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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Constitutional Republic -- July 5, 2013

Nearly 250,000 colonists or 1/4 of all able bodied men fought in the American Revolution. The largely untrained soldiers and minutemen fought valiantly against the professional armies of the British Empire. They jeopardized life and limb not only for independence but freedom and a new form of government the world had not seen before in over two millennium. Greatly influenced by the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the founding fathers of the U.S. created a constitutional republic. The structure of the republic prevented the rule of the masses but intentionally divided and limited government to preserve individual liberty. A Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution to further restrain centralized authority and enumerate specific inalienable rights of the people. Unfortunately, this has not stopped government's expansion of power at the expense of freedom. Like many Independence Days that have come and gone during my 20 years of incarceration, I brood about the hypocrisy of the holiday in modern times.

On the 4th of July, I began my day as I have since my arrest, in a locked cell. I hate mornings because it is then I awake to the grim reality of my existence. Dreams of being free and a teenager again or simply being oblivious to imprisonment abruptly vanish. I feel the aches and pains of an old man and swallow a couple of pain pills. There is bitterness in my heart for a life lost and being convicted of a crime I was not even aware had taken place until months later. The fact I was deemed accountable for the actions of another who was acquitted adds insult to injury. Where were my Constitutional rights when I was convicted of murder via accountability and sentenced to die in prison? What is this justice and freedom so many blind Americans proudly celebrate on Independence Day? There is such great ignorance, hypocrisy and illusion in the U.S. today. The constitutional republic and the ideals so many men risked everything for in the beginning of this nation have withered away.

To burn off some of my anger, I exercised with extra intensity at the front of my prison cell. Occasionally, I glimpsed out through the bars, gallery bars and the bars on the cell house windows to see an overcast sky above the 30 foot high wall which surrounds the grounds of the penitentiary. I thought this was most appropriate and all of America should be under one enormous rain cloud. Hopefully, rolling thunderstorms put a damper on all the people with plans of barbecues and other outdoor social events including fireworks displays. The vast majority of Americans do not even know what the symbolism of fireworks on the 4th of July represent. They represent the naval bombardment by the British of Ft. McHenry with over 1,500 shells for 25 hours during the War of 1812. Despite the massive display of force, the British failed to secure the strategic site and later in the year concluded a peace treaty accepting U.S. independence. Francis Scott Key was a witness to the bombardment and he was to write the Star Spangled Banner, "the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air..."

Typically, I will not work out until after I have eaten my cold breakfast and watched the first half hour of the 7:00 news. However, I knew on Thursdays my cell house was first to be fed lunch. I sought to exercise, bathe and dress before chow lines were run at about 9. On the menu was baked chicken, but from kitchen workers I had heard it was going to be glazed with BBQ sauce. In addition, prisoners were to be served a salad with various chopped vegetables in it. Commonly, salad for prisoners at Stateville is simply iceberg lettuce. Kitchen workers on the feed line reach into a tub and grab a handful of the lettuce with their hand. Like all kitchen workers they wear gloves, but because they do various tasks without changing them, food is commonly spread with germs. On previous Independence Days, prisoners can regularly look forward to a small cup of sherbet for dessert, however, this year there is none. The supply rooms are virtually empty and this is just as well. Even the smallest meager gestures on this holiday are steeped in irony. Prisoners in maximum security penitentiaries have almost no freedom and are stripped of most of their Constitutional rights.

On Wednesday, the Orange Crush was in E House strip searching inmates and tossing their cells. They also searched men in various movement lines during the day. Apparently, the warden is intent on using the tactical unit regularly for targeted and random searches. With a large increase in manpower, the O.C. is able to be used more often and for nontraditional tasks. Stateville has enough additional staff now that guards with tactical training from other institutions do not need to be bussed in. It seems the large scale searches which were once performed by a few hundred SORT have given way to more frequent but much smaller searches. Regardless, I was glad not to encounter the group, however, I still was strip searched twice entering and leaving the visiting room.

Outside of prison, citizens are supposed to have protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The 4th Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." This is largely a joke because police regularly violate the law. If the matter is brought to the courts, many police will lie to justify probable cause and prosecutors will support them. Judges issue warrants often on the basis of false information or inadequate evidence. The warrants are also regularly broad in scope and not limited narrowly as the Constitution mandates. In serious criminal or even civil cases, judges will refuse to throw out evidence due to political pressures. The courts have also eroded the 4th Amendment by allowing many searches to be performed without a warrant or probable cause. People regularly lose their right when traveling, entering public buildings, attending sports or other events where security purportedly trumps privacy. The only place it seems people are safe is in their homes, but even there abuses occur including the vast collection and eavesdropping of information from phone calls, Internet use and television.

