Book Review: Understand Your Rights

Monday, December 31, 2012

Many people make New Year's Resolutions.  I make December 28th resolutions.  With the year quickly drawing to a close, I quickly think of all the things I want to finish before the year is over.

It seems Congress has been trying to make resolutions too, but I'm skeptical that any of their December 31st--last 12 hours of the year--resolutions to save our country from the fiscal cliff are going to work, no matter how much Senator Reid "Really hopes so."  

We will survive this fiscal cliff, just like we survived the Mayan Apocalypse and Y2K,  but it will be more serious and it is not going to make life any easier for anyone.  As Hank Anzis wrote in his must-read post "Off the Cliff" it shouldn't be "unreasonable to ask the government to make some tough choices themselves."

The government should make the drastic cuts needed to put our nation back on the right track.  But, it's December 31st.  It's simply not going to happen.    

However, at least one of my December 28th resolutions is going to get done.  That is writing a book review about Understand Your Rights: Because You're About to Lose Them, by Revolutionary War and Beyond.

I was given a free autographed copy of the book by the author and his father (who reenacted John Adams) at the Liberty Fest in Hampton this fall.  I found the book very informative and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a refresher course on the Bill of Rights.  It is written in a trying-to-be-objective manner, explaining both sides of the argument, but it is very definitely  from a conservative Republican perspective.  

The book begins with a Prologue and then the first three chapters give the early history of the United States with the Articles of Confederation and a purposefully weak government.  Then, the arguments for and against the U.S. Constitution (by the Federalists and Anti-Federalists) are explained. 

 One interesting fact I hadn't realized until I read this book is that although the first Congress under the Constitution met in March of 1789, and Washington was inaugurated in May of '89, North Carolina did not join the Union until November of '89, and Rhode Island did not join until May of the following year.  Many of the states would not accept the Constitution without the promise of a Bill of Rights, and so writing the Bill of Rights was a major task of the first Congress. 

Chapter 3 of Understand Your Rights goes hand in glove with Einstein's statement: “The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it.  Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure."  This chapter lists various ways the government has taken away rights and declares that only the voters can defend their rights.

The next ten chapters are each dedicated to one of the first 10 amendments, using the same format for each one.  Each chapter starts with the text of the amendment, followed by a short explanation.  

Next comes a history of the rights listed in the amendment.  The histories explain how the rights go back into English history and were developed with the Assize of Clarendon, the Magna Carta, British court cases, Sir William Blackstone, the colonial era and the colonists' relationship with each other and the mother country, the American Revolution, and the Articles of Confederation.  

Then, the book explains how the Amendment effects life today.  A summary of each important court case that involved the Amendment or the right, is given.  Finally, the chapter ends with a summary from the author's perspective about how the right is threatened and what can be done to preserve it. 

 The fourteenth chapter is a conclusion; then there is a very reasonably sized Appendix containing the texts of the Assize of Clarendon, the Magna Carta, the Articles of Confederation and many other documents essential to the history of law in our country.  

The author maintains a positive tone throughout his work, while clearly laying out what he believes are the major threats to the traditional American way of life and government:
Next to the ignorance of the American population about the importance of their rights, an overactive judiciary is probably the number 1 threat to your personal freedom.  The American people must do everything they can to stop the escalating power grab of the judiciary before it is too late and we descend into a totalitarian state."
The courts have, with the 14th ammendment and then the case of Griswold vs. Connecticut, taken more and more power.  The author also points to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as a major turning point during and after which the government has taken more and more power. 

The author believes that "We must shrink the powers of the federal government and the Courts and restore self governance and local state governance."  He warns of "an oligarchical totalitarian system" which is already taking over and will take over, if Americans don't "wake up."  Remedying the problem is not going to be easy, he admits, but "We will win if we don't just lie down and continue to let them [those who want to increase government power]" walk all over us."  

The author concludes by saying:
     "It's time to stop the decay of America.  But it won't happen unless WE do something.  What can we do today?  Educate ourselves and others.  Vote!  It is our responsibility.  Nothing is going to change...unless we change!"   
 I wrote an article that expressed most of the same sentiments last year.  If every American understood their rights and treasured them, our country would take a turn for the better.

But, it's December 31st.  Midnight is in 12 hours.  We're about to go off the cliff.

In any case, I've decided not to worry as worrying doesn't help anything, so Have a Happy New Year!