Category: Constitutional Rights


Or, in 2017, because the election is going to make us wait.

The other night, a group of old white folks got on a stage, and said a bunch of stuff, I am sure you saw it, The Democrat Debate.  Yes.  That one.

So, over the last several months, we have one candidate on the Republican side, and at least two on the Democrat side, that are saying the things the masses want to hear.  All night, during the debate, we heard about how the candidates were going to give us everything our heart desires.  Free Healthcare, Free College Tuition, Free Birth Control, Free this and “Free” that.  But, what was conspicuously absent from their promises of rainbows and unicorns for everyone, was any talk about freedom, liberty, and our Rights.

Why does it seem to me, that any discussion of our Rights under the Constitution these days, results in people sidestepping the issue, or acting as if talking about those Rights is bothersome, and an annoyance.  “Why confuse the issue with Rights” a co-worker said one night at work.  As we go along in this election cycle, which is taking on a decidedly surreal aura about it, it seems like there are more fist-shakers, rabble rousers, and snarling, sign waving people than I have ever seen in my life.  I am old enough to remember the protests of the 70’s, and I don’t ever remember an election cycle where the American people seem so distant from the vision that our founding fathers had.

It seems, that in this America, we are focused on revenge, on sticking it to “the other guy.”  whoever that might be.  We are about reclaiming what we perceive as lost, and  what we perceive as “ours”, and not seeming to care if bloodshed  winds up being part of the equation.  Now, I am not talking about bloodshed for a noble cause, or in the defense of something we hold dear.  I am talking bloodshed in the name of “I am taking back what is MINE!”, leaving the definition of what “mine” means, to whatever fits the bill at the moment.  In every issue, from Illegal Immigration, to Gun Rights, to Abortion Rights, the undertone of the threat of  violence, is slowly starting to become less of an undertone, and more of an overtone. The riots in Baltimore, and Ferguson, MO, are a glimpse of what is to come if things slip further out of contriol.   It is as if, we want these candidates of ours, the ones that we believe believe as we do  to be in control, it seems, but so long as it is the “other guy” who is being controlled.   We want the Illegals thrown out, guns taken away, abortion on demand, the sanctity of life be damned, and whatever we want when we want it. Listening to our candidates, they say the things that fire people up, and get the fists shaking, and it’s not in a good way.  Throughout history, tyrannical governments have found their way to the fore when the people, tired of whatever malaise is infecting the nation, want a change, and they want a big change, and they want the change to serve, not the nation, but their self interests.  They want that “other guy” who is responsible for all of the aforementioned malaise, to be punished.  In the eyes of most conservatives, it is the liberal, Socialist Left, and in the eyes of many liberals, it is the Conservative, Christian Right.

What many people seem to be forgetting, is that the institution of an authoritarian government affects them as well.  Does anyone out there think that the people running for President, especially Sanders, Clinton, and Trump are running because, as President, they would put country first?  Put the people first?  Their rhetoric is about punishing those nebulous “others” however they choose to define them, be it illegal immigrants, gun owners, the rich, or what have you.  It is a rhetoric of class division, racial division, and economic division, designed to pit people against one another, and take our focus off of the important issues. In this day and age of the “low information voter” getting people fired up with rhetoric that doesn’t require much thinking isn’t very difficult. Heck, these days, outrage is manufactured by those wishing to move an agenda forward.  Photos and news footage of angry, fist shaking people shouting slogans, and threatening violence tends to project the image that there are large numbers of angry people agitating for change.  These days, it doesn’t even have to be true, just make it a hashtag, and pretty soon people latch on to it, without even thinking about the facts, or, even considering what the facts are.  The “Hands up Don’t Shoot” is a perfect example.  People are so mired in their insular, self absorbed social-media-pop-culture world that real news, and real events, important events don’t make it past the latest Kardashian gossip, cute kitty video, or viral photo.  Remember #thedress from earlier this summer?  It was the lead story on “Good Morning America”, a stupid story about a dress that is/was perceived to be different colors by different people, was all over the news.  A story, about a dress… something that, even 10 years ago would have been fodder for “Inside Edition” or something similar was the lead story on a morning national news program.  When people are focused on the trivia, the minutiae, and the unimportant, and it masquerades as the important, then anything that really matters (world events, the economy, etc.) gets shunted aside. Additionally, with the ever present “social media” on our phones, and in our faces now, 24/7, the trivial becomes important, because it’s the first thing we see.  It’s distracting, and that, ultimately may be the goal.  Today’s social media, is the equivalent of putting the  comics on the front page of the newspaper 30 years ago, followed by the TV listings, the gossip columns, and then “cute photos” sent in by readers, with the news, and the important stories being the last section.