When I returned from lunch on Independence Day, I read a few newspapers from last month regarding Supreme Court rulings. In a narrow 5-4 decision, the court said law enforcement could collect the DNA of anyone they arrest for a serious crime. Exactly what is a "serious" crime was not defined and I assume it will be construed liberally by states attorneys or county sheriffs. Many people may think a data base of DNA will help solve many crimes and even free innocent men. To some extent this is true, however, it is an affront to the 4th Amendment. DNA should not be allowed to be forcibly taken by police unless it is specific to a particular crime where there is probable cause and a warrant issued by a reviewing judge. I tend to believe the public does not realize how personal DNA is and how wide ranging its collection and dissemination can be. Tremendous power is given to the government not only to solve crimes but vast other purposes.

A Chicago newspaper had extensive coverage of the city's perverse gay pride parade along with jubilant editorials about the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.  Justice Kennedy wrote for the 5 to 4 majority stating DOMA violated the 5th Amendment, specifically where it says people cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. This ruling is outrageous because the Amendment relates to people being executed, put in prison, or having their possessions taken away. It has nothing to do with the government defining marriage as between men and women.

There were some legal experts who thought the court may misconstrue DOMA as a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection of laws. The 14th Amendment was one of three amendments the North forced the South to ratify at the conclusion of the Civil War. These were basically to abolish slavery, give slaves citizenship, and voting as well as all other rights. The 14th Amendment prohibits states from applying laws unequally. DOMA, however, is not a state but federal law. Furthermore, it applies to marriages between men and women equally. What is inherently unequal are the affirmative action laws which the U.S. Supreme Court still fails to recognize.

Terribly, the Supreme Court ruled colleges could continue to admit and give scholarships to people on the basis of race rather than merit. I have no opposition to schools which are privately funded having a prejudicial system or even having all black or white student bodies. However, when federal or state money is accepted by these schools, colored, gay, lesbian, or other groups of people should not get any preferential access or treatment. Recently, I was given a school publication from Elmhurst College where my mother graduated. The school throughout its writing promoted its specific intent to recruit students of color and twisted sexual orientation. They even had a scholarship system and many programs for these people not available to normal folks. Schools such as these should be cut off from any state or federal aid. The young white woman from Texas who was denied a scholarship solely based on her race was a clear violation of the 14th Amendment. All Affirmative Action laws and policies supported by government are violations of the Constitution.

After being disgusted reading Supreme Court rulings, I had to take a long nap. I was asleep for three hours until the obnoxious yelling of convicts in the cell house awakened me. I made myself some hot instant coffee to go with the waffles I had saved from breakfast. While I ate, I watched afternoon TV news programs. I noticed Governor Quinn still intended to veto Illinois' legislators conceal and carry gun law. Apparently, he does not believe in the 2nd Amendment or is catering to liberal constituents in Chicago who he hopes will support his reelection. The veto is pure show because congress has enough votes to easily override him and lawmakers said they will do so next week. Illinois is the only state in America which does not have a conceal and carry law and federal courts have ordered the state to do so. The state congress was even give a month extension to comply. The governor's veto will be no threat to the passage of the bill, however, due to numerous provisions and restrictions it still may be deemed to violate Americans' right to bare arms.

Occasionally, I will listen to liberals spew forth lies about the Constitution. For a long time, they argued the 2nd Amendment did not apply to individuals until the Supreme Court properly rebuked them. Incredibly, though, these same people will continue to attack gun ownership or suggest it is only for hunting, sport, or self defense except when it comes to George Zimmerman. The framers of the Constitution, however, clearly gave people the right to bare arms mainly to defend themselves against tyranny. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "When a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such government." I scoff when I hear people such as Piers Morgan talk about how Americans do not need an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle to shoot pheasant or to protect themselves in their homes. The man and his peers also anger me when they say George Zimmerman should be convicted of murder. Zimmerman was in his full rights to carry a firearm and use it when being pummeled by Trayvon Martin. Who is this British socialist to lecture Americans about their freedoms? In America, we have inalienable rights which transcend any governmental authority or passions of the mob. Zimmerman should not have even been arrested, yet large segments of the black community seek to lynch him without due process of law.

It is no surprise to me race continues to be a large source of division and conflict in the U.S.  In the TV reality show "Big Brother" alot of hoopla was made when a few contestants made a few racial jokes. CBS quickly fired a producer and labeled them the "Big Brother Bigots." I know very well though if the contestants were black there would be no story. Similar how the testimony of Rachel Jenteal saying Trayvon Martin described George Zimmerman as a "creepy ass cracker" did not turn the tables on a case which is believed to be racially motivated. Although Jenteal's testimony was incredible to the point of being laughable, I do believe she was being "real and authentic" on the first day of questioning in regards to her attitude and race relations. Racism is universal to all groups of people. While in prison, I have often been the target of hostilities simply because I am Caucasian.

