“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 [emphasis added].” If you aren’t familiar with what you just read, well, that is the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Only a people that have freed themselves from bondage at the cost of everything could have written such words, and these are only a fraction of the words that gave birth to a new republic. The power in the words from the Declaration of Independence to the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights truly offers a testament to what the people of that time endured.
Knowing how precious freedom is and how difficult it is to maintain, they adopted some measures to try to keep tyranny from ever creeping in again. They attempted to forever bind the power of government with laws specifically stating what that federal, or general, government could not do to citizens. Also knowing that most individuals are subject to corruption and understanding history, they didn’t believe the newly formed republic would endure long. In fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote,
“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
So the question must be asked, Are Americans a conquered people? I would not find it surprising if some even find offense in the quotation of Thomas Jefferson I just referenced. The case that tyranny has crept in can be made so easily at this point that it should frighten you, and to employ the term “crept” is putting it mildly, because in reality it arrived like a Category 5 hurricane with tanks and drones. The case is often made in this column about the loss of liberty in America and the encroaching police-state, surveillance society that most seem to be perfectly fine living under, but today there will be one particular issue that will be covered, that being amendment number four. The Fourth Amendment suffered its death blow when the USA PATRIOT Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. Keep in mind that most of the PATRIOT Act was written before the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 but the events of September 11, 2001, united the country in such a manner that the people might have signed away their first born, if so asked.
The American people accepted the act’s sweeping measures because they weren’t directly affecting them, and over time many people have come to the conclusion that they must obey their government no matter what is asked of them or what rights they must forfeit in the name of a false sense of security. It seems that ever since that day in 2001, this country has been in a high speed tailspin simply jettisoning every right, even as a final impact nears.
That doesn’t affect me, does it?
So what does this have to do with you, your family and your life? You have done nothing wrong, what do you have to worry about, right? Wrong!! With Americans who seem to have an incurable case of apathy, a mainstream media that cherry picks the stories they report and often leave many of us in the dark, and with many government employees who seem to go out of their way to assure that we, the people, don’t know what’s happening in their own home town, most of us are left in a tough spot.
So it’s a basic loss of the fundamental principles of liberty that we are talking about here. Yes, the Fourth Amendment has been dismantled, and I choose the word dismantled very intentionally, because many people still try to do the dance that people are secure in their persons and homes, because the goal is always to give Americans the illusion of freedom while taking away as much of it as possible. Sing the National Anthem, wave the flag, repeat. Congratulations, you are now a “Patriot” in 2013! Sorry, but not in my circle.
Pittston City and the Fourth Amendment
Now we’ll bring this line of thinking right to our back yard. Pittston, Pennsylvania, the city I reside in, has recently passed an ordinance that attempts to usurp what’s left of the Fourth Amendment. As always “In the name of safety,” residents of the city will be expected to allow municipal officials into their homes to do “inspections.” These “inspections” are said to “ensure that housing units in the City of Pittston are safe, sanitary and in compliance with the City zoning, property maintenance and fire prevention ordinances of the City of Pittston, each and every residential unit in the City of Pittston, let out for rent or lease, shall require a Rental Property Maintenance Certificate before occupation, and every two years thereafter.” I don’t even have the time to explain how much this opens the door to allow government to find all kinds of ways to take more of your money. And don’t forget the chilling effect, another tactic used by Big Government. How many people will want to speak out against the very government that now seems to have the power to come into your home and go rifle through it with a fine-toothed comb?
This ordinance runs several pages and Pittston isn’t the only city pursuing this power and money grab; East Stroudsburg is one of those cities, as well. There are also now mandatory fees for all landlords on top of all the other hoops they have to jump through to rent their properties. I guess when people try to make the argument that there is a difference between landlords and home owners they seem to overlook that landlords are home owners. Two positions have already been filled to enable enforcement of the Pittston resolution, the new hires being Harry Smith “Zoning Officer and Code Enforcement Officer” with an annual salary of $45,000, and William Williams “Assistant Fire Chief, Fire Inspector” with an annual salary of $51,160.
A matter of consent
Were you asked your opinion on this matter? Did you enter this contract voluntarily or was it forced upon you by your so-called council representative? Do you truly have to allow somebody into your home without a proper warrant? What if you don’t? Will the landlord still be threatened with those “fees” and “penalties” that he can’t do anything about anyway if his tenant doesn’t need to allow the city agent in? That is if there is anything left of the torn and tattered Fourth Amendment, right?
So a couple things have been tied together in this column: that we have drifted so far as a society that a rogue municipal body would pass a “ordinance” like this, and even worse, that any American—much less a red-blooded Pittstonian—would comply with it. This is how liberty is lost, when the totalitarians keep moving the ball down the field in the name of “safety” but in reality they gain more control over your life. Is the US Constitution the “supreme law of the land”? Where does the Constitution of the Republic of Pennsylvania come into play in this situation? Because it seems the people in charge are just playing as they go without anyone holding them accountable. Do Americans still have that Spirit of Resistance to tyranny? The one thing I can say for sure is that it is definitely time to find out.