Whatever else may or may not be true about Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’, a central theme to the story recounted in his film is the virtue of being ready and willing to do what is hard, for the sake of what is right. Coincidentally responding to the question “What would Jesus do?” which recently and briefly fascinated the media, Gibson is reminding us that ‘what Jesus would do’ is go forward into the teeth of the storm in obedience to a higher purpose than his own comfort and safety, unchecked by fear (or certainty) of hardship and loss. Honoring such unflinching self-sacrifice in the service of righteousness as the highest good is, in fact, a central message of all major religions-- and has a place in our American cultural heritage as well, as expressed in Thomas Jefferson’s observation that, “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.” I appreciate the reminder.
Joe Sobran includes a wonderful quote from G. K. Chesterton in a recent Washington Watch column titled ‘Open Conspiracy’: “Men can always be blind to a thing, so long as it is big enough.” Chesterton is so right! Consider the successful efforts to snuff out awareness of the Supreme Court’s repeated declarations that the 16th Amendment DID NOT authorize unapportioned capitations, or other direct taxes (CAPITATION. A poll tax; an imposition which is yearly laid on each person according to his estate and ability. Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition), which are still Constitutionally prohibited at Article 1, Sections 2 and 9; and to fool Americans into allowing themselves to be classified as among the federally-connected entities to which the application of the “income” tax is confined by those rulings and by its own statutory language.
Indeed, while upholding the tax as an excise applied to such entities, and ruling that the 16th Amendment had the sole effect of allowing the taxation of federally-connected receipts even when their realization was also connected with personal property, the Supreme Court explicitly declared that if ever a tax on “income” should come to be applied more broadly-- so as to amount to a capitation or other direct tax-- it would automatically become subject to the rule of apportionment. Nonetheless, vast numbers of Americans are utterly blind to the fact that while the federal revenue laws collectively making up the “income” tax explicitly identify federal workers, federal office-holders, and others exercising federal prerogatives as being subject to internal revenue taxes, they do not mention non-federally-connected persons as being so subject, ANYWHERE. If they did, the tax would be a capitation. That's why there is a legal declaration buried in the (statutory) fine print of every W-2 or 1099 issued by anyone about anyone that both persons with whom each document is concerned are federally-connected entities. The tax is, in fact, lawfully confined in its scope, but that doesn’t prevent its beneficiaries from fooling the ignorant into 'voluntarily' letting those declarations go uncorrected...
Finally, a couple of thoughts about the freedom of speech component of the First Amendment. Many reading this commentary will not have known the definition of a ‘capitation’ until five minutes ago. Such knowledge may or may not be of interest to anyone, but I think everyone will agree that it’s better for each person to make that decision themselves, rather than to have it made for them by someone with an interest in keeping it under wraps-- like the government that’s spending all the money being extracted from people misled into believing that the “income” tax can be, and is, forcibly imposed by law. Those who do not know what a capitation is, and what the Supreme Court has said about them, cannot become conscious of the scheme that exploits their ignorance and tricks them into what is actually optional participation, because they aren’t equipped to even suspect its existence. Given the necessary knowledge, such persons may choose to stop playing along, or they may not, but they’ll make that choice themselves. Making such informed choices-- about the income tax or anything else-- is what being a free, self-governing people is all about. It is the free speech provision in the First Amendment that enumerates our right to share information critical to the making of free choices, and makes meaningful our reciprocal right to receive, and act on, such information.
Free Speech is bleeding from a lot of wounds today. The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, about which I wrote in last week’s commentary, represents one such-- perhaps the most significant in our time, maybe in our history. I hope that it is defied later this year, and that the courageous soul who dares the wrath of the rogue government that passed and upheld it find vindication at the hands of a jury of his or her peers.
Other injuries to this first bulwark of Liberty abound, such as the spread of ‘hate crimes’ legislation, and speech codes in the academy and workplace. These seem less dramatic-- partly because the small minority whom they will overtly affect are easily marginalized and ignored, and partly because over time they have successfully burrowed into the body politic, as it were, and we have learned to live with them. But they are no less pernicious-- they acclimate us to the habits of muddy thinking; and to an acceptance of the basic idea that some speech can properly-- even virtuously-- be suppressed. Already we can see the insidious corruption of this principle showing its hand against even measured and thoughtful expression of politically unpopular ideas. It is common now for conservative speakers at universities across the country to be silenced by catcalling mobs; and right-leaning newspapers at the same schools are vandalized; both to the indifference of local officialdom. More subtly, the law, private policy and a growing cultural tradition strongly discourages or declares off-limits the discussion of many subjects in any but an invitation-only environment; and the latter two rigorously enforce the use of approved euphemism even in the explicit reporting of news.
Logically extended, this trend will not stop short of threatening books offensive to the prejudices which motivate it. Indeed, a survey of such textbooks as now pass muster in the government schools-- heavily revisionist and politically correct-- prove that the early stages of such an extension lie not in the future but are already upon us; ultimately the ownership, if not the existence, of “offending” information and opinions will be banned as well. After all, the same perspective animating the offenses already practiced has long embraced the deep ‘deconstruction’ of unfavored expressions, whereby what are declared to be the motivations-- and ultimately the unconscious cultural presumptions-- of a creator are called upon to condemn a politically threatening work (making a reasoned and defensible response to the actual substance of the expression unnecessary). Seeing the prevention of their implantation and spread in the first place as the only means of forestalling the subtle influence or emergence of bad thoughts is a natural-- even inevitable-- facet of this worldview, and one by which its adherents will be untroubled. The mechanistic concept deployed to justify the ‘deconstruction’ of threatening expressions-- by which free will and objective perception are dismissed in favor of a belief that all human behavior and choice is a result of programming-- will suffice to neutralize any moral issues associated with controlling access to information. After all, programming is programming, and if it is not the controller’s choices filling the blank slate, it will be those of some other outside force. Even more, such an ‘other outside force’ will necessarily be, at best, nothing more than mindless, primitive and counterproductive societal and cultural formations; or worse: another deliberate programmer with competing interests and purposes. In fact, given such an understanding of reality, a vigorous and pre-emptive programming control might easily be proposed as a moral (and certainly pragmatic) imperative.
This, in fact, brings us to the political and practical understanding which informed the imposition upon American governments of the free speech principles expressed in the First Amendment: Ultimately, if words cannot be exchanged, bullets will be. Stasis-- in which the places of all are fixed, to the benefit of some and the detriment of others-- is an inherently undesirable and unnatural condition, and will never be established other than through ruthless and illegitimate oppression. Nonetheless, seeking to fix a current status quo into permanence is a chronic criminal enterprise to which its beneficiaries are prone. The legitimate alternative, a state of flux, can be maintained or restored only by either persuasion or force. Persuasion, by which the realization of change is generally incremental and constant, is the overall better choice; free speech is an obvious necessity in effectuating that choice.
is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has
ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the
right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones,
dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are
sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason…”
© Peter E. Hendrickson