Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 Continental Congress: Historical Observations and Outlook

History has a strange way of repeating itself. In the late 1700s, in America, people were experiencing the culmination of the Enlightenment. They were on the fringes of the greatest empire at the time, an empire run by the parliamentary monarchy of King George III in a land far from the colonies. As is often true with empires, England was involved in several wars. War costs money. Money can be hard to come by. Monarchs at the time used the fear of war to fleece the wealth of the populace, likely making the case that they had to take the fight to the enemy so the enemy would not come to their shores. As it so happened the English colonies located in the Americas were creating quite a bit of wealth. King George III felt it was time for the colonies to chip in and pay their fair share for the protection the empire provided.

The colonies were peopled by an adventurous lot. They had left behind their lives in hopes of finding something better in a new, supposedly free world. They found themselves in a strange, wild, sometimes harsh land which needed to be tamed. So they kept their ties with the old world. They had left behind family and friends and familiarities. They certainly did not wish to severe all ties with the familiar institutions they had left behind, yet circumstances dictated they develop many of their own. It was on the foundation of liberty and self determination that they decided to build the new institutions, for they were forced by distance, surroundings, and old world technology to be self sufficient and to often depend on their own small communities, or even individual efforts. The spirit of independence had taken root on these shores long before the Declaration of Independence was written.

During the first Continental Congress, where much passionate debate took place, many representatives wished to maintain their ties to England and its king. Many feared losing the security the empire provided. In fact, Georgia did not attend because of the threat the indigenous population presented to the people of that colony. In the end, the Continental Congress decided to send a list of grievances to the king in hopes of resolving such grievances in a fair and timely fashion. The king, unfortunately, decided to ignore this request and did not redress these grievances. Two years later the Declaration of Independence was penned and the colonies absolved their allegiance with the British crown.

There are parallels to the first Continental Congress and the 2009 Continental Congress that is taking place in St. Charles, Illinois. Perhaps the most obvious is that government, such as it exists at in this nation at the federal level, refuses to acknowledge and redress the grievances so many have put before it. Time and again the people have exercised proper decorum and used the mechanisms set up by the state to address such concerns and time and again those mechanisms have failed in their design. When institutions that were set up to ensure the security of individual rights fail to do so it is time to re-examine those institutions and make the changes necessary to reflect and support the purposes for which those institutions were established.

The system of governance that was established for this nation long ago has been usurped by other interests. It has been replaced by a system foreign to a freedom loving people that seeks to make the people dependent upon it rather than the other way around. If we are to remain independent then it may be necessary for a contingent of individuals, who are more representative of the people as a whole than professional politicians, to reassert their power and direct the attention of those serving in said institutions to the failures of the system to protect and act in accordance with the principles this nation was founded upon. Otherwise, we risk the possibility, indeed the probability, of allowing the depravities of an uncaring behemoth of a government answerable only to itself to run roughshod over the populace.

I don't know that anyone realizes just how many people have been harmed by the current system of governance the populace of this nation currently tolerates. From the federal down to the local level, self important individuals have abused the power granted to them by the people in numerous ways. They have violated individual rights by physically, mentally and financially harming individuals exercising those rights. There are those serving in the 2009 Continental Congress who have experienced such abuses first hand. They understand better than most that there are many who serve in bureaucracies across the nation that have come to feel that while the average person living in these borders must mercilessly answer to laws as written, they themselves are not held accountable for their incursions against natural law and individual rights. In many cases, the bureaucrats refuse to follow even their own laws.

Jeff Williams, one of the delegates from the state of Washington, provides an example. He is an entrepreneur who wished to establish a business. Being new to such endeavors, he was unsure as to the laws, and specifically as to tax law, and so he turned to the IRS for help in filing his taxes. The IRS proceeded to give him directions which he followed diligently. He continued on with his life thinking he had no worries and had paid his required tribute to the tax collector. Months later he was informed he had made a mistake and was summoned to their offices where he was to meet with an IRS agent.

Mr. William's wife, having a vested interest in the outcome of the meeting, escorted her husband to the IRS offices. When she pointed out to the IRS agent that the IRS's own rules state that when a mistake is made due to faulty instructions given by an IRS employee the taxpayer is not liable for accrued fines, the Williams were escorted from the building by armed guards. This is the typical government answer to grievances. This is their redress. We are answered with more harm. They refuse to follow their own laws, and no one is held accountable. This was done to a law abiding businessman, a productive member of society. One must wonder how many others are treated in such a fashion? Is it any wonder the anger is growing to such proportions? How long will we tolerate such transgressions and abuses?

Another example is that of Catherine Bleish, a delegate from Missouri. She was arrested because she was standing in line outside a courthouse and when ordered (along with everyone in the crowd) to stand against a wall made the comment “Get in line, show us your papers, give us your money, welcome to the new America” to another person waiting in the same line. The law enforcement officer overheard and didn't take kindly to the comment. He then inappropriately asked if anyone had a leash for her. He then threatened to arrest her if she didn't leave in two minutes. When she asked what she would be arrested for the officer told her, “I will make something up” in front of at least ten witnesses. He then proceeded to leave and two minutes or so later came back and arrested her for failure to comply with a lawful order.

An order is not lawful if it is unconstitutional. Ms. Bleish had done nothing wrong. She was expressing her opinion in a peaceful manner. The police officer didn't agree with her sentiment and rather than do the civil thing and engage her in a polite debate as to the merits of her statement to try to persuade her that her opinion of the new American society was incorrect, he abused the power he had been entrusted with and validated her observations. Those who are supposed to be our public servants have become the masters. Law enforcement officers used to be known as peace officers. We are taught that they are important, respected members of our community, but I have seen or heard about example after example of law enforcement officers not respecting the rights of the individual and blatantly disregarding them. Respect that is given and not reciprocated is respect undeserved. It is, in fact, quite often nothing less than fear and perhaps even terror. When such official abuse occurs it serves no one. This abuse may have been a small one, but far greater abuses have occurred, some of which have led to death. This small abuse is indicative of an attitude endemic in those who have been entrusted with even a small amount of power.

It is a sad thing to see so many harmed. It is a terrible thing to discover that what you were taught when you were younger is not true, that your country is not the haven it was meant to be and is not a bastion of freedom, liberty and justice for the world to flock to. We may not have the problems of some third world countries with their horrific abuses and genocidal tendencies, but we are heading that way. The bigger that government grows, the harder it becomes to stop the waste, corruption and abuse taking place. This is a problem that the politicians in Washington, DC refuse to acknowledge, let alone deal with.

The delegates attending the 2009 Continental Congress are dealing with problems that elected officials should be concerned with. They have made personal sacrifices to do a job our elected representatives should be doing. With extremely few exceptions, those at the federal level who claim to represent us have failed in their duties to faithfully execute their offices and protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Perhaps the people of this nation are partially to blame for not being as vigilant as we should have been. Perhaps it is not clear to those serving at the federal level that we wish to remain a free, self determined people. The delegates at this year's Continental Congress have done a good job at hashing out the instructions they wish to give to our elected representatives for redressing the grievances of the people and restoring proper respect and dedication to individual rights those serving in government need to have. There was much passionate debate and quite a bit of controversy, but from what I have observed the final product looks to be awesome. They will include quite a few ways that ordinary, average, every day Americans can become involved, and unlike government no force will be involved and this will be an entirely voluntary opt in system. If our elected officials had worked so diligently and remained so principled our problems would be light and our prosperity great.

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