Today's title quote is of course one of the most famous lines in movie history, ranked by the American Film Institute as the 35th best line of all time.
Spoken by the bandit leader in the Humphrey Bogart classic, "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," it speaks to a blatant contempt for the rule of law, a total disrespect for those so bold to even ask the question, and finally, capsulizes the essence of the arrogance of power.
It is a line in response to a simple and righteous question - by what authority do you act? The answer is equally simple but hardly righteous. We do as we please, for we have the power...and you do not.
This disdain for the messy business of compromise - and more particular the public gag reaction to such arrogance - not partisan politics and certainly not racism - is truly the reason for the current season of dissent.
Barack Obama was elected in a wave of "Hope," hope for a change in the way the system works, a change brought forth by an outsider, pledged to reform the evil ways of a government out of control and beyond the reach of its people. At the center was the pledge of bi-partisanship, a reaching out to the other side, a fresh coat of the paint of respect that will usher in the time of the "New Order."
Armed with an election mandate and super majority in Congress, the pledge was still to work together, despite the fact that at the end of the day, the voice of the minority really need not be heard. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the pledge fell short of the reality.
For whatever the reason, the White House's legislative agenda on economic recovery and most particularly health care reform has been turned over to the leaders of the Democratic Congress. Therein lies the rub.
Make no mistake. Obama's agenda to re-make America into a land unrecognizable to its citizens and disconnected from its history remains. It is only the use of surrogates that alters the picture. In return for such an entrustment, the Congress presented 1,000 plus page bills authorizing billions in bailouts, condemning future generations to a life of indentured servitude to foreign creditors - all voted on and passed without even reading. Financial institutions deemed "too big to fail" were pulled out of the self inflicted abyss by tax payer dollars without realistic oversight safeguards.
Despite overwhelming opposition, a health care bill has been brought forth designed to implement social engineering at the price of individual freedoms of personal and private choice. Finally, enough was enough.
The August Congressional recess spawned the most publicized reactions, but the seeds of discontent were sown long before. All people, but Americans especially, dislike having things crammed down their throat. It prompts a collective gag reaction that is genuine, heartfelt and Nancy Pelosi notwithstanding, truly patriotic.
The petty wish to think such protests are but the rancor of sour grapes, still stinging from the election loss. Others, addicted to the limelight generated by demagogy, term any opposition to the policies of Obama as racist. Both are not only incorrect, but miss the mark entirely. It is the right and the duty of all Americans to oppose that which you believe to be disastrously wrong.
The claims that the Obama health care plan has serious flaws, or that much of his domestic docket is the march to Socialism do not lose validity simply because the proponents deny such assertions.
The frustrations of a media having abandoned its duty to challenge the Administration - choosing instead to become the official Presidential cheerleader - only compounds the problem.
For many, the 2008 election produced a media staged event, with a media created winner. The largely antagonistic reactions of the mainstream video brigade to the legitimate voice of the people only confirm the belief of the fix being in. Whatever the motivation, pro-Obama bias does disrespect to an analysis of the legitimate role that dissent must play in a free society. The push backs now being experienced are the valid expressions of a citizenry desperately afraid of losing a beloved country to forces too naive and too vain to recognize their own folly.
Public Enemy - not exactly one of my favorites - commands us to "Fight the Power...Fight the Powers that be."
Right now, the powers that be are the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress.
It is a fight worth making, for the stakes are incalculably high. Those who join in deserve not scorn but respect. It is a cause that needs volunteers and support to achieve the goal of not partisan victory, but the preservation of a Constitutional democracy unique in human history.
It needs us all, even if the price is high. Be not afraid.