It is this kind of dumbing down, this kind of media slight-of-hand, that is keeping people from learning and understanding what is going on.  This is where tyrrany starts, it is when ordinary people allow someone else to do their thinking for them, and then mindlessly repeat what they hear without giving it a second thought.  It seems to me, in some ways, that there are people in this country who want someone to think for them, and want more government controls, they want “someone” to take care of things that they could, and should normally do themselves.   Think about the advent of the “self driving car”….  Cool, new, “cutting edge”, technological, and one more thing that does something that the average person generally should have no problem doing.  Promoters of the self driving car, are saying things like:

“Safer than having people drive”

“It can avoid accidents, and, indeed, prevent them from happening”

“Can go anywhere, while you ride along in comfort”

Does anyone see a problem with this?  I would not, under any circumstances, want a self driving car.  However, people are all ga-ga over them, and can’t wait to own one.  I like the fact that I get in to my car, and go where I want, not where the car decides to take me. I don’t want to be a passive participant.  And that is the point.  Too many people want to be passive participants.  They want others to think for them, to tell them where to go, and how they should get there.  A self driving car?  Really? So, once you get in it, you are now at the mercy of whomever controls the programming for the system that controls the car.  I find no merit in such a vehicle, none whatsoever.  Yet, it is promoted as a “safety solution” and something that will put an end to the high number of deaths every year from automobile accidents.  That is how anything that ultimately takes away a bit of your freedom, or your control is promoted.  It is promoted as something that promotes “safety” either for children, or the elderly, or ourselves.  Think about that for one moment.  A car, that is programmed, and even if it is programmed by the owner to travel, the destinations, the routes, and the dates and times, are saved in a computer network somewhere, somewhere, where someone else can get access, and see where you have gone, and how often, and how long you spend there. It is just more information about you, that, can be used against you.  Add to that, how easy would it be for someone who wants to, to change where you are supposed to go? How much power would you have to override that?  What comes next after that? “Smart houses” that record what goes on in them, under the guise of crime prevention? Domestic violence prevention? Fire prevention?

Giving up control over our own personal vehicles and personal space to others, so we can feel “secure” is the wrong road to go down. Technology is cool, and does great things, but those great things are hardly innocuous, or neutral.  They can be used as weapons against us, when they wind up in the wrong hands.  Right now, so much of our lives depend on technology, whether it’s our smart phone, our computer, or our vehicle’s GPS navigation system, that we are exposed in every possible way.  Giving up control over what we hold as freedoms, to those who promise to be better stewards of it than we are, is frivolous, dangerous fantasy.   Many people, however, desire the control, but they want to be on the sidelines watching, they want the control, just so long as it is on others, not on them.  That is not, and never will be the case.  Once an enemy is identified, isolated, and the blame for the societal issues of the day placed on that enemy, it makes it easier for those who wish to exercise power and control.  The people become focused on the “enemy” that they don’t realize that the control is also applying to them.  In their zeal to find a politician who will isolate, and control the “enemy” people don’t realize that they are giving up their freedoms and their rights.

See, it’s not about the “other guy” or “them”,  It is about us.  It is about our society. It is about our country, and all of the citizens that live here.  We cannot afford to elect anyone who desires to take away rights, subjugate a portion of the population, or curtail our personal, and private activities, or worse, subject them to the scrutiny of someone or some group who is given the power to decide if it is an activity that we should be allowed to partake in, based on whatever agenda they happen to be running.   Regardless of whether or not you disagree with abortion, gun ownership, homosexual marriage, or any of the the other issues in our society today, it does not give you, or anyone, the right to prevent those folks from expressing opinions, protesting, or celebrating those issues by using violence, imprisonment, or the threat of such. It seems, however, that these days, there are people who seem to think that using violence is the only way, and don’t seem to shy about expressing that.

