“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ”
Declaration of Independence
Governments do not confer legitimacy on themselves. Their legitimacy is dependent on the will of the people, elections being the accepted means for establishing the popular mandate.
And, there are basic criteria for establishing whether or not an acting government is in compliance with the minimal standards of democracy. This means that the broader values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” must be preserved and protected by those serving in high office. This is the highest obligation of public servants.
Never the less, we should recognize that the most troublesome, yet, perhaps, the most admired notion in the Declaration is its “moral imperative”; the call to “alter or abolish” that government that is destructive to the “unalienable” rights of man.
Are we there, yet?
America is not traditionally thought of as a country that robs its citizens of their due process rights and dumps them in prison for more than two years without representation.
America is not typically condemned for human rights violations and alleged torture of prisoners.
America is not usually mentioned in the same breath with targeted assassinations, endless detentions, forced occupation and prison camps.
This is Bush’s America…it’s not our America anymore.
Those who believe in democracy and the founding principles of this nation must ask themselves how far the country can tilt rightward before it invites the full measure of its revolutionary message.
Ultimately, that could be the moral question of our era.
The Bush Administration’s lock on power is dependent on deception. The deception is spontaneous and, oftentimes, with cause.
Normally, we can determine the truth of a particular issue by assuming the inverse of whatever the administration says.
But, this merely affects the administration’s credibility, not their legitimacy.
Legitimacy is the root of governance, without it the existing government must be removed.
The Bush Administration has made great strides in grinding down the fundamental principles underlying American life. They have successfully eviscerated the right to privacy (Patriot Act, FICA courts; 4th amendment) and established the necessary precedents for overturning all Due Process rights (Rights to see an attorney, rights to a speedy trial, rights to be charged with a crime, rights to face your accusers; 5th and 6th Amendments) These are the heart and soul of the Constitution as they protect the citizen from the vagaries of government abuse.
Particularly troubling, is the case of “alleged” dirty bomber, Jose Padilla; by all counts, a test case to see if the President can effectively repeal the Constitution. It’s quite clear that this struggle to dispatch American citizens as “enemy combatants” is an attempt to assert the absolute power of the executive and put the President above the law.
The disposition of this case will tell us a great deal about the future of democracy in America.
The administration’s approach to civil liberties has not been haphazard in the least, but, rather, a full scale assault on those legal barriers that are the cornerstone of our system.
This is the crisis of legitimacy; a government that is bent on devouring democracy itself.
Governments do not create freedom, at best, they can only safeguard and respect it.
Man is intrinsically free, which is to say, that man and freedom are identical. “Unalienable.”
This is the central point of our Constitution; the bedrock principle of our ethos.
The Bush Administration has put itself in direct conflict with these basic tenets. Its actions have made it the adversary of democratic values (“destructive of these ends”) and, therefore, the enemy of the American people.
The administration no longer bares the mantle of legitimacy.
It is a threat to both itself and those it is supposed to serve.
It must be removed.
The founders of this country anticipated a time when liberty would be in jeopardy. They provided us with their tacit endorsement of further action.
The “alter or abolish” clause in the Constitution is their summons to revolution. Their spirit pervades the grass roots movements that, even now, are fomenting a growing rage against the leadership in Washington.
Liberty is no longer our birthright, but part of a greater struggle.
In this context, resistance is the primary responsibility of the citizen and the highest form of patriotism.
Resistance is the order of the day, and the moral imperative of a generation.
MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: [email protected]