The Constitution – An Idea
The Constitution is an idea. It is the aim, purpose, and vision of these great United States. It is also a concise document. As initially written and ratified, the Constitution of the United States consists of 4618 words (including signatures) arranged into seven articles. There have been 27 amendments to the original document, not all of them exactly favorites of the people.
The Constitution of the United States is NOT some long-involved document such as the Patriot Act, the Tax Code, or even the Affordable Care Act. If you want to look at it realistically, by comparison, a short story is 2,500 to 5,000 words and approximately 10 to 20 pages long.
The responsibility of every American to read and understand the Constitution and the Bill of Rights should be fundamental. Sure, it was covered in grade school, but do you remember it? Do you know it?
This question is VITAL to contemplate because some in our great nation are tasked with protecting our Constitution. In fact, at the time of this entry, there are over 800,000 law enforcement personnel and over 1,450,000 military personnel who have all sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. Before I get to the point, let us explore this idea for a moment.
Here is the first part of the Oath of enlistment: “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; . . . (Oaths of enlistment and oaths of office, 2011)
Here is the first part of the Oath for commissioned officers: “I, (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; . . . “(Oaths of enlistment and oaths of office, 2011)
Here is the first part of the Oath of Office for police: “I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the State of….”
The theme, of course, is the support and defense of the Constitution of the United States of America. Every single cop and every soldier took some version of this Oath. How many military and law enforcement personnel can either recite the general idea of each Article in the Constitution or even know how to reference the document efficiently?
Referring to the Constitution as THE idea or vision, we must understand that constitutional defenders are tasked with a significant job; to protect and defend the idea of the United States of America. This is not something they are forced to do. They chose that job and task.
The question is quite simple: How can anyone support and defend an idea if they do not know what that idea is? Since the idea in question is the Constitution, how can anyone support and defend it if they do not know what the Constitution says? Furthermore, how is the citizenry supposed to hold anyone accountable for something they do not know?
The argument that usually follows is that these people have enough to deal with without having to memorize something like the Constitution, or very few people have the Constitution memorized, so how can we expect these people to memorize it?
The retort is even simpler than the question: because it is their job. It is not like the people of this great nation are asking for much. If you are going to swear an oath to support and defend something, know what that something is. Once again, we are talking about a document the size of a short story, a few pages long, so why should we not expect this? Is the Constitution NOT the law of the land? How can they enforce it if they do not know it?
This is usually where people start splitting hairs, talking about obeying orders, etc. These are generally just excuses to help disguise the ignorance and perhaps laziness surrounding the topic. Let me demonstrate.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20) clarifies that military personnel must obey the “lawful command of his superior officer” 891.ART.91 (2), the “lawful order of a warrant officer,” 892.ART.92 (1) the “lawful general order,” 892.ART.92 (2) “lawful order.” (Failure to obey order or regulation) I agree with this part of the debate and concede to it. However, there is more to debate than just this.
In these cases, military personnel must only obey lawful orders. In addition, they are responsible for disobeying unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ. That being said, the moral and legal obligation is to the US Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders directly violate the Constitution and the UCMJ.
The Constitution trumps all. This is evident via our documentation and oaths of enlistment, the Oath of office, etc. So the question needs to be presented again: How can someone support or defend the Constitution of the United States when they have no idea what it says? Perhaps the biggest question is, how can you place your life, liberty, trust, etc., in the hands of someone who does not know this document and does not care to learn it?
To see how scary this question truly is, I challenge you to pick a section out of the Constitution and ask random military or law enforcement personnel about it. Article 4 Section 4 is a good one, and so is Article 1 Section 9, for that matter. Just say, “excuse me, sir/ma’am, you’re an (officer/soldier) you’ll know this.” Have a pen ready as though you are going to write it down. “What is Article 4 Section 4 of the Constitution?“—And wait for an answer.
Chances are, you will not get a coherent response, and that demonstrates the point. I doubt they even have a pocket Constitution on them to reference. So the moral of this article is quite simple: if you want to know why the Constitution continues to get shredded, and if you want to know why your Bill of Rights is practically a memory, it is because of the people who have been tasked with protecting the Constitution against all enemies both foreign (but primarily) domestic, do not know the document they swore an oath to defend. The other side of that coin is that it is pretty hard to hold someone accountable for something you do not know either.
This is an excellent example of why orders of tyranny can present themselves in uniform under the guise of being there to help. It is only furthered when considering the training many in uniform receive. Ask yourself the following question: Which do you think someone in uniform could more easily recite; a list of what classifies a domestic terror threat or the Bill of Rights?
That being said, if you are an LEO or military personnel and you know these documents, then I commend you and thank you sincerely for everything you are doing. You are the difference. I hope people can continue to count on you as future events, and perhaps the inevitable begins to occur. Furthermore, I encourage you to have the strength to restrain fellow officers who are violently violating the Rights of the citizenry. You took the job because you are brave and wise; I hope you can be brave when it counts most.
To the veterans—It should also be said that your Oath does not cease to exist just because you no longer hold a position. The Oath does not expire. Many who are no longer in position swore that same Oath. Let us hope you consider your actions regarding Constitutional defense as a “civilian.”