Illegal immigration.

Next to Hillary’s emails, and the Planned Parenthood fiasco, it is the one issue in the current election cycle that resonates with everyone in this country.

Every day, in this country, we have people spilling over our borders, entering through our ports, airports, and unguarded seashores, and, even, being packed into freight cars by criminal human traffickers. We have nearly unsustainable levels of people in this country looking for and getting hand outs from the government . It is an issue that is very important to many citizens, it is about our way of life, it is about National Security, and it is about economic security as well.

But, what are we going to do about it?

Well, what can we do about it?

On the second question, as well as the first there are several “schools of thought” if you will on how to handle the crisis.  From the Left, they want open borders, on the Right, secure borders and tougher laws. From Americans in general, there is a “send them all back” sentiment.   Neither side can offer a constructive plan on how to  deal with it, because Americans of all stripes are demanding something be done NOW!

Let’s be honest with ourselves about this issue; and, before you go making assumptions about me, let me spell this out:  I don’t like illegal immigration, and I fully agree it must be stopped, and our border secured.  I understand, that although there are many people coming here to make things better for themselves, there are also large numbers who are here to cause problems, break laws, and do nefarious things, not to mention the very real possibility there are ISIS-types among those illegals. I worked 9-1-1 in a Law Enforcement environment, in a town that has a rough reptuation, as well as being a haven for gangsters, and criminals of all stripes, telling me that there are serious criminals coming here illegally, is like saying water is wet. Prior to the Obama Administration, ICE was a regular visitor to our lock up.  I remember quite often running names and coming up with criminal histories marked “previously deported alien”.   However, not all of them are criminals, not all of them are bad, and not all of them are from South America, Central America, and Mexico.  Illegals come from China, Russia, Germany, Jordan, Israel, Cameroon, South Africa, Korea, Malaysia, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Canada, India, Pakistan, and, well, you get the picture.  People enter this country illegally every year, from all over. One of the principal points of entry is in the Southwestern United States. but, they enter everywhere.

As solutions go, there are none that will solve the problem quickly.  It is too far gone, and too far advanced to turn around on a dime, and fix.  Regardless of what Trump and his supporters might think, there is simply no way to come to a fix that isn’t going to take a lot of time, energy and money. Fixing the problem, which should be a priority, will be expensive.  It needs a multi pronged approach, there has to be action on three things: Securing the Border, dealing with the millions who are already here, and preventing more from coming in.

Shouts of “Build a Wall” or “Send them all back” are neither practical, or real solutions.  We can’t send back millions of people.  How would that be done?  Do you really want the world to see train and bus loads of people being forcibly removed from the country? Do you really want this country portrayed like that? The “Land of the Free,” packing people in to freight cars, a la, Nazi Germany for deportation to another country?  Look, I know they broke the law, but, seriously, how could anyone with a sliver of humanity in them see that as nothing but barbaric. Who would round them up? Do you want to go there too?  How would you avoid any violence? Because violence would surely result from any kind of forceful measures, and would quickly spiral out of control.  If you are one of those who think it wouldn’t, your are delusional, and devoid of any logical thought. So. lets remove the “send them all back” option from the equation, except for those convicted of crimes.  The criminals can go, we don’t need them.

So, what do we do then?  Path to Citizenship? Mentioning that is like saying someone in the room has the measles.  Is that a “reward” for breaking the law? Perhaps.  But, what is worse; Giving a segment of the illiegals citizenship, or, being seen as a human rights violator right up there with China, Iran, and some other nations?

At this same time, current Immigration laws would have to be enforced, vigorously. The borders, including our ports, coasts and airports, as well as the long border crossings between us and Mexico as well as us and Canada would have to be secured. There would have to be immediate deportation of those that are caught crossing the border illegally.   I have no problems with those borders being patrolled by heavily armed border guards in armored vehicles. Remember, this is OUR country, and we can choose who we wish to let in.

