Two centuries, a score, and seventeen years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that the government is an institution of the people, by the people, and for the people, which derives its authority not from fellow governors but from the governed.
While centuries have passed and technology has flourished, we cannot merely look upon our Nation’s fathers and their ideals as antiquated. They may never have imagined airplanes or skyscrapers or a day when one would collide into the other as an act of war. They never could have imagined the technology by which we communicate. But they knew of war, they knew of treason, they knew of plots to overthrow governments, they knew of enemies of the state that cloaked themselves within their own citizenship. Lest we be so naive, their eyes were opened to many of the dangers at the core of our current national security crises.
Yet having understood these grave dangers, they brought forth a revolutionary government, born in the blood of patriots. They did not create a superpower that would squash any attempt at a revolution like that which they were engaged, but rather a government which armed its citizens lest a revolution be necessary. They gave us a government with hands tied to the people, by the people, and for the people.
When they conceived of the positions that would govern these great States, they did not bestow them with sweeping powers or enormous generalities. Rather, they trusted so little the ability of one to govern without the temptation of abuse that comes with power, that instead of a general job description, they provided a list of limitations to the position.
What our forefathers gifted for the citizens of the Colonies and the future citizens of the United States was a government that the world had never seen – a government with extremely limited powers, formed by the will of the people. We should look to our forefathers not as antiquated and naive, but rather as compassionate and concerned. For in their concern, they conceived that one day it might be possible for a tyrant to come, and with all the power vested in him, abuse his position, at the burden of his citizens. In that regard, our forefathers were more prophets than mere old men. What they gave to us, and to our governors in their privileged positions was a way to ensure that the power and accountability would always be vested in the citizens of this Nation.
Today, many have looked at the so-called Patriot Act, PRISM, FISA, drones, and many other devices used within the sweeping scope of what is deemed as national security, and they have said that our government has turned into the Big Brother of which George Orwell conceived many years ago.
Yet, our governors would not say that they are the Big Brother of tyranny but merely the big brother, or the father, or the pastor of compassion and concern. They would tell us that what they are doing is in the best interest of the citizens, that like shepherds, they are fighting the wolves that would dare murder their sheep. That even though their secrecy ties their hands to consulting with their citizens as to what is our best interest, they would say that such secrecy, which they guard at the threat of treason sentences, are merely to protect us.
But what our governors must realize is that our founders did not and would not think this was a prudent or appropriate application of our Republic. They did not create a system of governors that would be seen as brothers, or fathers, or shepherds, for such positions of trust hold no term limitations, and often no elections. Whereas a family assumes a relationship of trust, our forefathers conceived of a government where the citizens would assume distrust, where the citizens would be able and willing to change the composition of its government, either through election, amendment, or as a final measure, revolution.
When a government keeps secrets from its citizens and spies on its own citizens, it breaks the spirit, the intentions, and the laws of which our government was established. When it perpetuates power from within, holding its citizens at a distance, keeping them in the dark, it breeds actions without accountability from the very individuals meant to keep the government in check. Such is the definition and the birth of absolute power, abuse of authority, and tyranny.
For whereas our forefathers with heroic ideals, knowing both their limitations to public service and to life in general, gave us a system that would limit both one sympathetic to their cause and an enemy of freedom, they ensured that either a compassionate or a tyrannical leader would never get their hands on the means to tyranny. That was their gift to us in the system of government, which they conceived.
What our government has done in the last twelve years is the exact opposite. They have, much without the accountability of their citizens, created systems so powerful, that they may be abused not only by their own whims but by the whims of those who operate them. They may tell us to trust them, and we may, but trust in government to do what is right with such tools of tyranny was not something our forefathers imagined possible. For while many of the architects of such systems no longer serve in office, they have placed their dangerous weapons into the hands of other leaders, expecting us to merely obey in trust.
Already, insomuch as we have seen our Constitutional rights violated, we have witnessed that such systems should not be owned or operated by the State, whether for humanitarian, security, or tyrannical reasons. For our forefathers never asked its citizens to choose between security and liberty. Rather, it armed its citizens, with both rights and weaponry, so that they had the ability and freedom to defend their own safety.
In a larger sense, we can no longer ignore – we can no longer condone – we can no longer justify the actions of our government. The brave defenders of liberty, living and dead, have consecrated for us a better ideal of democracy, far above the ability of current leaders to add or detract. The world will note what hypocrisy exists in our government, and therefore, we must never forget the ideals which serve as the bedrock of our Nation. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated to the unfinished work which our forefathers and all patriots have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored forefathers and their ideals, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we highly resolve that these forefathers shall not have created nor have died in vain – that this Nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.