The life of a lemming, a small rodent of the Arctic region, has become metaphorically linked to a class of people willing to be led to their death by unquestionably following the popular sentiment.
I’m not sure when American freedom began its slow death march – perhaps shortly after it was attained with the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. President Reagan is often quoted thusly: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction...It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Freedom isn’t easy to maintain, especially when the “self-governed” stop questioning their leaders and voluntarily – even joyfully – give up their constitutional authority. You lemmings out there will laugh at my examples. I care not, for that is precisely what defines you as a willing partner in the business of selling our blood-bought freedom for the price of anything the federal government is willing to give you for free. Isn’t it ironic that those who paid the price to attain your freedom believed it to be more valuable than free contraceptives – indeed, more valuable than life itself?
For those of you who care, you must have often wondered how we got to the place where we feel helpless even as we watch freedom slip through our fingers on a daily basis. W. Cleon Skousen has part of the answer: “The centralization of political power always destroys liberty by removing the decision-making function from the people on the local level and transferring it to the officers of the central government. This process gradually benumbs the spirit of ‘voluntarism’ among the people, and they lose the will to solve their own problems. They also cease to be involved in community affairs [and] seek the anonymity of oblivion in the seething crowds of the city and often degenerate into faceless automatons who have neither a voice nor a vote.”
Thomas Jefferson asked: “What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun?” --- then provided this answer: “The generalizing and concentrating of all cares and powers into one body...”
And James Madison wrote: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” The Supreme Court, in some instances, and our so-called national “leaders” have forgotten these principles of liberty.
As I say, I’m not sure when freedom’s journey to extinction began, but I will give you three examples of why President Reagan’s warning should be taken seriously.
One. In the 1987 Supreme Court decision of South Dakota v. Dole, the majority, while as much as admitting that the federal government had no constitutional power to directly dictate the minimum drinking age to the States, upheld their “right” to do so through the general welfare clause and spending clause. Fundamentally, they said that even if Congress has no power to demand South Dakota’s compliance, they do have the power to withhold federal transportation funds if the State doesn’t yield to the power of Washington. Justice O’Connor, in dissent, had it right when she said: “If the spending power is to be limited only by Congress’ notion of the general welfare, the reality...is that...Congress [is]...subject to no restrictions save such as are self-imposed.”
Two. Efforts in several states to ban corporal punishment in schools failed. For you lemmings out there, that means that the voters in each of those states thought corporal punishment had some merit. Of course, that was too much for Washington to take, making it incumbent upon Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), self-appointed parent of the nation, to introduce a bill to ban it nationwide. Congress clearly does not have any constitutional power to do so.
Three. In 2010, Congressman Bishop (D-NY) introduced the “Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act of 2010” in the House. It failed to get out of committee, so he introduced it again in 2011 with the same fate.
Then, in an obvious attempt to take the heat off of the lie that is Obamacare (that is, obvious to anyone paying attention), our own Senator Dick Durbin dusted off these failed House proposals and introduced his own “Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act of 2013” in the Senate.
This is of particular concern because my local Illinois newspaper, The Edwardsville Intelligencer, fell for this continued attack upon our liberties hook, line and sinker. In their editorial of October 25, 2013, they could hardly contain their joy: “a politician hits this one on the head” - “Durbin is taking this seriously” - “...we are, too” - “for a change, a politician got it right on something regarding schools.”
And, as is always the case when Washington abuses its power, his Bill would punish our schools if they do not succumb to his caring proposal within five years by, you guessed it, withdrawing federal funding.
Senator Durbin has absolutely no constitutional authority to impose his version of good coaching upon us from 1,000 miles away in Washington, D.C. We have parents, coaches, school boards and other local and state leaders here in Illinois, Senator Durbin. How about this: we will take care of our own – why don’t you get to work fixing the mess you have put our nation in all these many years on matters that “are” within your constitutional power? Furthermore, you know full well this Bill will never make it out of committee and, although I am reasonably sure you also know it is unconstitutional, perhaps you don’t. After all, your party’s President cares not a whit about his constitutional limitations, for as he told us recently, he has a “pen.”
Please note: I haven’t said a thing about the wisdom of an appropriate drinking age, corporal punishment or concussion relief. And, while I might have something to offer in such a debate for my fellow Illinoisans, I would never seek to impose my beliefs on any other state. I do know, however, that Washington, D.C., should take their hands off of purely local and state concerns.
Only a lemming would applaud the unrelenting assault upon his own liberty.
You can download and read the ELLionized opinion in South Dakota v. Dole (and discover what that means) by clicking on case number “1-12” on the “Supreme Court Decisions” page of our website at www.ellconstitutionclubs.com. While you’re there, join our mailing list. Our free newsletter will keep you informed.
Tad Armstrong is an Edwardsville, Illinois, lawyer, founder of ELL Constitution Clubs (www.ellconstitutionclubs.com) and author of “It’s OK to Say ‘God.’”