(Editor's Note: Edwardsville attorney Armstrong turned an informal 2005 gathering into 3,000 pages of educational materials (written, in part, and edited, in full, by himself), five adult study clubs in Madison County and a student club at Edwardsville High School. He envisions an ELL Constitution Club (Earn It, Learn It or Lose It) in communities across the country and invites lawyers and citizens to join the movement. Feel free to call Tad (618-656-6770) or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org) and please visit "ellclubs.com" to learn how you can help.)
Recently, a Missourian criticized my Jan. 6 op-ed piece in the Post-Dispatch regarding the health care bill. He said my "primer" on the Constitution was "interesting," but suggested it fell short by not providing an answer to the health care crisis. He then supplied his version of what he "knows" my position would be without ever having spoken to me: "We already know the conservative position on health care – please go off and die quietly so as not to disrupt our Ward and June visions of a mom and apple pie America."
His criticism forms the basis for a very valuable lesson:
(1) Please note that this man appears to have no regard for Constitutional limitations on government. It's as if he is saying, "Thanks, but let's get down to the business of providing a federally controlled health care system, regardless of whether that power properly resides in the states."
He does not understand what many in government do not understand or refuse to accept; i.e., that the first obligation of all three branches of government is to represent us within the boundaries of their Constitutional limits. It has something to do with that nasty oath they took. He does not realize that his wish to have the federal government solve our problems irrespective of those limits is a mandate for our elected and appointed officeholders to act without our consent in violation of that oath.
He likely has no interest in learning these boundaries because he wants government (at least those in government he likes if they happen to be in the majority at the time) to "just take care of us" and, unbelievably, he actually trusts that they will. Ultimately, such a course would spell the demise of the document we love to praise with little more than lip service because unlimited government is accountable to no one and unlimited power, per William Pitt, "corrupts the minds of those who possess it."
If your eyes are open, you cannot deny we are living in an era of exploding corruption. That is what power does to human beings. Mr. Critic is not alone. I remember a speaking engagement on the importance of the Constitution where I overheard a group ranging in age from 25 to 35 discussing the irrelevance of our founding document. They insisted, "Who cares?"
(2) Mr. Critic got his shot in, but in making my constitutional point, if he thinks the Post then gives me space to suggest a solution to health care, he is mistaken. Print space is severely limited.
(3) He believes my position would be to "let 'em die," a presumption I will not honor with an answer, although I am willing to admit I do not have the knowledge to supply the answer. So, that makes three strikes and one out.
I cannot take the time to deal with every sub-issue of an article I write. But, just to complete this journey, for now, assuming, for the sake of argument, that it will meet Constitutional muster, I believe the likely bill will be a disaster because I do not believe it has a chance of working. Therefore, although there will surely be at least some success stories, who really believes yet another federal bureaucracy (controlling over 1/6 of the Nation's economy) has a chance at being successful?
This is the same federal government that cannot get flu shots out on a timely basis or run a post office efficiently. The same government who, when armed with all of the knowledge necessary to keep a known terrorist off of an airplane, still could not do so yet claimed the system "worked."
If I had more confidence in our leaders, perhaps I would be able to alter the only conclusion I can muster. The system envisioned by those who have purchased the votes necessary by selling their own souls will fail because its promises cannot be met. A health care system that opens its doors to all, but cannot possibly meet its goals, is like free admission to a day at Six Flags with no one there to operate the ferris wheel. Nice idea – poor planning.
My greatest concern is the attempt at such a critical time in our nation's history to cure all woes with one bloated 2,000 plus page solution that few will have even read before voting. "Let's take a chance of bankrupting the country" is my perception of the prevailing approach, instead of "incrementally fixing the worst problem, then the next, etc." I believe my approach is the voice of reason. I believe my approach has a far better chance of eventually "getting it right" and ultimately helping far more of those whom the system presently fails.
I do agree with my critic on one thing. Why would we ever want to return to the "vision" of the Cleavers? You know, family values, a good work ethic and discipline in the home? How absurd!
I have already had enough experience at this "journalism thing" to realize that critics will come out of the woodwork to challenge what I have not said herein. I can hear it now: "Armstrong wants to take us back to the racism of the '50s with his kudos to the Cleaver family." Well, let me head that one off at the pass.
Mr. Critic labeled me as one who would like to see our society return to the Cleavers' "vision" for America. He was not suggesting I want us to return to the "realities" of the '50s, both good and bad and, of course, I would never want us to retreat from the successes we have attained since then. But, those who don't believe we could use a little more sugar coated idealism are, perhaps, too young to remember when a parent did not have to schedule around immoral and desensitizing "reality" TV.
Opposing constructive views are welcome, but please remember, you only have two "at bats" left. And, if you choose to attack what I have "not" said, you will have to contact me directly if you want a response, for I seriously doubt I will continue the exchange in the press and, if all you have to offer is a plate full of hate, you will not get my attention. On the other hand, an honest debate would be far more "open" than the "closed door" version of the lie of promised "transparency."
I just happen to believe that Thomas Jefferson was right: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
So was Albert Einstein: "The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure."
Over one million of this Nation's soldiers surely did not die to enable us to voluntarily surrender the freedoms they preserved with that ultimate price. Those freedoms are guaranteed in the Constitution and will be there for our descendants unless the answer to the question of "who cares" is "no one".
That is what motivates me. I just cannot dishonor the blood of their free gift to me and mine by remaining silent while this Administration transforms our Country into something it was never intended to be.