As for those in uniform who abuse your power, and for that matter, abuse the people you think you have authority over, understand that you are not a friend of the Constitution and will ultimately be regarded as such. Your excuses for such abuses are fundamentally invalid. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and all laws repugnant to the Constitution are void (if you believe the Supreme Court). This works both ways, and the Constitution trumps all, whether you want to recognize this or not.
Does this seem brash? I come from a family of military and law enforcement personnel. My grandfather was brass as an LEO. I ask nothing of you I would not ask of my own. This position is often questioned, though; perhaps I need to explain it in a little more detail and from a different perspective.
A friend of mine served four years in the Marine Corps Infantry 1st BN 2nd Marines (2 tours in Iraq, 04′ and 06′) and has served in Law Enforcement since 2009. He is a great man and someone I highly regard as a protector of the Constitution. He will be the first to tell you that Law Enforcement is not easy. From his perspective, he states that in Law Enforcement, the job is to uphold and enforce state and federal laws, dealing with every complaint, with victims, with witnesses, and a suspect’s Constitutional Rights, all while attempting to satisfy their employer, the public, the media, etc.
It is understood that the job of Law Enforcement is not always easy. Complexity to the job is added when we factor in the idea that officers need to keep their heads on a swivel, looking out for their own safety and the safety of everyone else so that everyone can go home to their families at the end of the day. That is no easy task.
Being in the military can be rough, even though roughly 91 percent of military jobs do not involve direct combat operations. It is understood that the job revolves around or relates to war in some way, shape, or form. Many civilians cannot fathom this idea. In the military, the job function essentially surrounds the concept of death: either making it or taking it. This is felt even in non-combat roles such as journalism, business administration, food service, and human resources.
Does the stress of such jobs excuse a lack of professional behavior or blatant Oath violations? Does this all somehow exempt them? After all, it is not like the job descriptions are not thoroughly discussed before service. The answer is that we should all be held to a similar standard. “The police must obey the law while enforcing the law.”—Earl Warren, US Supreme Court Justice (1891-1974)
Yes, these are tough jobs. No one disputes that. However, we must remember that people in uniform voluntarily signed up to protect the people and the Constitution. That is the job description. Those who joined or signed up for any other reason joined for the wrong reason. Similarly, and for those with an elevated sense of self, there is something you should consider. If citizens are expected to treat those in uniform as though the hands of angels touched them, then perhaps those in uniform should be held to the same perfect standard.
People should care little about how difficult the job is. If it is too hard, volunteering for the position should not have been an option. Plenty of Constitution-loving Americans would gladly do the job because they want to do what is right for their communities and nation. The job should not be an excuse for lashing out and beating a cuffed suspect or not upholding your duties because someone outranks you. The job should not be an excuse for pile-driving someone half the officer’s size into the ground or waiting until someone with a higher rank says something about the violations of the UCMJ or the Constitution.
And let us examine one other aspect that many refuse to examine. When it comes to Law Enforcement personnel who violate someone’s Constitutional Rights, what recourse does that person or victim have? Court?
If you search the words “bad cop” on the internet, it does not take long to see repeated demonstrations of law enforcement personnel kicking, punching, tasing, and shooting people in unbelievably excessive ways. The irony is that there is usually another cop present who does nothing about it. The citizen receiving the abuse can do nothing about it because if they are not cuffed physically, they are cuffed legally.
Suppose the person feels their rights are being violated. In that case, they cannot usually (in the moment) defend themselves without receiving additional charges against them, regardless of the initial reason for being searched, detained, or even arrested. What is the recourse? A hospital bed and a court date? What does the officer get? Administrative leave and, if the community is lucky, fired? This power imbalance is not right. When these situations occur, why do the other officers go along with it?
These situations demonstrate a violation of Rights. However, you can only push people so far. The irony is that well over 21.5 million people not currently serving in uniform have sworn an oath to defend our Constitution. If you violate the Constitution and believe you are above the law, understand that you are outnumbered. You may get your licks in now, but this time will be short-lived.
The people are waking up. Remember, we are a Republic. We are in this together, and ultimately, you may find your side of the tyranny paradigm rather lonely in the coming years.
Once again, if you are a police or military personnel and know these documents and do your job for the right reasons, I thank you sincerely for everything you do. These statements are not blanket by any means, and I know you are just as frustrated by the actions of those I speak of. I am confident that the people of your communities and this nation can continue to count on you as this nation attempts to rectify the many problems we collectively face.
Some who read this may be questioning why such statements have been made. The answer is simple. The Oath is vital because it tasks certain people with protecting certain Unalienable Rights. Without such Rights, one has to ask what we have at all.
Still, there is an even more significant danger lurking in this regard. Not knowing what you stand for is bad enough, but what happens when someone has sworn the Oath and blatantly disregards it? We should never exclude or forget about people such as Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who have made public statements supporting the suppression or elimination of Constitution Rights (Bateman, 2013).
These people are the most dangerous of all. Whether silent or vocal (like Bateman), we should always (as George Washington stated) “… guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.“
Know your rights!