Columns

Five Civil Rights Under Attack

Minneapolis violence (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

It has been a hard year for civil rights. Rights that few of us imagined would be threatened, are threatened in 2020. Rights that we thought were settled are under attack.

In 2020, it seems many have forgotten the most basic of civil rights.

These circumstances are all the more precarious because the antagonists have a litany of reasons why these rights don’t matter, or shouldn’t exist. Pay attention to them. History is filled with rough moments where antagonists plainly state their plans. It is important to remind ourselves from time to time the central role of the United States in securing these rights, and the dark barbarism that came before.

1. The Right Not to Have Your Business Sacked and Looted

Meet Luis Tamay. Tamay saved money for decades to open a restaurant in Minneapolis. His dream was El Sabor Chuchi. The restaurant specialized in Ecuadorian cuisine.

During the riots in Minneapolis, Tamay stood watch and guarded his dream night after night, until the curfew. Tamay assumed the National Guard would protect his business and property with the same zeal as Tamay had. He was mistaken, and Tamay got to watch El Sabor Chichi on Facebook Live burn to the ground in real-time.

Americans have a right to domestic tranquility, free from the threat of a mob burning and looting, whether a small business in Minneapolis or a Rolex store on Chicago’s Miracle Mile. It is a civil right for governments to protect civil order. Indeed, it is perhaps the original civil right, the very reason why “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

When the mob rampages through cities, hope dies. You can’t chase your dreams when businesses are being burned down.

The purpose of securing domestic tranquility is enshrined in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble to the Constitution. Indeed, a proper understanding of the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment would encompass the right to go about your business and earn a living free from a mob burning down your life’s work.

This right is under threat in other parts of the country, including Portland. Governments either are, or are not, in control of the places they govern. When chaos reigns, civil rights disappear.

2. The Right to Attend Church

Civil rights under the First Amendment include the right to assemble and worship without government scolds dispersing the congregants under pain of jail. This includes the right of churches to teach children in the faith without secular authorities busting up the joint. The same health “experts” and government officials in power who are prohibiting churches from holding services or allowing church schools to teach are sometimes excusing mass “protest” mobs from marching in close contact.

The hypocrisy is no longer laughable, it is Orwellian.

Those who want to worship God together have a right to do so without the secular authorities telling them they cannot. The joke may be on the secular authorities, as the congregants commonly have a very different view of the consequences of catching something compared to the secular authorities who ban worship. One group lives in fear, while the other has faith.

Who could imagine an America, even a decade ago, where government officials would excuse huge mobs gathering for strange call-and-response chants yet ban actual church services?

3. The Right to Defend Yourself

The right to defend yourself is one of the most ancient rights, finding origins in the common law, but resting on a moral presumption that life is worth defending. For centuries, it has been central to the Anglo-American concept of rights. It reflects the reality that your life is precious and worthy of protection — unless you are in St. Louis.

Meet Mark and Patricia McCloskey. The McCloskeys live in a gated community in St. Louis (the right to own private property isn’t on today’s list, but perhaps should be). On June 28, protesters knocked down the gate of the private property, streamed in by the hundreds, and shouted threats at the McCloskeys. The McCloskeys responded by visibly arming themselves with firearms.

The mob didn’t touch the McCloskeys or their property. But can we guess what would have happened if the McCloskeys hadn’t displayed their firearms? Everyone who has seen the images from Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis, or New York City knows the answer.

The McCloskys enjoy a right to self-defense, an ancient and respected American right – except in St. Louis in 2020.

District Attorney Kim Gardner filed felony charges against the McCloskeys for brandishing their weapons. In the old days, Garder would be run out of office or defeated at the next election for trampling on the most ancient right of self-defense. Not anymore. Instead, Garnder just won a Democratic primary.

This is the new replacement model of law enforcement, where officials take the side of the lawless against the law-abiding. I’ve been warning about this for a decade because I saw this attitude manifest among some at the Department of Justice. It is a profoundly alien concept — where guilt or innocence is tied to ideology, where the lawless get a pass because they have the favored views.

There are plenty of examples in history where this road leads and, thankfully, America stands for the opposite principle.

4. The Right to Be Free From Violence for Supporting Candidates

You won’t hear much about Charlie Chase, Patrick Bradley, or Gregory William Loel Timm on the network news. Chase was a victim of politically motivated violence and Bradley and Timm were perpetrators of the same. It used to be that you could support your candidate, wear a hat, or sport a bumper sticker of your candidate without being socked in the jaw.

Here’s a refresher: In the old days, Americans with differing political views engaged in civil discussions and debates about their preferred candidates. I cannot find a single example of Gerald Ford supporters attacking Jimmy Carter supporters, or vice versa. Indeed, Carter’s campaign advertisements were downright soothing. Cuddly lambs, babies, motorboats, all smiles and handshakes. That was the whole campaign in 1976, where the fiercest foes smiled and shook hands. If you wore a green Jimmy Carter hat, you didn’t need a bodyguard.

That’s how it is supposed to work. You have a right to politically associate with a campaign without fear of violent reprisal. It is a civil right — one that, unfortunately in 2020, is under attack.

5. The Rights to Support Ideas Without Violent Attacks

In the 1990s, “tolerance” was in. Today it is out. To many, tolerance is so yesterday.

For decades after the 1960s, “nonconformity” was the in thing. Generations of youth preached nonconformity, being different and standing apart from the crowd. Not anymore. Either you march in lockstep with the orthodoxy, or be prepared for the consequences.

Try sporting pro-life swag at a public high school in Montgomery County, Maryland. Or maybe exercise your right to petition the government about pro-life views in front of the Ohio statehouse. Expect to be attacked. Or try being a parent who teaches your children that boys are boys and girls are girls in Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools. Wait until you see the forms and live with the glares you have to endure before you can “opt out” of that curriculum.

The right to speak your mind, free from violent reprisals, is a civil right. America was founded on tolerance. Our culture and our Constitution deeply respect ideas that are different than our own. Yet a whole generation of Americans seems to have adopted a foreign approach toward ideas different than theirs – namely a point of view espoused by intolerant regimes throughout history, where eradicating the opposing viewpoint is better than tolerating it.

When diversity of thought becomes a violation of speech codes on campuses, civil rights are under attack. When exercising religious beliefs result in attacks, core civil rights that led to the founding of this nation are also under attack.

Too much blood was shed to enshrine in law our basic American civil rights. The sacrifices in places like Camden and Brandywine brought us the blessings of free speech and the free exercise of religion. The horrors of the Civil War gave us radical new constitutional amendments of the sort no nation had dared enact before. Everyday heroes in Selma and Greensboro made unfulfilled aspirations real. So much blood and treasure got us to this point. Those who would undo the American culture of civil rights through violence, edict, regulation, and threat deserve everything that defenders of the Constitution can muster in lawful response.