Along with strengthening the border and other points of entry, there should be a comprehensive effort to remove the criminal element, and deport them back to wherever they came from.  Immigration and Customs should be beefed up, and be available whenever law enforcement comes upon someone who has a criminal past, and is here illegally, or, is here illegally, and has committed crime. Upon arrest, and the determination that the individual does not belong here, ICE agents should be on call to take the person into custody, and to a central location where they will be sent back to wherever they came from. Many other countries around the world have strict immigration laws, we need to have them too.  This country belongs to those of us (regardless of where anyone came from) who are citizens, whether they became a citizen last year, or their ancestors did two centuries ago.

Comprehensive, strict, and enforceable immigration laws, and a system to enforce those laws is what we need to enact.  Fixing the problem will take time, probably on the order of ten or fifteen years, but it can be done.  We won’t make the country impervious to illegal aliens, but we sure can make it tougher for them to try to get in, and, make it tougher for those who do manage to get in to stay. We also need politicians not afraid to act, and put the interests of the country above the interests of the party.(whichever party they belong to) Donald Trump does not qualify as “not afraid to act”, his bombast is worthless, his plan nativist and isolationist, appealing only to the xenophobic, and racist among us. Enacting any plan the requires the removal of large amounts of people, would require enacting a police state in this country, which is anti-thetical to anything and everything this country was founded on.

Now, let me make this clear: I am not talking about a blanket amnesty, if there were feasible, agreeable path to citizenship, then it would have to include getting oneself off of welfare, finding stable, productive employment, and staying out of trouble with the law (x number of misdemeanors, or one felony conviction within x amount of time gets one deported, perhaps) .  Once staying on illegally, whether it’s a border-jumper, or someone who over stays their visa, is made riskier, and less attractive, that may force many to head back where they came from.  LIke I said, it’s not going to be done quickly.  The only way to do that is to violate the civil and human rights of millions, and that will just lead to violence, and that is not a solution either.

Also, the next thing that would be necessary, is a stable, and growing economy, and a lean toward energy independence, which would create jobs as well.  A growing economy in Mexico, and South and Central America would also help, as many of the people who come here are poor and with little means.  But, again, this all takes time.   At this point, what we have to deal with is this:

Porous borders, anywhere from 11 to 20 million illegals.  A system the is broken, and has been allowed to languish under the current administration, as well as an administration that has sought to make it easier for people to get here illegally. That is what we have to deal with, and even if we “fix” the system, we will still have millions of people here, that are here illegally, and a solution is needed for them as well.   The very idea of forcing millions of people out of the country is appalling to me.  I don’t like the fact that they are here illegally and have taken advantage of my country, but, at the same time, I don’t like the idea of rounding up people by the millions (and, honestly, how would we tell who was who?) and shipping them off either, so I am at an impasse.  There has to be a workable middle ground here, and it needs to be found. Internal and external security needs to be rebuilt, illegal immigration needs to be brought under control.

Shouts, slogans, screams for mass deportation are not going to solve the illegal immigration crisis in this country.  The only thing that can, is a solution that addresses every avenue in this issue, and takes into account the security, well being, and needs of  American citizens first and foremost.  It has to be that way.  We are a sovereign nation.  We have the right to secure borders, and a secure homeland.  It’s really that simple.

Outside of Donald Trump, one of the biggest issues that seems to take up most of my Twitter and Facebook feed, is gun rights, and the associated Second Amendment legislation stuff that goes along with it. For much of my life, I never paid very close attention to Second Amendment rights, and things like that, always figuring they would always be with us, it’s not that I am against guns, or I didn’t care, I just didn’t pay attention.

Now, guns have never been a part of my life, outside of the odd BB gun.  My dad never owned any, but I did have an uncle who had a few guns.  However, even though guns were never part of my life, I was pretty familiar with them.  Being a military historian, and avid student of World War II, becoming familiar with guns, at least on paper, is part of learning about the history of the conflict.   That being said, I had always wanted to shoot a gun for real, however, being that I grew up here in Illinois, my dad couldn’t just go out to the local sporting goods store, by a .22 and bring it home for me to plink away with.  As I grew up, and became of age, I did manage to get a Firearm Owner’s ID card, but never bought a weapon, because money was always needed for something else.  Anyway, the upshot is, I never really paid much attention to 2nd Amendment stuff, but I did know that anti-gun types were rather irritating.

