Lucky us? Our choice

Published 11:46 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

Not so many decades ago in Germany, a political party called the Nazis were taking over the country. When their nature became evident to some citizens, one or two became alarmed. They criticized some of the actions being taken by the government. The government did not take well to criticism, and as soon as word reached the right (or wrong) ears, the perpetrator would hear loud boots stomping down his hall in the middle of the night and kicking in the door. The unfortunate person would be dragged off, never to be seen again.

“Ancient history,” you say. Well, as you read this, there are many countries, not only Third World countries, where the government allows no criticism from its citizens. In Russia, there is a section in the government whose entire mission is to eradicate anyone who might be causing the government problems. Poison is their weapon of choice.

In [Fidel] Castro’s early Cuban government, worshipping in any organized religions was not allowed. Churches were abandoned and ministers could not preach. People were prohibited from worship.

No one has to remind us of the many political prisoners in China, Korea or some South American countries, and good grief, what about some of the Middle Eastern countries? People are often not allowed to travel outside the national borders. Women have few rights at all. Gays and adulterers can be stoned to death without interference from the authorities.

There is no end to it. We could go on and on about the lack of freedom in countries other than ours. Why? Is it because we have laws? No, not laws. Nearly every country in the world has laws. The difference is our special law: The Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Did you see the picture of the young woman ripping a copy of our Constitution apart to protest gun violence? Yes, our Constitution gives our citizens the right to own personal weapons. Maybe some weapons need some limitation, but taking them away from our law-abiding citizens is like putting  a dog into a dogfight after pulling out all his teeth. And I say to the young lady doing the ripping that without that document she is affecting to destroy: In many other countries she would go to jail or worse for her actions.

I am not stating anything that isn’t well known to most American citizens. Our Constitution is what has kept things like this and worse from us since we voted to make it the law of this land. It has kept us victorious through wars and conflicts for all the years it has been in place. It has let us worship as we wanted. It has allowed us to vote as we chose, to say who will be our leaders, and what will be our laws. It protects each of us from retribution from our government for speaking out our opinions.

Our philosophies and convictions may not be those of the majority, but we have every right to express them, barring injury to others. What harm does it do, as the majority, under our Constitution, will prevail? This is the land of the free. We are at liberty to pursue our lives as we wish without limitation or political restrictions.

If charges are made against us, we get our day in court — in a timely manner with professional assistance to present our side of the disagreement. In some countries, citizens don’t get a phone call. They are assigned to a cell and forgotten. But with our Constitution this cannot happen to us. Our Constitution ensures that this is the land of the free. We take it for granted. It has become a cliché. With that attitude, we might lose it. Talk about your catastrophe! It is on what our remarkable government rests, designed and put together by a group of men unlike others in history!

Just try to think about our unbelievable fortune to have had those exact men, born just when they were, living where they did, with the remarkable vision, organizational skill, knowledge, wisdom, judgment and courage to design this self-perpetuating, nearly perfect government that gives every citizen as much freedom as possible, and the right to determine his own leaders and laws.

These men who designed the Constitution and government were amazing. Many American patriots influenced the principles that went into the design of our new government. There was Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence. Read it lately? It is a brilliant and courageous document. We read it now and say, “Of course, everyone knows this.” But they didn’t know it then. Then, the ideas expressed in this document were outrageous. No government allowed the general population this sort of freedom, these rights.

Thomas Paine, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Ben Franklin, Patrick Henry — all these man and more wrote about the freedoms to which people were entitled or made impassioned speeches supporting the new government plan.

George Washington chaired the group who actually wrote the details of the plan, and James Madison did the tedious work of composing the wording. He would work long hours and bring his work back to read to the members of the group. Long hours of discussion, disagreement, disputes, clashing of ideas and opinions alternated by more long hours of writing and rewriting took place. There was much “What if” and “How can we be sure we have adequately covered the problem of __?”

