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A little taste of fascism at home

Aug 5, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

You can find it from time to time in our nation's airports.

Here's a little riddle. "What is the difference between the TSA security agents at the New Orleans airport and the gorillas at the primate exhibit at the Denver Zoo?"

The answer is: "There is a glass separating you from the apes."

We've flown a lot this summer, and the TSA agents have been largely an efficient and occasionally jovial lot. Riverton, Denver, Raleigh-Durham, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and San Juan, Puerto Rico, left no complaints.

But New Orleans was different. I'm not sure what sick enjoyment these people get from harassing airline passengers but they do it with relish. Watching a couple of the more Cro-Magnon types force an 80-plus-year-old woman from her wheelchair so they could wand her was all in a day's fun for these cretins.

It reminded me of a comment a coaching friend once made to a team when he couldn't get even the simplest play right. He looked at them in all seriousness and said, "You guys are so dumb your class won't have a valedictorian."

If any of the agents "working" in the Big Easy have even graduated from high school, I would be surprised.

The experience was especially poignant since I've been reading the book "Triumvirate" by Bruce Chadwick. Chadwick weaves the intriguing tale of how John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison beat the odds and the formidable forces of the Anti-Federalists in getting the United States Constitution ratified in the dark days of 1787 and 1788.

The story is rife with political intrigue, back-room deals and late night compromises -- just the sort of thing you'd expect in a lively democratic debate with the odds so high that the very future of the United States depended on the deliberations.

The major roadblock for the delegates often has been simplified in high school history textbooks to the debate over equal state representation or representation based entirely on population in a federal legislature. The "Great Compromise" is proclaimed as the savior of our republic as the New Jersey Plan and the Virginia Plan merged into the world's first true bicameral legislature.

What the history books leave out, at least at the secondary school level, are the virulent arguments surrounding something that we hold most dear as American citizens. Hamilton, Madison and Jay wrote brilliantly in defending their Federalist position in a series of documents that became known as the Federalist Papers.

Their 85 anonymous essays, published under the pseudonym Publius in newspapers across the 13 fledgling United States outlined the government we now enjoy. What they didn't defend was our present Bill of Rights. The Triumvirate as these three men became known felt the rights of Americans were protected inherently by the checks-and-balances system.

As we realize today, they were not. The opportunity for collusion and outright corruption among the two legislative houses and the presidency has raised its ugly head many times in our history.

It is also of note that the call for compromise came not from constitutional delegates or state assemblymen, but from newspaper publishers. As the Federalist essays were printed, it slowly swayed publishers across the country. But it didn't deter them from calling for the additional protection that the Bill of Rights lends ordinary citizens from the rich, the powerful and the connected.

For those who would close newspapers and hold openly hostile views of the press in general, the words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the most-brilliant men in history of republic, still ring true today.

"...were it left to me to decide whether we have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter," the great man from Virginia said at the time.

Which brings us back to the TSA agents happily dancing around in New Orleans.

You don't have to travel to China, Vietnam, Iran or Cuba to experience life without the Bill of Rights. All you have to do is travel on an airline, and you'll get a hint of what America would be like without it.

The assumption of guilt, the suspicion, the forfeiture of personal liberties, and the squelching of the entire First Amendment are all in a day's work at security checkpoints across the nation.

Imagine that intrusion in every aspect of your daily life. Without the concession to the anti-Federalist faction as demanded by publishers and editors in newspapers large and small 225 years ago, that would be the case in America today.

As Benjamin Franklin, the beloved elder statesman among the Founding Fathers, said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The press is the unheralded fourth arm of our government. The only people you see vehemently opposing it are those with something to hide. The pressures it can exert on the children of privilege is the essence of Americanism.

You don't have to kill commies, fascists or terrorists to be a patriot. Sometimes all you have to do is ask a few questions and check the veracity of the answers.

Without the First Amendment, do the others really matter?

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