Congress’ Role in Fergusson: A Relook at Government
The problem in Ferguson, Missouri didn’t begin with the decision of a grand jury. Nor did it begin the summer Michael Brown was shot by the police. It didn’t begin with left over anger from a neighborhood watch leader killing Trayvon Martin. It didn’t begin with the LA riots after the beating of Rodney King. It didn’t begin with Democrats or Republicans. It didn’t start with President Obama or President Bush.
No, Ferguson’s problems began in the same place that America’s Immigration problem began: Congress.
America’s most recent fascination has been with the Constitution. It’s too bad that the Builder’s generation didn’t have that fascination. Renaissance usually follows crisis, which usually follows prosperity followed by disrespect of the up and coming generation. But being fascinated with the Constitution isn’t enough. We are closer to a national recovery, but still far from it.
Even in our rediscovery of the Constitution, few people have examined “responsibility”. Instead, almost all Constitutional-focused talks have been about “rights”… Second Amendment rights, Executive rights, State governments’ rights, Federal rights… No one talks about responsibility. If Constitutional responsibility had been on America’s mind the last 50 years, the problems in Ferguson and Immigration might not even exist.
Rather than discussing Constitutional responsibility in general, I want to focus on two main issues: Article IV and Amendment II. These two areas obligate Congress, which has utterly failed in its duty.
The Second Amendment is not merely about a right to carry weapons. This “right” is based on the responsibility of the standing militia described in Article I, Sec. 8, Clauses 15 and 16. Congress is supposed to make standards for States to follow to train and regulate a standing militia.
Some have claimed that the militia is the National Guard. It’s not. While States have some influence over the National Guard, a militia is made of all adult men of able body and mind. In our modern day, this means that “militia training” should happen about the same time as driver’s education and should be required before a man can vote. It should be a class in high school that everyone can take and pass. Women and men with learning disabilities should be able to pass the high school “Militia” class, but would not be obligated to serve.
The Second Amendment is not only about a right to carry a weapon, but about Congress’ responsibility to tell the States how to train all people how to use weapons, how to cooperate with local authorities, and how to be the eyes, ears, and hands that keep the local peace.
If the United States had fulfilled the Constitutional mandate to train a militia—made of all able-bodied young men, not just a volunteer service like the National Guard, and not a private militia like the Culpepper Minutemen—then many things would be different in the country. For starters, deporting people who entered illegally would already have millions of enforcers at almost zero cost. Reducing that cost, alone, could have made sensible Immigration enforcement more feasible and Congress would have had fewer excuses for delay.
In Ferguson, riots might never have happened. Not only would the city be filled with more than enough trained, able-body peace keepers, more importantly, having finished their “Militia” high school class, there might be fewer people who even want to riot in the first place.
Providing the system for training the militia is not the only responsibility that Congress has shirked. Article I, Sec. 8 and Article IV require that the Federal government take action to prevent insurrection and invasion. If Congress can’t meet, it’s up to the President. Congress has been able to meet, they have simply refused. Can we really blame the President? Should we even praise the President if he takes action that Congress refused?
Honest or not, hiding an agenda or being fully open, President Obama’s Executive action concerning Immigration was necessary to prevent the Federal government from defaulting on their Constitutional mandate in Articles I & IV. No one should have praised him. No one should have scolded him. Everyone should have demanded that Congress face the music. But instead, everyone’s excited about the President, one way or another.
Arguably, one reason that Congress did not act comes from the bipolar politics. Whether in business, family, religion, or government, Americans tend to take a “my way or the highway” approach to solving every problem. It hasn’t worked.
Part of the idea of a Constitutional Federation is that different States and Counties can do things differently. Rather than trying to force our policies on the entire nation, and rather than trying to compromise on exactly what policy should be forced on the entire nation, we should follow the flexible approach that I outline in The People’s Party, another free eBook. It’s widely available and I won’t elaborate on that here.
So, what happened in Ferguson? Was there some racial prejudice involved? We wouldn’t be Human if there wasn’t. But that wasn’t the big problem. Accidental police shootings, police corruption, favoritism of the police by juries—these have been a swelling problem all over our nation.
Fortunately, most police in our day are still good. But that majority isn’t as large as it was when the Builders were more fascinated with their accomplishments than they were with their responsibility to teach their children about the Constitution. If something isn’t done soon, honest police officers will soon be in the minority, like many other countries.
Mentioning police abuse is always an explosive topic. Some overreact and attack police in general. Others filibuster the concern for police ethics and only talk about how wonderful the good police are. Few people ever focus on getting the few bad apples out in order to save the bushel. Few people said peep about the “few bad apples” with Ferguson. As a result, silence unscabbed our old racial wounds—Blacks either looted or scolded each other for looting, Whites shot their noses in the air and said, “I just don’t understand [why Blacks would be angry enough to riot, even with our 400 year history of 350 years of legalized racism],” some of the smarter White guys even said, “Understanding doesn’t change anything.” Who talked about saving the bushel from the few bad apples?
While everyone had a point, the “bad apples” police issue took the back seat when it should have been front and center. And if Congress had fulfilled their responsibility to train the militia, the police issue might have been fronted and centered. Then, Michael Brown might even be alive today.
What would have been different if we had a high school Militia class, even fifty years ago? First, there would be fewer police because every man 18 and older would be an armed peace enforcer. The police probably wouldn’t have been where they were at the time Michael was where he was. Whoever robbed that convenience store either would have been too afraid to rob it in the first place or he wouldn’t have been able to get away if he did. Michael would have known how the police operate because he would have been trained to cooperate with them and what to do if they tried to stop him. If the police were as corrupt as some seem to think they were, then the militia might have been able to save Michael’s life.
After the verdict from the grand jury, when riots were more than predictable, where was law enforcement? The police protected their own buildings, why didn’t they protect the buildings of local merchants? Were the police selfish? Were the police stretched too thin? Why didn’t the State send in the National Guard? None of these questions could be asked if there was a standing, State-regulated, all-able-men militia as the Constitution requires of Congress.
So, it wasn’t White ignorance that killed Michael Brown, though with all the White guys reacting with, “I just don’t understand,” White ignorance has certainly been admitted to. While Black stereotypes are difficult to refute with the Ferguson riots, those stereotypes didn’t kill Michael Brown. While we all need to know and understand each other more, understanding the rioters doesn’t mean we should agree with them any more than understanding why police kill people means that those people aren’t dead. While we need to address the small, but growing problem with police being given too much license to shoot and keep their careers, bad police work didn’t kill Michael Brown. No, Michael Brown was killed by the same irresponsible culprit that killed Immigration: Congress killed Michael Brown.