Given, Not Taken
– by David Matthews 2
“Don’t let them take our rights away!”
“They’re taking our rights away! We need to stop them from taking our rights away!”
How many times have you heard that?
We’ve been hearing it over and over and over again from conservatives and neo-conservatives, from Fox News media personalities, and from newspaper editorials and columnists, and certainly from the letters-to-the-editor, some of which I have to wonder if they’re just regurgitating talking point memos.
But if you were to sit some of these folks down and strap them to a chair and compelled them to actually list the “rights” that they claim are being “taken away”, you’d discover a few things.
First, you’d discover that they really don’t like being strapped to a chair.
Second, you’d discover that they don’t like having to explain themselves.
Third, you’d discover that they don’t like you for having to demand they explain themselves. That and the whole “strapped to a chair” thing.
Fourth, you’d discover that they really have no idea what sort of “rights” are really being put in danger, or who “took” those rights away, or whether it has already happened or if it was just something they heard. There is a reason why websites like Snopes.com exist, you know.
But then I remembered the word that they love to use in each case… “take”.
It’s all about the government “taking” rights away, isn’t it? The “government” is always seen by the conservatives and neo-conservatives as some evil entity with some perverse fetish of taking away rights. Well… only as long as they’re not the ones in charge of that same “government”, but we’ll get back to that in a minute.
The cons and neo-cons love to talk about how “once upon a time” we had all of these rights and freedoms and liberties, and now, all of a sudden, they’re all “gone”; and if they’re “gone” then the government “must have taken them”. It’s like living with roommates and automatically blaming the fatter of the roommates for eating all of the food simply because it’s not there.
But take a closer look at some of these rights and freedoms that were simply “taken away from us” and you’ll find that they weren’t really taken.
They were given away. And in many instances by the very factions that are now complaining about them disappearing!
Let’s get brutally honest here… if we truly live in a system where the government operates “under the consent of the governed”, then the government cannot truly “take” our rights and freedoms away as much as we, as “the governed”, are giving them away.
We gave away our freedom of speech when it came to radio and television back in the 1930’s because we believed it was more important for the federal government to “protect us” from “dangerous content”. Granted, back in 1933 that content was fascist and communist propaganda, but it wasn’t long before we allowed that to be expanded to other content that we would deem to be “dangerous”. We gave our rights in that regard away to the government because we stupidly believed that it was more important to be “safe” from so-called “dangerous content” and “dangerous ideas”.
By the way, which political faction convinced us that we needed to give those rights and freedoms away? Which faction told us that the threats of fascism and communism and “naughty words” and “naughty parts” were threats to society that superseded our rights and freedoms? Why, it was the conservatives!
In fact you go back in history and you’ll find that the conservatives were the same folks that were responsible for convincing us to give a lot of our rights and freedoms away.
How about being safe and secure in our homes and our belongings? Remember the “War on Drugs”? Yeah, we were convinced that the threat of drug cartels was more important than our Fourth Amendment protections. So we gave the police the power to take our property from us, thinking it would only be used on those big drug kingpins instead of small businesses that try to pay for things with cash. Oh, and all of those limitations on financial transactions that the banks love to tout? Yeah, that’s from the same “War on Drugs”, because banks can’t tell if a $25,000 money transfer is being made by ordinary people or drug kingpins.
And I don’t even need to go back to the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts nor even the fear-mongering days of McCarthyism, do I? Not when there’s the PATRIOT Act to consider!
Funny, isn’t it, how the very conservatives and neo-conservatives that today scream bloody murder over rights and freedoms that were supposedly “taken away” are the same ones that stood behind Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001 when he said, and I quote directly: “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberties, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists — for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.”
The ugly truth is this: the conservatives and neo-conservatives were the ones that gave our rights away to the government, and gave them away on a silver platter with a red-white-and-blue bow. They stood there with Ashcroft as the PATRIOT Act was cobbled together and pushed through – sight unseen – under the supposed “fear” of terrorism. They stood there and gave away our privacy to the NSA and the CIA and the rest of the myriad of intelligence organizations under the claim that “we are at war”. And now that they’re not the ones in the power, now that they’re not the ones calling all of the shots, now they’re supposedly “afraid” because the rights and freedoms are no longer under their control. And now they’re claiming those rights and freedoms were not “given away”, they were “taken from us”.
Yeah, it’s easy to blame the fatter roommate for supposedly eating all the food… until you go over all the meals that were consumed and who ate what, and you realize that you were the one with the 2am “munchies” and the mid-meal snacks and the “fourth-meal” cravings while your larger friend has been away on vacation.
Then again, I can understand why they want to use the word “take” instead of “give”. After all, they don’t want people to remember who it was that “gave” those rights and freedoms away so readily. They still need us to “give” them something even more precious… such as our support. It’s certainly not something that they should “take” from us so readily.