Recently, President Trump on the campaign trail in Panama City Beach, Fla. asked the crowd about how one would stop immigrants from crossing the border and someone answered, “Shoot them.” Supposedly, he jokingly responded, “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that stuff. Only in the Panhandle.”
The joke about immigrants illustrates how far the President’s sense of lawlessness has fallen. First they were rapists and criminals, then they were animals and now they are fit to be slaughtered.
Politicians and others are fond of saying that America is a nation of laws and that the law-abiding have nothing to fear from the State. Activists however, see many laws as capricious that need to be changed and see group pressure as a way to make it so.
These groups rather, rely on the Constitution as the protector of their work, and civil rights agencies such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) strive to make their case under the auspices of the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution that guarantee individual and collective rights and liberties. But what happens when the rights enshrined in the Constitution itself are challenged and violated by those in power that do not respect it and use our democratic system to prolong their transgressions?
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 three coordinated attacks in hijacked planes by terrorists belonging to an organization called Al-Qaeda took place against the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. A fourth attack was aborted by the passengers, but nevertheless crashed in a Pennsylvania field killing everyone.
Two thousand, nine hundred, seventy-seven victims plus 19 plane hijackers were killed. The World Trade Center and the damaged part of the Pentagon were rebuilt, but the scars left on the American psyche have yet to be healed.
The War on Terror began in earnest with the United States and its allies intervening in Afghanistan against the Taliban mostly because they harbored Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and most responsible for the 9/11 attack. Two years later the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq claiming that it was a haven for terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, a claim that turned out to be untrue.
Jane Mayer in her book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (2008) documents the sinister efforts of the Bush administration to gain support for going to an unfounded war and skirting the Constitution to justify torture of prisoners. The latter development represents the beginning of a major test of our political leadership and institutional oath to the Constitution.
The situation in this regard appears worse than ever. There is a focused attack on the First Amendment as it relates to the freedom of speech, assembly, press and even religious affiliation.
The Second Amendment is being used to arm militias to threaten and oppress people especially along our southern border. The current administration is even seeking to deprive Congress of its powers under Article I of the Constitution.
The Constitution of the United States created institutions under its various articles. Chief among them are the Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court.
The first obligation of the institutions and others created by their leadership is spelled out in the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That important obligation is what is most in question today and what is being tested in our political culture.