Fast forward twenty years, and things have changed.  Still not a gun owner, but,  I was gaining a better understanding of what the “gun grabbers” were up to, and what gun rights supporters were doing to counter that.  I began to understand that 2nd Amendment rights dove-tailed with First Amendment rights as well as all of the other rights in the Bill of Rights.  Even more so, I have also had a very strong belief that everyone has the right to defend themselves, by what ever means necessary, and, if that self-defense includes a gun, well, then, so be it. Honestly, a person gets shot breaking in to another person’s house, the, that person had it coming.   Don’t want to get shot? Then don’t do things that will lead to that happening.  Harsh? Well, yeah, but that’s how it goes.  If one intends to harm someone, and that individual gets hurt, or killed, because their intended victim put up a fight, well, then, there is no sympathy, or excuse.   But, enough of that.

A couple of years ago, as my two oldest sons became of age, they relocated to Texas (one because Uncle Sam said so) and, I had always heard that Texas, as far as guns went, was considered by many to be a “free state” in that regard.  Certainly, less restrictive than Illinois.  Two years after they both moved down there, okay, one was stationed there, and the other moved there, figuring he would do better making a living than he would in Illinois (He was right).  We decided to take a vacation to Texas to see both boys, and see the sights.

And get in a bit of shooting.

Yes.  That was the main reason outside of seeing my sons (one of whom was back from his second tour of Afghanistan): Getting a chance, finally, to shoot a gun for-real.

I had never handled a gun, a real one, but, in the late 80’s I was building model guns from model kits that our local hobby shop sold.  They were expensive, but, when finished, they acted like their real life counterparts.  On our first trip to the range, I was about as excited as a kid at Christmas.  I was looking forward to shooting both rifles and handguns, and my better half an I agreed that the kids (my two youngest were in Junior High at the time) if they were allowed to shoot at all, we would rent them .22 caliber handguns.  Full disclosure:  I will admit that I found the fact that one can rent a gun at a range rather interesting, because I had never heard of that before. (Remember, I was rather naive on the “gun culture”) At the first range we went to, we were warmly welcomed.  The employees were super friendly, and they went over the range rules with the seriousness that they required.  The range also had a gun store, and that is where we paid for, and rented the guns, signed the paperwork, and got our lessons on how to load, hold and shoot the 9mm Beretta, .45 M1911 and the .22 Ruger for the kids.  After that it was into the range.

Shooting was fun, I was nervous at first, but was able to handle the weapons with confidence, and I found I also enjoyed helping the rest of the family with loading, and clearing the guns.  Like I said, I had never used one, but I had  accumulated knowledge on how they worked, so I was ready to put my “book” knowledge to real life use. We had a great time interacting with the range staff, and some of the other shooters that were there. I also enjoyed talking shop about the various weapons with the range staff, as well as some other folks there.

It was this trip that moved me from being a passive 2nd Amendment guy, to an active one.  I gained a deeper understanding about guns, the people who own them, and how important those rights are to us.  Not only that I learned that shooting is fun, and it’s a worthwhile activity.  But, I began to understand the Second Amendment even more.  I am a holder of a gun card again, here in Illinois, but after a second trip to Texas this year to see my sons, and my brand new daughter in law, and for some more shooting, I am thinking that moving to Texas would be a great idea……

So, now, I stand for the 2nd Amendment, and I am not passive any longer. I follow what is going on with gun laws around the country, as well as legislation, and I pay attention to those politicians who wish to restrict our rights.  I know now, its a never-ending battle, because, fighting for one right, means fighting for all of them.  I am actively aware of things that go on now regarding gun rights, as well as encroach on free speech, and other rights.   To those who are passive on the issue, or or those who would say “Well, I am not a gun owner, so it doesn’t matter”. I say this:  As Americans, we should be vigilant in protecting all of our rights, fighting for all of them, not just the ones we feel we “are part of”. Because if we fight for one, and not others, we stand to lose them all.