The U.S. Constitution

Image: Caveman Chuck Coker / Flickr

When an immigrant becomes a US Citizen in most cases they must take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. One part of this oath states:

“that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

When an new US president takes office this is what they must say:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

When a US Marine becomes a Marine they take this oath:

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God”

Over and over you see that the crux of your duties at citizens is to abide by, defend, and support the US Constitution. That is ultimately the single most accurate definition of what it means to be a patriot. July 4th, as a celebration of the United States of America, is therefor a celebration of our collective efforts in abiding by, defending, and supporting the US Constitution. However it most cases it has been warped into being soley a celebration of the exceptional nature of the United States wholey seperate from our duties to our country as citizens. This warped celebration of exceptionalism absolves us of any of our responsibilities as citizens while simultaneously ignoring all the ways in which our country’s Constitution has been under assault.

How can you celerbrate the United State Constitution without aknowledging the myriad of ways it is presently under attack? July 4th should be a rallying cry to the Constitution’s defense rather than a whitewash of all the trouble it faces. To celebrate the exceptional nature of the United States while its Constitutition which we are all duty bound to protect is assaulted is to ignore our very duties as citizens.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You only find out whether you have a freedom or not when you actually try to exercise it. The Occupy Movement has shown that our first amendment rights to free speech and assembly are greatly eroded. During a march on September 24th, 2011, two women marching on a sidewalk in NYC were kettled and subsequently pepper sprayed for peaceful 1st Amendment activity.

In October in Oakland Iraqi veteran Scott Olsen had his skull fractured by an Oakland Police projectile during a peaceful march. The police then threw a flashbang grenade at those who rushed in to help him as he lay bleeding on the pavement. Soldiers we are told “fight for our freedoms”. When he returns home and attempts to exercise the very freedoms he has fought to protect he is brutally injured by police whose duty is supposed to be to protect and serve the people.

In November students at UC Davis where peppersprayed at point blank range for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience on their university campus. Two had to be hospitilized for chemical burns due to the brutal nature of the unprovoked attack.

Our government is creating things such as “Free Speech Zones” during highly political events to sideline and mariginalize protest. This is a pure subversion of our 1st Amendment rights. Do we truly have this right when attemps at peaceful expression of protest are met with documented police brutality ordered by their superiors? These are not “rogue police”. These are just a few examples among many. They are following the orders of our government which is ignoring its duties under the US Constitution. Your duty as a US Citizen is to protect the US Constitution. Will you remain silent? Is that how a patriot acts?

The 4th Amendments of the United States Constitution

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In 2010 the Washington Post published a series called Top Secret America by Pulitzer Prize winning authors which included this revelation:

“Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

William Binny was a high ranking NSA official for 4 decades who resigned after 9/11 because he was outraged that the capabilities of the NSA where being turned onto the American people. In a recent interview this was the exchange between reporters Juan Gozalez and Amy Goodman with William Binny:

JUAN GONZALEZ: William Binney, what about the companies that are approached by the government to participate or facilitate the surveillance? Your sense of the degree of opposition that they’re mounting, if at all? And also, has there been any kind of qualitative change since the Obama administration came in versus what the Bush administration was practicing?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, first of all, I don’t think any of them opposed it in any way. I mean, they were approached to saying, “You’ll be patriotic if you support us.” So I think they saluted and said, “Yes, sir,” and supported them, because they were told it was legal, too. And then, of course, they had to be given retroactive immunity for the crimes they were committing. So—
JUAN GONZALEZ: Approved by President Obama.
WILLIAM BINNEY: And President Bush, yeah. It started with Bush, yeah.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the differences in the administrations?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Actually, I think the surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Twenty trillion.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re saying that this surveillance has increased? Not only the—
WILLIAM BINNEY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —targeting of whistleblowers, like your colleagues, like people like Tom Drake, who are actually indicted under the Obama administration—
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —more times—the number of people who have been indicted are more than all presidents combined in the past.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Right. And I think it’s to silence what’s going on. But the point is, the data that’s being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want.

Our government is expaning the US Survelliance state to invade all forms of communications between Americans inside this country. This is a blatant and gross violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States. Our government denies us all our rights to privacy while at the same time not allowing citizens access to most government information. Democracies are supposed to be the other way around. Citizens have every right to know most of what their government does on their behalf while maintaining their own right to privacy. And yet we are faced with a system where that has been turned on its head.

Our government argues that this is necessary to keep us safe but do you really think they need access to virtually all communications, trillions of communications of our private lives, in order to do so? Benjamin Franklin wrote:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

This is what he was talking about. And that is assuming one even believes this makes us safer at all. But what is clear is that a pervasive surveillance state such as this chills dissent. Glenn Greenwald has spoken about his most recent book tour during the fall of 2011 when the Occupy Movement was thriving and how many people would comment that they were afraid to get involved. I imagine people worried about getting on lists, being monitored, getting arrested, or suffering other consequences from our government. That is precisely what Orwellian like surveillance systems are designed to promote. They want people to internalize that their every action and communication is monitored so that they fear taking action or even voicing dissent. It teaches us to erect cages around ourselves.

Patriotism requires courage. In order to protect the US Constitution, which is our duty as citizens, one must overcome their fear and speak out. July 4th reminds us that we do not stand alone. We are a nation of citizens all sworn to defend the Constitution and through solidarity there is power. Will you raise your voice in defense of the Constitution? Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.”

We must overcome our fear, recognize the cages that have been errected around us, and find our voice of dissent. We do that by standing with eachother which fosters courage and power. To stay silent is to welcome tyranny.

The 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Obama has claimed the right to assassinate US Citizens without due process. The Obama administration has put together “kill lists” of individuals who can be assassinated without any sort of judicial review. These targets, some of whom are American citizens, never get their day in court before a death penalty is carried out. One such target that received national attention was the American born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He was accused of being a terrorist and eventually killed through a strike from a Pedator drone in Yemen. Perhaps you agree that people government dubbs “terrorists”, even if they provide no evidence in court of the validity of that designation as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki, should be fair game for extrajudicial assassination. What about when the target is his 16 year old son, also an American citizen, who a drone killed close to three weeks later when he was having dinner?

If the 5th Amendment does not require that a 16 year old US Citizen be required to be accused of a crime, found guilty by a trial by jury, in order to receive the death penalty by the executive branch, what purpose does it serve exactly?

Whether one believes these dead American citizens were criminals or not is irrelevant. Our system of judicial process holds that you are innocent until proven guilty and that you have the right to due process through judicial review before you are summerily executed. A 16 year old boy having dinner in Yemen is not an immenant threat to the safety of the United States that merits the extrodinary measure of extrajudicial assassination and that our executive branch has claimed such a power, and refuses to even allow for judicial review of this assassination program, is one of the most radical departures from their obligations to uphold the US Constitution one can imagine. US Presidents do not have the authority under the Constitution to order the execution of US citizens. That is the sort of authority held by kings which in part led to the very revolution that established this nation we celebrate on July 4th.

Your duty as a US Citizen is to abide by, defend, and support the Constitution of the United States. When you celebrate July 4th you are essentially celebrating the sanctity of the document that defines and binds us together. You cannot celebrate July 4th in good conscience while ignoring and remaining silent to actions which are taken in the name of the United States which actively undermine the very document we are all sworn to protect which defines our nation.

Be a true patriot. Make your voice heard. If you do not exercise your freedoms you will continue to lose them. You have to take a stand, but you don’t have to stand alone.