“When once a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption and restoring its lost principles; every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” – Montesquieu in Spirit of the Laws, quoted by Thomas Jefferson.
The Founding Fathers were highly suspicious of government. Living under the king’s heavy hand taught them that big government is tyrannical in nature. Whether it was being forced to pay heavier taxes, host the king’s soldiers or writs of assistance, the founders realized that tyranny is always around the corner.
As a nation, we have had our brushes with tyranny. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was our closest brush, when he authorized the internment of a hundred thousand Japanese Americans and thousands of Germans and Italians. President Woodrow Wilson’s Palmer raids was another brush, as was the spying on Civil Rights leaders during the Civil Rights Movement, the Patriot Act and the militarization of our police forces and President Obama’s executive orders and actions.
But now, with the two most polarizing presdiential candidates in decades, there is a real chance tyranny will come. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the worst candidates in a long time. And the founders warned us about tyrannical figures.
“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny,” Thomas Jefferson wrote.
“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness,” George Washington said in his Circular to the States.
Government has allowed to become bloated and dangerous under Republicans and Democrats alike. The national debt was allowed to double under both Presdients Bush and Obama. Bush signed the Patriot Act which authorized mass surveillance, which was unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment and sent us into two wars which have still not ended under Obama. Obama has authorized even worse attacks on our privacy through the NSA and has expanded the campaigns in the Middle East.
James Madison warned about this in a speech at the 1787 Constiutional convention saying,”The means of defense against a foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
And we saw that in Ferguson, when armored personnel carriers and snipers rolled into the streets after the death of Michael Brown. When the local police force looked more like an occupying army than a community force. There are many things that need to be changed in our inner cities, but patrolling them with armored personnel carriers isn’t going to change anything, as Sen. Rand Paul pointed out.
Many people brush this off because they feel the need for security in their own cities, fearing terrorism is a worse threat than the government spying on them. They are willing to substitute liberty for security.
Both Trump and Clinton have promised to use the government to increase tyranny. Both believe in surveillance and unconstitutional mass spying. Both believe in censoring the internet and limiting freedom of speech. And both believe in continuing the foreign policy of their predecessors.
There is tyranny going on in our schools as well: Protesters who have no respect for the 1st Amendment, often leftists, who think that their feelings matter more than differing opinions, who shout in the middle of speeches of people they do not like.
They block off speakers because they disagree with them. They care more about safe spaces and trigger warnings than actual intelluctual discussion. They are the true tyrants on campus.
George Washington looked at the dangers of giving up our First Amendment rights saying, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
In the end, we must guard against the sea of tyranny.
Thomas Jefferson said it best:
“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Elias J. Atienza is a freshman pursuing his bachelor’s degree at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Send him your angry (or friendly) emails to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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