Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 630, July 31, 2011

"These are the times that try men's souls"

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Madison's Ghost
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

In a recent column for The Libertarian Enterprise, I mentioned James Madison, fourth President of the United States, co-author of the United States Constitution, and the principal author of the Bill of Rights.

I've never been a great James Madison fan, even though he may have been Thomas Jefferson's best buddy, and had a hot little wife. He was also a Federalist—for a while, at least—and a political partner to Alexander Hamilton. When I said, in the same essay, "There is nothing wrong with America today except that it's run by and for the criminal class and always has been" it was Hamilton I chiefly had in mind.

A few days after the article appeared in TLE, I got a message from an old friend who had liked what I'd written, but was deeply concerned that it might be used against me. "The sad reality," he informed me, is that "most of the general population, not to mention the thugs with the various armies of occupation, have likely never even heard of him. In fact, these days," he added, "mention of the Constitution and/or the Bill of Rights, brands one as a dangerous 'extremist'."

My old friend went on to caution me that an individual within the federal judicial system whom he's known for more than forty years, upon reading some of my columns, warned him that articles like my last have resulted in people being prosecuted for advocating "terrorism". Not only that, but anyone who contributes to me through the "pay the author" system could be prosecuted under "material aid" provisions, presumably of the Patriot Act. "Not to mention that PayPal is such a Good Corporate Citizen, that they don't even require a warrant or any such to turn over any and all information to whatever agency requests it."

"Yes," he added, "things have gone that far ... Please be careful."

Since receiving that message, I have been through my article at least three times, and I can find not a single sentence that can be construed as advocating terrorism. The fact is that, over a span of 49 years in which I've been politically active, my principle objective has been to prevent the kind of widespread violence it now seems to me that creeps like Barack Obama and Janet Napolitano appear hell bent on fomenting.

I'm aware that Obama, Napolitano, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a host of organized collectivists have been working hard for a long time to defame and smear everything and everybody that once made this nation great. They want as many of its people as possible to believe that knowing the Constitution, or calling upon its provisions at need, is as good as a criminal act. I have been concerned that in television dramas from CSI, through NCIS, to Castle, whenever the accused demands to see a lawyer, it's considered a confession of guilt.

I often wonder what happened to the people who write these things and used to call themselves "liberals". They were obnoxious enough back then, when Jack Lord and a dozen other Hollywood phonies treated their audiences to a barrage of anti-gun tirades while waving their revolvers around, but apparently it's even more fun to threaten house burglars with "Gitmo", and "progressive" is now the new euphemism for "fascist".

There was a time—at least I think there was—when America and Americans stood for something. Often, they stood on opposite sides of the street, but you could find little knots of integrity practically everywhere you looked, and there were features to be admired on either side.

Those days are done, blasted to bits on national TV on September 11, 2001. The country lies empty now, a moral wasteland, looted to its last button, and half dead. As we'd hoped they wouldn't—and as we knew they would—the Republicans have screwed everything up completely, as they always have, as they always do, as they always will.

The Democrats are no better. Instead of ending the Republicans' insane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have added to them in Libya and Yemen, spending human and military assets so they can't be used to actually defend America—from themselves. They do everything they can to sabotage an economy on its last legs. They have built up a force of domestic muscle that can't be used for any decent, lawful purpose. They continue to attack free communications, and threaten with kidnapping and torture everyone who refuses to kneel down to them.

Perhaps my friend's friend is right, and it's now a dangerous thing to quote James Madison. But we can't end that danger by giving in to it. It's probably an even more dangerous thing to quote Thomas Jefferson; quoting Thomas Paine must be the most dangerous thing of all.

"These are the times that try men's souls," Tom Paine wrote in the bleak December of 1776. "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country—but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."

They are ghosts now, each and every one of them, Paine, Jefferson, Madison, the others. Not literally, but in our minds. And it's good to imagine—if only for a moment—that they are watching us, that they can feel our gratitude, our desire to keep what they won for us. If we stopped honoring them, no word would be low enough to describe us.

I will be careful, I promise. But if there's any decency left in this land, I'm in no danger. As my readers all know, I do not advocate the initiation of violence against anybody for any reason. In fact, I took a formal oath to that effect many years before most of them were born. The Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in the defense of what they stood for; to be willing to do less would make me feel like some kind of insect crawling in the baseboards.

The country that I serve is freedom, and I can only do what I must.

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