We would need someone in charge, but not a king or a dictator. A president would be chosen by the people by a fair method. Right now, in China, under consideration is making the head of the government a lifetime job. What unlimited power that would generate for one person. Think about the people who were president or wanted to president in the past 10, 20 years. Pick the one you like the least and imagine that person in charge for life. Scary, right? Well, it can’t happen because our Constitutional law defines a finite period for our president’s term of office.

Our laws would be determined by the needs of and opinion of the people. How? We can’t all be in the law-making process. So, our laws would be made by a group of people elected by us and sent to make the laws that WE want — not what some government thinks we should have. There was much argument about how to be fair with the selection of these representatives.

“How about two from each state?”

“That isn’t fair. Your state has half the population as mine. I should have more than you.”

“No state should have that much advantage over another!”

And on and on, until the two-house system was added with two representatives from each state in the senate, and a house of representatives based on population. But there had to be some way to be sure that once in power, neither the president nor the congress could try to seize power from the people. So, another branch of the government was created: The Supreme Court. This top court of the land would exist to ensure the laws and spirit of the Constitution would always be upheld. When the document was finally finished up to about everyone’s satisfaction, it still seemed to lack something important. Patrick Henry even refused to ratify with his signature, and then the coup de grace, the fabulous icing on the cake — The Bill of Rights. Patrick Henry signed.

Lucky us. We got to be born in and live in the country whose ancestors had the vision and courage to provide us with a safe and free nation. Now for God’s sake, will you people out there stop messing around with our Constitution? If it can be changed at all, it can all be changed, and someday we will be listening for those heavy boots coming down the hall.

What does this have to do with our current concerns in our county? Well, let’s see. We have a miniature government here. The Board of Supervisors is our elected lawmaker. If the Board is not passing the laws they know we want, we should not reelect them. We don’t have or need a president at this level, and our Supreme Court would be just any court to which we would bring any concern about infringement upon the Constitution.

It would be interesting to know about many citizens in our county are abreast of just what is happening with our Board of Supervisors. While most of the time the board seems to be of the same mind, lately we are seeing what appears to be a minority disagreement with several decisions made by the board. Is that an infringement of our Constitution? Goodness, no. It is exactly how our government is supposed to work. If someone has an opinion different from the rest, fine. Does it matter if he is right or wrong? No. He has the right to express his opinion. He could be wrong. Well, yes, but not because he is in the minority.

Think about the first person to say the world was round or that disease comes from small bugs we can’t even see. Since there have been people, the majority has jeered at and persecuted the minority. We should get over that, and our Constitution says it is not allowed.

But the citizens who attend county meetings see what looks like a bona fide bona fide example of punishing a member for disagreeing and voting other than along with the rest of the board. When this was pointed out, the board excused its action by announcing there had been phone complaints made against the minority member but could offer no details. I would be surprised if there is any member of the Board who has not annoyed somebody at some time, which caused an irate phone call to Chairman [Dallas] Jones.

Then a Board member described illicit actions on the part of the Board. He said he had been told Board members were putting pressure on members of another county board to vote the Board line. Then a Board member canvassed those individuals and reported no one would concede there had been any pressure from the Board.

From there we have several members suggesting faults or mistakes made by others. One board member delivered a seething condemnation of another. He stated his colleague was guilty of many unspecified problems and mistakes, adding his most grievous error was making unsubstantiated claims of misdeeds by other Board members.

Now Board members are making vague suggestions of ineptitude of other members, threatening lawsuits with much finger-pointing — both figuratively and actually — and fist-pounding to emphasize points that evidently need more than a loud voice and angry features.

I have been attending Board meeting over 20 years. I cannot be at all, or even most meetings, but at the few I have attended over the years, until now the member of the Board have always been gracious, courteous and congenial even when responding to occasional rude remarks from citizens. What has happened to the tone and character of our board in these past few months? It appears someone has brought a golden apple — or maybe a Pandora’s Box — as a gift for the Board.

CAROL DRAKE MAJORS, who lives in Newsoms, is a retired Army colonel. Contact her at 654-6368.