Right of Redress
The key to safeguarding the “power of the people” against the tendency of governmental “mission creep” lies in giving effect to the prohibitions on governmental activities by a watchful citizenry. In the U.S. Constitution, translating this concept of accountability of power is achieved through the First Amendment which reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Somehow, since September 11, 2001, many among “We the people” have simply surrendered our responsibility – it is this as well as a right – to demand an accounting by the Congress of its part in enacting legislation that has infringed on every category of rights – enumerated, unenumerated, and undelegated – that the Constitution gives or leaves “to the people.” Moreover, Congress owes We the People a full accounting of why, especially since September 11, 2001, it has ceded so abjectly its responsibilities under the Constitution in the conduct of foreign policy, war, and peace.
Similarly, “We the People” need to direct the power of the First Amendment’s “right of redress” to the White House. The whole point of the War of Independence in terms of the social compact and the restrictions on the authority to govern was to prevent the centralization of both the right and the means to arbitrarily impose restrictions in a single person.
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that, from the very beginning of the Republic, the tendency for government to re-centralize power has been at work. And while much of the mischief has been the result of executive overreach, much harm has also accrued by Congress' abdication of its responsibilities to the executive branch. And this abdication has been magnified by enactment of legislation that purports to freeze the right of judicial review of laws passed by Congress and implemented by the executive.
More than 1,400 active duty men and women are seeking redress for the grievances associated with an illegal war. Detainees held in Guantanamo are seeking redress of grievances by regaining their basic rights as human beings to habeas corpus under the Constitution.
No longer, it seems, can We the People await elections every two or four years to obtain redress of grievances. Too much can happen too quickly that in time become almost impossible to reverse. We have a right and responsibility to future generations to demand an accounting for what has been done and continues to be done in the name of “We the People.”