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- EverVigilant.net -
"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." - John Philpot Curran


The U.S. Constitution: Smorgasbord of Freedom?

(The following EV essay was originally published on July 16, 2001.)

Americans love all-you-can-eat buffets. We love to walk into a restaurant, belly up to the steaming food trough, and sink our teeth into dozens of different foods, satisfying every culinary craving we could possibly have.

In the mood for seafood? Try the butterflied shrimp or the crab legs. Better yet, try both! Want some turf with your surf? Throw in a 12-ounce sirloin and some barbecued pork. Can't wait for dessert? Top off your plate with a slice (or two, or three) of cheesecake. And don't bother with the salad bar. Why waste your $13.95 on lawn clippings? As long as you remember to use a clean plate on your next trip through the buffet line, you can eat as much as you want for as long as you want.

Sadly, many Americans view the U.S. Constitution in very much the same way they drool over an elaborate smorgasbord. They believe the founding fathers of this country prepared a sumptuous feast of various freedoms and laid it out on a tablecloth of parchment. All they need to do is pick and choose the freedoms they like best and they'll be as satisfied as a Calvin Klein model after three stalks of celery.

The trouble is that eventually the buffet will begin run out of food, and I for one do not want to be caught between a 400-pound truck driver, with a belt buckle the size of a hubcap, and the last piece of fried chicken. In other words, we need to reread our history and learn to interpret the Constitution as the founders intended if we want to maintain the freedoms we have enjoyed for over two centuries.

Truth be told, freedom itself is an abstract concept. It can mean a variety of things to different people. Rice farmers in China, for instance, are free to grow and sell their crops, but are not free to speak out publicly against the government's policy toward the Falun Gong. Cubans in Havana are free to roll and smoke their own cigars but are never free to blow as much smoke as Fidel Castro.

Americans, thankfully, have a slightly bigger slice of freedom pie than our communist counterparts; and ours is a la mode. However, if we begin to take advantage of the generous buffet servings, the manager of the restaurant may walk up to our table and say, "Excuse me, but I think you've made enough trips through the buffet line. If you don't leave now, I'll be forced to call mall security." That is what happens when there isn't enough freedom to go around.

We have already begun to see the rationing of liberty. Today, every freedom gained by one group means taking away a freedom from another. In 1973, the Supreme Court granted pregnant women the "right" to kill their unborn children by taking away the unborn children's right to life. In the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congress gave certain groups of people the "freedom" to be employed by virtually any business without regard to race, religion, sex, or disability by taking away the freedom of association previously held by business owners. In 1994, Congress gave the federal government more "freedom" to regulate the sale and ownership of guns by further eroding the constitutionally protected right of the people to keep and bear arms.

Countless groups of people are tripping over one another to get to the buffet line in hopes of scooping up their favorite freedoms before they disappear. In their blind selfishness they have forgotten the most important thing: freedom is for everyone and should not be a limited resource that needs to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To remain metaphorically consistent, freedom is supposed to be the strong, ever-flowing, bottomless cup of coffee, not the thimble-sized, single serving cup of espresso with a lemon twist.

In that respect, the Constitution is not, and never has been, a menu of freedoms available to the people of the United States. It was designed to be more of an insurance policy guaranteeing that the freedoms already granted to the people by their Creator would remain fresh and unspoiled by an overzealous federal government. The Constitution is more like the warning signs in restaurants that read, "EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS AFTER USING RESTROOM."

The United States of America should be a bountiful cornucopia of liberty, but that can only be accomplished when freedoms are no longer treated as side dishes on a buffet table. Before we know it, we will have gorged ourselves on what satisfies our immediate cravings, leaving the rest on our plates to be scraped into the garbage disposal of big government. And, unlike the taut little stomach of the Calvin Klein model, I don't think we can count on the garbage disposal ever feeling satisfied.

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