This is Who the Hell They Are

God bless the media. Without it, I wouldn’t have known that CNN’s Don Lemon indignantly demands to know, “Who the hell do you think you are?!”

Yours truly has only a vague sense of who Don Lemon is and has never in my memory seen his program on TV or him in the supermarket or anywhere else. But I can answer his question.

Mr. Lemon reportedly directed his question to armed protesters who, despite the nation’s lockdown and stay-at-home orders, had gone public to demand their constitutional rights to assemble, to lodge their grievances with their government and to arm themselves. That would be the First and Second Amendments, respectively.

As the iconic, though fictional, counterpart to Lemon said a generation or two ago, those protesters “are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

One might have thought that Lemon would have a passing acquaintance with the Constitution, which not so incidentally also protects his own livelihood. As a television news person, Lemon might even be expected to also be familiar with the fictional, but iconic, newscaster Howard Beale from the 1976 movie Network.

Beale was played by Peter Finch, who, in the movie, broke down on national TV and announced he was so fed up that he would commit suicide live on TV. But why?

“It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore,” the fictional Beale shouted instead of dutifully droning the latest bad news to his viewers. Although not a perfect fit, Beale’s words seem prophetic today.

“We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’”

It seems like the recent armed protesters, Beale had reached his limit putting up with the diktats of people who insist they know better, and who hold the reins of power. Like network executives. Like news show talking heads. Like government autocrats.

In the movie, Beale didn’t have answers, and admitted it. But he knew enough to understand that he and others had to stop being docile sheep, whether it is compliantly staring at a TV screen to be lectured by pompous know-it-all “news” readers, or submissively bowing to the diktats of representatives of the people who have assumed more authority than justified or constitutionally provided.

“All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad,” Beale shouted in the movie’s ultimate scene, “You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!’

“‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’”

That, Mr. Lemon, is who those protesters are. They are the people who have seen the government over-react and assume authority and power both unnecessary and highly questionable. They are the people who as a result are mad as hell and refuse to take it anymore.

When people reach that point with their government -- or with their media -- they exercise their constitutional rights to assemble, to express their grievances and to protect themselves from those who would deny them those rights.

It would be good for Mr. Lemon to use his free time, confined to his home by government like the rest of us, to brush up on the Constitution, how it was arrived at and the price paid to provide it.

Those rights, the Founders who put them in writing knew, aren’t permissions granted by governments or by rulers. Or even by nightly newscasters. They are rights of all people endowed by their Creator.

Contrary to the current “progressive” understanding, the First Amendment wasn’t intended to protect obscenity. The right to speak and to protest government is the heart of the First Amendment. And, as the revolutionaries who gave us our Constitution intended, the Second Amendment wasn’t written to protect the right to shoot squirrels. It was written to protect the right to self-defense from tyrants who would deny the people’s rights.

So, when Don Lemon asks, “Who the hell do you think you are?” there is an obvious and correct answer: they are Americans who know when their rights have been violated and “are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

Mark Landsbaum is a retired journalist, former investigative reporter, editorial writer and columnist. He also is a Christian, husband, father, and grandfather. mlandsbaum@gmailcom.

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