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January 19, 2011
Would Congress Silence the Founding Fathers?
There has been plenty of finger-pointing in the wake of last week's deadly shootings in Tucson. Unfortunately, not enough fingers have been pointed at the triggerman, Jared Loughner.
Instead, people have been blaming the likes of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Democratic Congressman Jim Clyburn is calling for a return to the "fairness doctrine," telling NPR, "I came up in a time that the fairness doctrine did not allow media outlets to say things about a candidate or a person in public office without giving that person equal time to respond."
We know what this is really about. We've heard the complaints from the left, "We don't have a liberal equivalent to Rush Limbaugh on the radio!"
Of course you don't.
You tried with Air America, and you lost. In the court of public opinion, your ideas lose. Deal with it.
Federal regulators tossed the "fairness doctrine" because of its chilling effect on speech. But, that apparently doesn't matter to liberals in Washington.
Democratic Congressman Robert Brady says he's now drafting a bill that would make it a federal crime for anyone to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening to members of Congress. As he says, "We have got to shut this down."
I have to think Representatives Clyburn and Brady would take issue with the speech of our founding fathers. The congressmen swore to uphold the Constitution when they took the oath of office, but would they now support the words of its framers? After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who once said, "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
And he really means it. He said, "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing." After all, he said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Gasp! Such threatening speech! Rebellion? Armed resistance to elected officials? In today's political climate, one of the architects of this country's most sacred documents would be considered a threat to government, a soon-to-be federal criminal. No doubt, he'd already be on a federal watch list. The NSA and FBI would likely have a huge dossier on him. And we'd see Janet Napolitano warning that the country just couldn't withstand that sort of dissent.
But, Jefferson is hardly alone. Fast-forward several decades to the man most historians consider one of the greatest presidents of all time: Abraham Lincoln. He once said, "We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
Oh, the danger! He, too, would be on Napolitano's shortlist. Could he even board a plane in today's political climate? Would he even be free to do so?
We have to ask ourselves what's really at play here when we hear people talking about curbing free speech and reinstating the "fairness doctrine." It's to silent dissent. Perhaps the leaders who think the rhetoric is so toxic should consider it rises in proportion to the punches they take at our Constitution.
We're Americans. We love our freedom. Dissent is not only good, but necessary in order to preserve our liberties.
As Thomas Paine once said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
What's scary isn't any vitriol or invective aimed at government; it's that you can become a government target by simply repeating the words and phrases of our founding fathers, which reminds me of a quote from John Adams, "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."