The television news on July 4th was mainly focused on the military coup in Egypt. President Mohammad Morsi was arrested and his democratically elected government was stripped of authority. The White House has yet to call the seizure of power a coup and I doubt the administration ever will. Barack Obama unconditionally supported the Arab Spring despite how it was apparent the popular Muslim Brotherhood was not best for the interests of the U.S.  He now walks a thin line between preaching democracy and turning a blind eye to the military take over. America needs to base its foreign policy on real-politik and not foolish idealism of global democracy. It also needs to focus on its own declining republic and freedom rather than attempting to create them around the world.

During the evening, fireworks can often be seen from the prison on Independence Day. However, this year I did not see or hear any and I was glad not to. It is ridiculous Americans celebrate their freedom from the British monarchy when they live under a more oppressive and intrusive government than they ever have. Furthermore, as a prisoner wrongfully convicted and denied many Constitutional rights, I did not care to see any phony displays of liberty. After I finished reading some case law from the library, I turned on my television again to be annoyed by seeing several networks had Independence Day celebrations with fireworks. This made me give my cellmate an angry monologue until I realized he did not care to listen. Sullenly, I sat back down on my bunk and watched a nature show about American Eagles.

One of the rights I mentioned to my cellmate that was violated in my criminal trial was the 6th Amendment. This Amendment guarantees defendants "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation" otherwise known to be given due notice. My co-defendant and I were both indicted of shooting the victim. However, at trial, the prosecutor argued I was guilty under a theory of accountability which my attorneys never contested. They proved I did not kill Fawcett and the judge agreed at sentencing that I was not even at the crime scene. However, this did not matter to jurors who convicted me on my purported knowledge and lending of my vehicle. Had the prosecutor been forced to indict me of accountability and spell out how the state believed I was accountable, my defense lawyers would have eviscerated the credibility of the interrogating officer and presented witnesses to testify that my car was 50 miles away from Barrington and could not have been used by my roommate.

Interestingly, I have learned for hundreds of years even going back before the Constitution and into the common law of Britain, prosecutors were mandated to indict people of accountability and state exactly how the accused was accountable. Accountability was actually a separate offense with separate sentencing guidelines. It, furthermore, prohibited a trial until the actual offender was convicted. All this changed by liberal justices in the late 1960s and states attorney's are now allowed to indict everyone of the actual offense and defendants must guess how they are going to be prosecuted. Once convicted, an accountable party also faces the exact same penalties as the person who committed the crime.

I have not left the confines of my cell today and spent many hours reading about the origins of Athens, Rome, and the United States. While reading, I tuned into the Rush Limbaugh show. The talk show host had taken another day off apparently for an extended holiday. In his place was Mark Steyn, another passionate conservative I enjoy listening to. Recently, the Senate has passed a terrible immigration bill and it was a subject of discussion. A naive female caller presented her opinion the 15 million illegal aliens should be allowed to stay in America. She even incredibly said they have a right to be here and be given citizenship. Steyn scathingly rebuked her making point after point how the invasion of the southern border and mass immigration was irreparably harmful. Eventually, he was to ask the woman if she would like to live in Mexico or some other third world country because that is what America will become with its open door policy. Many Americans seem to have this misconception foreigners have this right to immigrate. Contrarily, they have no right and it is the right of the U.S. to selectively choose citizens.

Before Rome became an empire, it was a republic. It is this government the founding fathers of the U.S. sought to emulate and it is why many of the buildings in the capital were built in classical design. Because Rome eventually succumbed to dictatorship, leaders of the Revolution sought to divide the powers of government and create a constitution. These distinctions they believed would preserve the American Republic and individual rights. Despite how representative government was eliminated and the senate became merely an advisory group, the Roman Empire continued to be largely managed by law. Furthermore, its power did not begin to wane for a couple hundred years. Its fate was sealed, however, when citizenship was granted recklessly in a vast cosmopolitan empire. No matter how much power was centralized and used to suppress the various peoples., the center could not hold. Germanic tribes initially given permission to settle within Rome's borders eventually over ran and crushed the empire. The plight of Rome should serve as a warning on this Independence Day. Freedom and the integrity of America's constitutional republic is not impervious.

3 comments:

  1. 30 ft high walls? That's a bit overkill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The walls around Stateville are actually 33 feet high to be exact.

      Delete
  2. I think that it's just weird to give special scholarships to homosexuals. Can't a person simply claim to be homosexual in order to get the money? How does a person prove that he/she is gay?

    ReplyDelete

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