A few days ago, as I ate lunch at the park in front of the Hutchinson County Veterans Memorial. I started wondering what we fight for as a nation and individually, and why we send our sons and daughters to war. Words come to mind like, duty to country, honor, national defense, and security. Today our armed forces are all voluntary, but many of the soldiers honored here were drafted into service. Does that change the reasons we fight? Society needs to be able to assemble armies in its defense, even a conscript army if needed. The survival of our nation and way of life may demand such action. We faced real threats to our sovereignty and security in WWI and WII and so did our allies, but what about Korea and Vietnam? Was our sovereignty and security in danger then, or was that just our attempt to stop communist aggression amid the Cold War? Were we able to achieve those goals? I would call Korea a partial success. South Korea is a democratic country with an economy built on free enterprise and it is prospering. But the Korean people are divided, with their kin to the north governed by a desperate and aggressive despot, who rules his people with fear and punishment. And they are technically still at war with a real threat of the violence ensuing again. If we had not maintained a military presence there, it is very likely all of Korea would be under communist control today. None of our goals were met in Vietnam with the communists taking control of Saigon as we were leaving and yet, today they are a united, peaceful people. Who decides when we go to war and what the motivations are? The reasons to go to war are never simple and may cover any variety of considerations from economics to survival but certainly the preservation of our freedom should be one of the reasons we fight. Our nation was born with a struggle for freedom from the rule of England. Our Declaration of Independence lists a number of violations of basic human rights by the King and extols our right to shed that rule in favor of self-rule as all men are created equal with rights granted to us by God and not men. This was an act of treason under English rule and those who signed that document did so knowing that it put their lives and fortunes at risk, yet those brave men and those who fought by their side, did so willingly. Our Constitution goes further describing our rights as a people, by enumerating them in the bill of rights, to ensure that government would not be able to take them away. These are important rights that ensure that we can live safely and securely among others without the worry of being governed by tyrants.
All of our servicemen take an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But how many of the recent wars we have been involved in were about a threat to our Constitution or the sovereignty and security of our nation? Were we defending an ally from a threat to their sovereignty or security? Certainly if our country is attacked we should respond in defense. Even preemptive strikes against known threats are justifiable, but all acts of war have consequences. Because of the brutality of war, some of our young will always be killed or wounded. And then there are the mental scars from being witness to the horrors of war. The fear of death or injury and seeing your friends killed or injured are hard to imagine, let alone learn to live with. Just the longing for home to reunite with the ones we love tends to wear on most people. And then there is the memory of the killing of others and watching the enemy suffer or die. Is it any wonder that the suicide rate among our servicemen is so great. War is a terrible thing for both sides of any conflict and even when the hostilities end, the painful memories of war endure. War should always be a last resort.
Our Congressmen and Senators also take the same oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, yet rarely do they face imminent danger in their daily lives. But their responsibility to defend the Constitution is just as important because they write the laws governing all aspects of our lives. They are on the front lines of protecting our freedom in the laws that they vote for or against. Their responsibility to ensure that all laws passed, maintain our freedoms as described in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence cannot be overstated. These documents should be the guiding principle in all laws passed by Congress or signed into law by our President.
Often as I read the news and study current events I am reminded that not all members of Congress share the same reverence and respect for the Constitution of the United States. The recent debates about the right to keep and bear arms are a perfect example of that. Even before the Sandy Hook massacre, our right to keep and bear arms was seriously infringed and it was all done at the hand of Congress and backed up by past and current Presidents and supported by the Supreme Court. My second amendment right to keep and bear arms should be the same in any state or territory of these United States, yet our Congressional leaders have allowed a patchwork of differing laws governing our rights to bear arms to become the law of the land. Even if we follow the safe passage clause of the Firearm Owners Protection Act, we can still be in violation of state or local laws if we are delayed because of car trouble or if we are too tired to continue our journey. In order to pass through a state with restrictive firearm laws a person must unload and lock the gun in the trunk of their car and are not allowed to stop except for food and gas. Would we surrender our right to a trial by jury or our freedom of speech so easily? What about our freedom of religion? Isn’t our right to self-defense one of those rights granted by God? http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/926A And what about the tenth amendment where the powers not delegated to the United States as described in the Constitution are reserved to the states or to the people? Do our Congressional leaders understand that? Where in the Constitution do they get the power to tell states that they cannot experiment with medical marijuana laws or even recreational marijuana laws? Our Congressional leaders should be actively defending our rights, not circumventing state law to keep us under the thumb of oppression. Since Congress authorized the oath of office for all Federal employees, they should know that they are obligated to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and our rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. We, as Americans, should demand and expect as much from them. Their obligation to preserve our Constitution and freedom should be no less important than that of our sons and daughters that we ask or require to risk life and limb in war.
The Constitution does not provide the wording for this oath, leaving that to the determination of Congress. From 1789 until 1861, this oath was, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.” During the 1860s, this oath was altered several times before Congress settled on the text used today, which is set out at 5 U. S. C. § 3331. This oath is now taken by all federal employees, other than the President:
“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” http://www.supremecourt.gov/about/oath/textoftheoathsofoffice2009.aspx
The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html