River Cities’ Reader
• Vol. 18 No. 787 • September 15 - 28, 2011
Business • Politics • Arts • Culture • Now You Know • RiverCitiesReader.com
protect the freedom to speak your mindand protest in peace without being bridledby the government. It also protects thefreedom of the media, as well as the right toworship and pray without interference. Inother words, Americans cannot be silencedby the government. Yet despite the clearprotections found in the First Amendment,the freedoms described therein are underconstant assault. Students are often strippedof their rights for such things as wearing aT-shirt that school officials find offensive.Incredibly, one California school officialactually forbade students from wearing T-shirtswith the American flag on them. Likewise,local governments and police often opposecitizens who express unpopular views in public.Peace activists who speak out against thegovernment are being arrested and subjected toinvestigation by the FBI, while members of thepress are threatened with jail time for reportingon possible government wrongdoing andrefusing to reveal their sources.
was intended toguarantee
the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Yet while gun
has beenrecognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as anindividual citizen right, Americans remain
Constitution Day: Is the Bill of Rights Dead?
by John W. Whitehead
or all intents and purposes, the Constitu-tion is on life support and has been forsome time now.Those responsible for its demise are noneother than the schools, which have failedto educate students about its principles; thecourts, which have failed to uphold the rightsenshrined within it; the politicians, wholong ago sold out to corporations and specialinterests; and “we the people,” who, in ourignorance and greed, have valued materialismover freedom.We can pretend that the Constitution,which was written to hold the governmentaccountable and was adopted on September17, 1787, is still our governing document.However, the reality we must come to termswith is that in the America we live in today,the government does whatever it wants. Andthe few of us who actively fight to preservethe rights enshrined in the Constitution (agroup whose numbers continue to shrink) doso knowing that in the long run we may befighting a losing battle.A review of the first 10 amendments to theConstitution shows that the Bill of Rights may well be dead.The
is supposed to
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powerless to defend themselves against thegovernment. In fact, in 2011, the IndianaSupreme Court broadly ruled that citizensdon
t have the right to resist police officerswho enter their homes illegally, which isthe law in most states. And consider howmany individuals have been killed simplyfor instinctively reaching for any kind of weapon, loaded or not, during the initialtrauma of a SWAT-team raid. Thus, as local police departments become more and morelike paramilitary units, dressed in black riotgear and armed with assault weapons, theability of the citizenry to protect itself fromthe government will become more and moredifficult.The
reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials aresuperior to the military by prohibiting themilitary from entering any citizen’s homewithout “the consent of the owner.” Today’smilitary may not as of yet technicallythreaten private property. However, with the police increasingly posing as military forces – complete with weapons, uniforms, assaultvehicles, etc. – a good case could be made for the fact that SWAT-team raids, which break down the barrier between public and private property, have done away with this criticalsafeguard. Indeed, the increasing militarizationof the police, the use of sophisticated weaponryagainst Americans, and the government’sincreasing tendency to employ military personnel domestically have eviscerated theThird Amendment. At all levels (federal,local, and state), through the use of fusioncenters, information sharing with the nationalintelligence agencies, and monetary grants for weapons and training from the Pentagon, thelocal police and the military have for all intentsand purposes joined forces. In the process, the police have become a “standing” or permanentarmy, one composed of full-time professionalsoldiers who do not disband, which is exactlywhat the Founders feared.The
prohibits thegovernment from searching your homewithout a warrant approved by a judge.Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated by the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, which opened thedoor to unwarranted electronic intrusions bygovernment agents into your most personal