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Has The ‘E Plebnista’ Era Arrived?

April 28, 2013

Fans of the old Star Trek TV series may recall an episode titled ‘The Omega Glory’ whose plot revolves around a planet parallel to Earth in its’ development, but whose history diverged in that their ‘Cold War’ opponents fought a nuclear war. When The Enterprise arrives on the scene, the survivors, barbarian ‘Yangs’ and more peaceful ‘Kohm’ villagers, are locked in a fierce struggle which ends, despite outside intervention, with the former winning and reclaiming the last of their old territory in a ‘Reconquista‘ campaign that has been waged by generations of their forbears.

What has the above to do with social studies, one might well ask.  Fair enough.  The point of the trip down TV’s Memory Lane to the 1960s (and a mediocre episode in of a long-defunct series) is that the victorious Yangs had been at the reconquista business for so long that the ideas and ideals they sought to preserve and defend had become objects of veneration, but not of study,and they no longer understood what they professed to worship as the ‘holy of holies.’  It took a typically hammy performance by Cpt. Kirk to save the day,not only for his mission and crew, but also for the poor Yangs, who’d forgotten who they once were – Yankees.  Their holy words were from the Constitution,and their garbled incantations inspired their courage but befuddled their understanding.

Can this happen to us, even without a nuclear holocaust driving the survivors into caves?  If one reads the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution (which includes the Bill of Rights), as well as the Federalist Papers, Magna Charta and the other primary documents of Anglo-American political development, one might just think so. Even if the syllabus is contracted to just the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, documents that all Americans should have read in civics class back in high school, one might well wonder., as one also might, as I did last night at a sporting event, at everyone standing (as I did),men with hats off, during the playing of the National Anthem.  Are we still ‘The Land of the Free/And the Home of the Brave‘?

The recent events in Boston and vicinity leading to the capture of the surviving terrorist suspect give pause to those who give more than lip service to our civic/secular ‘holy words.’  Are we ‘free’ indeed if the police can, automatic weapons at the ready, order us out of our houses and conduct searches of them?  Would those Americans who came before us have tolerated it?  Reading the Declaration of Independence, one would have to answer with a ‘no.’  Do we remain ‘free’ if we cede control over our lives to an all-powerful State that ‘protects’ us by eavesdropping on our phone calls, reads our e-mail traffic, monitors our financial activity and can stop, search or detain us – with Miranda rights even a subject of controversy, as if guilt can be determined before trial –  it would appear, at will, all in the name of fighting a nebulous ‘terror’?  If one is willing to tolerate some ‘temporary’ curtailment of liberty, for how long is it expected to last? Who decided when we can declare victory against ‘terror’ and how do we get our freedom back if it is not willingly offered to us?  Is it ‘freedom’ if it can be given or taken by the State?  If our rights are truly ‘inalienable,’ then the answer is something we ought to give to our public servants after due deliberation that takes counsel from the histories of those who have lived out the experiment in self-government in the past.  We ought to ponder and act now, as the precedent set at Watertown may truly be our ‘E Plebnista’ moment – and a point of no return, as far as ‘the American Way of Life’ we have known it is concerned.

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