There could have been several alternative titles to this article including - "The "Not So United" States of America", "Guess Who's (Not) Coming To Dinner," a spoof on an old movie title, or it could have been "What If The Federal Government Passed A Law And Nobody Cared?" I never thought this country could get to this point but consider the following "not so united" instances from just our recent past:
- The Montana state legislature passed a law last year that exempts Montana citizens from Federal gun purchase laws as long as the guns and related ammunition were made, purchased, and used in the state of Montana. Their reasoning is straight out of the U.S. Constitution which gives the Federal government the right to regulate interstate transportation but it gives it no right to regulate intrastate commerce. Act of defiance #1.
- According to an online article from the Salt Lake Tribune from November 13, 2010, the state of Utah is considering passing the same type of law as it applies to guns and ammunition purchased in the state of Utah. Act of defiance #2.
- The state of Arizona recently passed and will soon institute a controversial immigration law that allows a member of a police force to ask for proof of citizenship while in the midst of investigating a potential crime. This was done since the state legislature and the majority of Arizona citizens got tired of waiting for the Federal government to solve the illegal immigrant and illegal drug flow into Arizona from Mexico. The Federal government, through Obama's public posturing and attorney general Eric Holder's threat to bring a lawsuit against the Arizona law (even though at the time he threatened the lawsuit he had not read the law), are certainly not happy with Arizona. Act of defiance #3.
- Less well know but equally defiant is the fact that Arizona is not alone in its defiance of the Federal government's inaction with regard to illegal immigration. According to a recent Eric Effron article in The Week magazine, in the first quarter alone of 2010, state and local governments have enacted their own version of immigration laws, over 100 in total. The state of Florida is just one of several other states that are thinking of following Arizona's lead in this area in defiance of Obama and Holder. Act of defiance #4.
- For years it has been legal to sell medical marijuana in California through specially designated outlets as long as a legitimate doctor prescribed marijuana for pain relieve. This was and is in direct conflict with Federal anti-drug laws that prohibits the sale of marijuana for any purpose. Thus, marijuana purveyors face the dilemma of being in compliance with state laws and defying Federal laws. Act of defiance #5.
- After the 9-11 attacks, it seemed obvious to many politicians that it was much too easy to get fake government identification papers. The fear was that the ease of obtaining these ids would make it easier for terrorists to gain access to the country to carry out additional attacks. The Federal government passed the real ID act shortly after 9-11, with the intent to tighten up and standardizing the processes for obtaining any state or Federal level identification cards and papers. The states had until mid-2010 to comply with the law. As that date approaches, the reality is that most states have more or less ignored the Real ID mandate and have not complied. Act of defiance #6.
- Since the Obama administration forced its version of health care reform through the back door of the Senate rule book and made it law, dozens of states have started the process to exclude themselves and/or their citizens from certain parts of the law. These exclusions include avoiding collecting and paying out additional Medicare taxes and excluding their state's citizens from the requirement that they have to purchase health care insurance. Act of defiance #7.
- A letter in the Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine from a few months ago illustrated the fact that many young people will not purchase health care insurance as mandated under the recently passed health care reform bill. They would rather take the chance that they are never caught, and if they are caught, they will pay a fine of several hundred dollars versus the economic decision of paying several thousand dollars a year in health care insurance that they probably will not need in their immediate future. Act of defiance #8.
- Several days ago, the Destin area in Okaloosa Country, Florida got tired of waiting for the Federal government to help them deal with the catastrophic BP oil spill as it hit their beaches. Thus, earlier this week, the country commission voted to give county authorities power to act in saving the local environment even if it meant breaking Federal laws and statutes. "We made the decision legislatively to break the laws. If necessary, we will do whatever it takes to protect our county's waterways and we're prepared to go to jail to do it," said County Commission Chairman Wayne Harris. Act of defiance #9.
- In general, for the first time in a long time, possibly the Civil War or the Revolutionary War, we hear the term "we need take back our country" thrown around many, many times a week. People are frustrated and angry about how the country is being directed by a government that is run by the American political class. Congressional approval ratings of less than 25% in all unbiased opinion polls bear out this anger and frustration. When you constantly hear the fighting words, take back our country, and when a new political movement such as the Tea Party rises to prominence in such a short time, you know citizens and local governments are getting very restless. Act of defiance #10.
I cannot remember any time during my lifetime where there was so much resistance to the ways and will of the Federal government. Sure, many citizens protested against the war in Vietnam but there was virtually no state or local governments rebelling over the issue. Back in the Jim Crow days, many southern states resisted the onset of the civil rights movement but that was one singular issue across only several states. Now, we have not only citizens deciding whether or not they will comply with a Federal law (e.g. medical marijuana and mandatory health care purchase) but many state and local government bodies deciding which Federal laws to obey or disobey on a full range of issues (gun control, medical marijuana, personal identification processes, health care mandates, environment laws, etc.)
All of this defiance raises some very interesting, and perhaps, horrifying possibilities:
- What does the Federal government do if it passes a law that no citizens and no state governments obey?
- Does the Federal government take the state government(s) in question to court?
- What if the states lose in Federal court and the states still disobey?
- Do you send in the 101st Airborne Division to arrest state government leaders? What if the state's citizens resist, do you have mass arrests or worse (i.e. pull a Kent State on them)?
- How many states would the Federal government be willing to take to court and on what issues? Between over 100 illegal immigration laws, mass defiance of the Real ID act, dozens of states willing to void, at least in their minds, the health care reform bill, at least two states messing with Federal gun control statutes, other states looking at legalizing marijuana to help cover budget shortfalls, etc., the courts could become very crowded.
- If the Federal government does not take the disobeying states and citizens to court and allows the disobedience to go on unabated, what power is left to the Federal government? Similar to that old joke where some drivers consider the yellow traffic light more of a suggestion than a rule, do the Federal government's laws eventually become merely suggestions and not the rule of the land?
- How does everyone and every level of government reconcile these acts of defiance with the following words from our Declaration Of Independence:
"That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of the ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organising its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.... but when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new guards for their future security."
When do acts of defiance rise to these principles in the Declaration of Independence? Is it a single act of defiance that rises to these principles or is it a long train of lesser infractions whose sum totals fits into this description? Fascinating times and questions.
However, the Federal wing of the American political class have no one to blame but themselves. With their increasing isolation from the core of America, the showering of themselves with perks, pay, and life long benefits, their rigging of the election processes (favorable campaign finance laws and Congressional district gerrymandering), their incompetence with dealing with any major issues such as hurricanes, oil spills, and other disasters, their inability to solve any major issue facing Americans (e.g. failing public schools, continuing drug trafficking problems, failed government regulations and regulators, insecure borders, skyrocketing deficits and debt, lack of a national energy strategy and plan), the reduction in freedom for individual Americans as the freedom, scope and wealth of the politicians expand, and their condescending attitudes to Americans (remember Harry Reid's comments that American tourists (visiting a taxpayer funded DC visitors' center) physically smelled or Nancy Pelosi's observations that if you disagree with President Obama health care reform plan you must be un-American), there should be no surprise that acts of defiance are increasing.
Somebody needs to step up and find a way to put "United" back in our nation's title. Somebody needs to step up and put "respect" back into our nation's vocabulary so that rather than calling each other degrading names who has a different opinion than ourselves, we respectfully disagree and work together to find unified solutions. Otherwise, we will go from a united nation of laws to a divided nation of suggestions and I am not sure anyone wins under that scenario.