I love the story of America. How a group of people just like us, living in the colonies at the time, came to declare themselves free and independent.
Instead of following the dictates, taxes, and punishments of a King far away in England, the people of America would now govern themselves.
This was a radical departure from their prior history, which had been dominated by Kings, Popes, and Emperors.
Instead of control originating at the top (through a bloodline, battle, or indoctrination), America would be built on the power granted to it by the people.
God > Ruler > Subject became ...
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
God > People > Government.
These were concepts born out of the Enlightenment, that period of time after the dark ages when knowledge and wisdom exploded.
These were concepts our founding fathers used to establish a nation.
To enshrine these concepts into a self governing system, our founding fathers also gave us the rulebook for the nation-- the U.S. Constitution. It establishes the various branches of government, and the rules we all agree to live by. It is the supreme law of the land. It is the law that all other law must follow.
To make sure that government never came to oppress the people, our founding fathers fought to include protections for the God > People > Government alignment:
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.
Collectively, these constitutional protections are known as the Bill of Rights. They also include, in part:
- Right to trial by jury, speedy trial, public trial
- Prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment
- Protection against unreasonable search and seizure
- Right to due process, rules against self-incrimination
- Right to keep and bear arms
The right to keep and bear arms is a constitutionally protected right. It's not there for hunting, and it's not there for personal protection. Like the other civil liberties listed above, it's there to ensure the God > People > Government alignment.
While nobody wants another Newtown, the current push for gun control appears to be coordinated propaganda at work. (For a sad/funny look at hypocrisy in the gun control debate, see this Jon Stewart Gun Control clip.) When combined with the recent attacks on the rest of our civil liberties, it's easy to see why patriots are freaking out.
Today, our government can pick you up, take you away to an unknown location, hold you indefinitely, without notifying anyone, nor charging you with a crime. Today, our government is assassinating people without charge, even if they are a U.S. Citizen, or the family member of a purported terrorist. Today, our government records everything you electronically transmit or receive, without a warrant, to be used as they see fit.
Because of the many new laws that have been passed in our "war against terror," it is estimated that every person in America commits three felonies a day. As a result, today people are facing years in prison, and 10's of $1,000's in fines, for copying digital movies, or electronically protesting corporate/government policies (see the Aaron Swartz articles).
All the while, corporate executives earn hefty bonuses, while evading criminal prosecutions in actions that result in harm many orders of magnitude greater.
Now gun ownership is under attack.
Some fear that civil war is coming.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We are very fortunate in this country. We have a great historical tradition to build on, one that gives us a peaceful way forward.
Before breaking out the heavy weapons, let's use one of the most powerful civil rights we have remaining: The right to petition the government for a redress of our grievances.
Now, I'm not talking about sending letters to city hall, or your congressman or senator. I'm talking about taking your complaints directly to an authority who can rule and enforce decisions. I'm talking about taking your complaints to court.
As long as the Constitution is the law of the land, any action that violates our civil liberties will eventually be enforced as enacted. The problem is, forcing the government to change through court action can take decades, and can be very expensive.
But the Internet is changing all of that.
Just like the Internet has drastically changed the music, travel, and newspaper industries, it's about to change law and governance as well. No longer will the courts be a battle ground reserved for the wealthy and well funded.
Thanks to the Internet, people who have had enough can learn how to file their own complaints without an attorney, for very little money. It's called proceeding "pro se," and anyone who is so inclined can do it ...
- Don't like the gun control laws? File suit.
- Being treated poorly by your monopoly cable provider? File suit.
- Is your city wasting money on homeland security projects? File suit.
In upcoming articles, I'll explain how small groups of pro se litigants working together in coordinated ways, can defeat the biggest and best law firms on Wall Street and K Street.
And in the process, we can take our country back.
After all, we are the people ...
Jay Fenello is currently suing Bank of America without an attorney in Federal court,
and is sharing his experiences in his blog "Adventures of a Pro Se Litigant"