Independence Day is coming!
This year July 4th falls on a Wednesday, and, of course, America will be celebrating good old Independence Day.
That’s right, we’ll celebrate old Independence Day – that day in 1776 when we declared our freedom from oppression and went on to fight, win, and build the greatest country on earth. And we built it on the foundation of two of the most magnificent cornerstones ever to be laid in the history of nation-building: the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.
So while we are looking forward to celebrating our old Independence Day, let’s not forget to keep looking for our New Independence Day.
Yeah, you know, the New Independence Day that’s coming, eventually, but just keeps getting further and further away in the meantime.
You don’t know what I’m talking about? Yeah you do.
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to admit it, but you see it and you’re starting to get scared and probably a little angry. In my case, I’ll tell you, it’s a lot angry.
We believers in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are seeing their protections being eroded in the name of “freedom.”
We are seeing Congress after Congress and president after president aid and abet the dilution of our guaranteed freedoms. And they’re doing it by instilling fear in us, and telling us that they’re making us safer in an increasingly unsafe world and that they know what’s best for us and how to protect us.
They’re doing a lot of bad stuff we can’t even see. Like watching us.
Oh yeah, Big Brother is all grown up. He lives in our computers, on the Internet, across satellites and landlines, and through the pipes that deliver and send our voices and the personal data that makes up our lives. He’s there in the cameras that catch us in our cars, when we’re transacting private business with our banks, when we travel through every airport and mass transit hub. He’ll be following us with drones in our own neighborhoods soon (already).
But that’s all for our own good, you know.
That is, until you’re declared a “terrorist” or “terrorist sympathizer” by somebody who has the power to label you like can of soup gets labeled. Then you may get “renditioned” to some off-shore safe haven where it’s safe to torture you in the name of freedom.
But, of course, we can always speak up and change these things that we’re scared about, that we’re angry about. We can always protest because we have freedom of speech, right?
Oh, sorry, no, you didn’t get the memo, did you?
It’s about that First Amendment; you know the one that kind of goes like:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Yeah, that one. You know it. Well, start waving goodbye, because it’s being railroaded out of town, your town, my town, the “We the People’s” town – America.
I’m talking about the recently signed into law (in March) bill titled the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.
No, it’s not an appropriations, pork-barrel, dole out to your friends and yourself some more taxpayer money kind of bill. And it’s not going to clean up old buildings and overgrown gardens around the Capitol.
It’s also known as H.R. 347 (HR as in House of Representatives), and it reconciled itself with Senate Bill 1794. It’s now the law of the land.
It makes it a federal offense to knowingly (and without authority) enter the White House grounds, or any building or grounds where the President or anyone under Secret Service protection will be visiting, or any such event restricted due to some national significance.
Here’s what’s especially nasty about it…
According to Salon.com, “The law used to say that the person must have entered the area “knowingly’ and “willfully.’ HR 347, however, scrapped the “willfully,’ which essentially now renders it a crime to remain in a restricted area, even if you do not know that it’s illegal for you to be there.”
It’s being called the “anti-Occupy Bill.” It’s all about keeping us safe, you know. Well, maybe not us, but important folks. Folks like the President, the Vice-President, dead presidents, anybody that has Secret Service protection.
And a lot of folks can get Secret Service protection, don’t you know. And somehow the whole individuals-under-Secret-Service-protection thing morphed into buildings and events, too – events that are known as National Special Security Events.
You know, events like the Republican or Democratic National Conventions, the Super Bowl, and yes, even the Academy Awards (what? oh yeah, really, the Academy Awards).
Because these people, these buildings, these events are so important and shouldn’t be bothered or subject to, heaven forbid, legitimate protestors, or even a guy on a soapbox with a Bible reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the law, HR 347, says they can be arrested.
Protesting is now a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Am I oversimplifying the law, a little bit? Yes. But it’s not a stretch at all to recognize that any time someone is under Secret Service protection, even passing through anywhere, in a building, at an event, or technically on the street walking, protestors can be arrested, yes, totally indiscriminately.
And the “protestor” who may not even be protesting, but just a persona non grata in the eyes of someone who labels them such, doesn’t even have to “willfully” know they’re even in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The law has been around the Capitol mostly as a kind of “trespass” law. But again, its recent expansion included taking out the word “willfully” from what used to be: “that protestors can be prosecuted if they enter the area willfully and knowingly.”
So, now you can enter some place knowingly, but not willfully? As if you ever enter anywhere unknowingly. That’s easy to prove. Imagine:
“Mr. Gilani, did you knowingly enter the place?”
“Oh, you mean, Mr. Gilani, that you didn’t knowingly place one foot in front of the other to get into that area?”
“Well, of course I knowingly place one foot in front of the other; that’s how I walk, idiot.”
“Ah-HA, then you admit knowingly entering the area!”
And as for the “willfully” thing, now no one has to prove anyone did anything willfully. There is no burden of proof. That’s a neat little trick, for our own safety, you know.
Representative Justin Amash (R-Mich.) explained the change by saying: “The bill expands current law to make it a crime to enter or remain in an area where an official is visiting even if the person does not know it’s illegal to be in that area and has no reason to suspect its illegal.”
Michael Mahaffey, communications director for Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), the man responsible for introducing the bill to the House, pooh-poohed civil liberties issues by saying that the protests against H.R. 347 are, “a whole lot of kerfuffle over nothing. This (HR 347) doesn’t affect anyone’s right to protest anywhere at any time. Ever.” Mahaffey said, “…right now it’s not a federal violation to jump the fence and run across the White House lawn, this bill makes it a federal violation.”
Wow, the ability to quell protests and free speech is being likened to an idiot running across the White House lawn; that just says it all. Now I get it, and I feel safer, don’t you?
All sarcasm aside, I hope you have a great Independence Day holiday.
And in all seriousness, I hope you keep fighting the good fight with me for a New Independence Day when we can be free of the tyranny of successive Congresses and presidents who would enslave us for their own ends, like eventually running this country into the ground.
Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. We did it before, and now it’s time again.