, not the past. Whether they were right still remains to be established.
-- By David Cogswell