It was actually quite easy: by promising us freedoms in the form of “freedom from” – freedom from want, from crime, from social injustices and inequalities, all those human ills against which every free society struggles – the government was able to deny its citizens the traditional American values of “freedom to”.
They started small. They could have started with any of the Ten Amendments, but they chose the Second because that seemed to make the most sense at the time. After all, criminals use guns, so take away firearms and crime will stop.
After all, they told us, you don’t need firearms for self-defense. We can watch with drones, we can collect and monitor phone records and other forms of electronic communication, we can use our bureaucratic tax structure and institutions to control those sections of government and society alike who don’t think like we do. Crime will be an ill of other nations, and if a few of our diplomats get killed in those far-off lands, what difference does it make? We are trying to make sure our society doesn’t end up like theirs.
Just like the Founders (those “old men operating in secret behind closed doors”) could not have imagined modern firearm technology (untrue), they also couldn’t possibly have envisioned the effects of modern communication and monitoring technology (if they had, the Bill of Rights would have been longer and more robust). It’s obvious, they told us, that the Second Amendment is no longer needed. It’s antiquated, obsolete, and the government can provide for your self-defense. And if the government gets out of line, we have the First Amendment to redress any grievances. They assured us that we would always have the First.
So when the increased government presence was found to be ineffective at relieving citizens of their burdens, that crime continued to increase and social injustices continued to prevail – as is inevitable when one addresses the symptoms and not the true causes –the response was a further increase of governmental power. The Fourth Amendment, protecting us against a standing army within our borders, was suspended. Temporarily, of course. After all, the Fourth prohibited a standing army in a time of peace, and our society wasn’t sufficiently peaceful.
And so it came to be that there was formed a society of frightened, defenseless citizens at the mercy of armed criminals and the armed government forces put in place to protect us and “form a more perfect union.”
And when the inevitable happened, when it became clear that the government was ineffective at solving society’s ills, and that it had become a tremendous burden, that injustices were being carried out by those in power against their subjects – for subjects we had become – we used our First Amendment rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression to redress our grievances against. We wrote letters to the media, or at least that part of the media that had yet to succumb to government oversight, and we gathered in public spaces in protest. At times frustrated citizen-subjects turned violent, and government forces were called in to disperse the crowds (mobs, they called them). Eventually all public assembly was prohibited – again, only temporarily until the officials could get a hold on things. So we continued to use the remainder of the First to contact the media and our fellow citizen-subjects. But that just continued to inflame our fellows and anger our government, and since the government had gotten so effective at monitoring our communications, they stopped that behavior, too. So the citizen-subjects were stripped of the First Amendment, the Second was a distant memory, and the Fourth was suspended indefinitely as a strong armed presence was deemed necessary to keep order in society.
After all, they said, isn’t it the job of government to ensure a perfect, peaceful society? The Government has to have these powers in order to be able to guarantee “freedom from” all of society’s ills. Men and women of a society simply cannot be trusted to properly use “freedom to”
And that, children, is how the Government turned its citizens into just that: children.