Defending real liberties

By Gilbert Schramm, Newport News Times “Viewpoint”, August 18, 2016

I sometimes see letters here by people who claim to be concerned about defending our constitutional liberties. This should make me happy, yet on issue after issue, I often find their outcry for liberty is a sham — a cover-up for implementing a quite dierent and more sinister agenda. Time and again, a vague abstract “liberty” is used as a motive to restrict or even violate a very clear, obvious, vital American right.   

The right to vote is the very core of our constitutional democracy. Over the last decade, a large number of states have passed laws that disenfranchise legal voters. Without exception, these laws were promoted by Republicans. In case after case, they failed to show evidence of any widespread voting fraud. Yet, arguing that a single fraudulent vote violated the rights of other voters, they passed restrictive, unnecessary and intrusive legislation that knocked literally millions of legal voters othe rolls in states vital to presidential elections.   

A few years back, the GOP argued that the Voting Rights Act was no longer necessary,   that racial discrimination had ended in the South. What a farce. Again they made a false case for liberty, arguing that states’ rights were more important to liberty than the rights of real people who were still the obvious victims of systematic institutional racism. The GOP Congress has managed to paralyze any correction of this problem.   

There was no more blatant a violation of a basic liberty (property rights) than the illegal bank foreclosures on homes that was practiced during the 2008 mortgage collapse. Republicans have fought against making restitution to victimized homeowners and prosecuting guilty bankers ever since.     

What about a woman’s right to make choices about her body? Conservatives have asserted that the liberties of beings who don’t even fully exist outweigh the real liberties of living women. Recently GOP senate candidate Marco Rubio proposed banning abortions for women exposed to the Zika virus, thereby condemning these women to a pregnancy fraught with potential tragedy and a lifetime of potentially   serving as a caregiver to an essentially brain-dead child. Will Marco be there to help?   

In Oregon last winter, armed intruders occupied a public wildlife refuge. Their action effectively prevented the public from using that land. They justified this criminal act with an outlandish interpretation of liberty.   

In Texas, millions of children will be deprived of a $1.3-billion contribution to their right to good education because the GOP governor there thinks that asking them to share a bathroom might somehow violate some other (unspecified) student’s rights.     

The second amendment, specifically citing the nation’s need for a “well regulated militia,” in no way entitles me to machine guns or high capacity magazines. Unlike the founding fathers, we have the Pentagon as a “militia.” Yet, every time there is the slightest commonsense move to stem the rising tide of gun violence the NRA champions of faux liberty start screaming about a hypothetical “slippery slope.” Freedom of religion is fundamental to the U.S., yet the NRA has endorsed Trump, who is essentially seeking to demonize and ban a whole religion. No slippery slope here, that’s a straight jump off of a steep cliff into outright religious persecution.   

Finally, no assault on personal liberty in the U.S. is more sinister than Citizens United, the GOP’s odd notion that corporations are people. The founding fathers made the one person, one vote rule for a simple reason — each person has a conscience; last I checked, corporations did not. That’s why corporations are not people.   

Everywhere, the same dynamic is repeated relentlessly — loud ranting about faux liberties disguise ruthless attacks on real ones.   

Last week, Donald Trump said that Americans accused of certain crimes should be sent to Guantanamo and tried in military courts. I hope people will carefully examine the fake version of liberty that the right wing has set loose in this land, and then defend their real liberties with their votes.   

Gilbert Schramm is a resident of Newport

Newport News Times, Friday, August 19, Page A8