In June of 1966, when I was commissioned in the U.S. Army, I took the oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
Since then, on a few occasions, I have questioned in my mind who potentially are those domestic enemies? I must admit that that question has not been high on my list of questions to be answered until rather recently. Now it has come to the forefront again.
I have noticed there are numerous groups that seem to attempt in one way or another to avoid supporting the Constitution and many to openly try to change it. There is a method to amending the Constitution, and while it is a long, tenuous process, changes can be made. Misinformation, demonstrations, rioting, etc., usually do not work and in fact tend to only slow the process.
Now, back to my original issue: Who are those domestic enemies and groups I took an oath to defend against? Who are the “domestic enemies”? What constitutes free speech?
In the past 200 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed that question many times. Our leaders, elected and appointed, need to read those findings and follow those rulings. Recent actions by some lead me to believe many have not read those or are unwilling to follow those rulings.
Let me state that this is not a political column. I do not have a D, I or R behind my name. Only an “A” standing for American citizen. There seem to be numerous issues occurring that need to be addressed, and knowing who the enemies are is one of the key bits of information we need.
Ignoring the Constitution cannot and should not be one of the options we take. Parents talking at school board meetings when they disagree with some of the decisions made by the school board or the school system does not, in my opinion, make them domestic terrorists, despite what the U.S. Attorney says. Their comments fall within the protection of the freedom of speech as identified in the constitution. They can object when the board they elected/hired takes action they disagree with.
Threats are not protected, but free speech is, and from what has been reported does not constitute a “clear and present danger to anyone” as stated in some of the Supreme Court rulings.
The board meetings are usually open to the public, and normally attendees can speak and state their opinions. I realize I did not attend any of the board meetings, but I have seen news reports concerning some of those meetings. My opinions are based on those news reports that hopefully were factually accurate.
Misinformation by various national news organizations seems to be everywhere. How can ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN and others report the same story with conflicting details, facts and opinions while they still seem to try to take the high road? Or maybe each of the media outlets is just reporting their political opinions and not the all facts we need to have in order to make an informed opinion. Were those news reports concerning the various school boards’ meetings totally accurate or were they just more of the news agency’s opinions?
Recently the head of the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garand, indicated that persons, reportedly usually parents, who voice their opinion should be listed as “domestic terrorists.” Their opinions from what I have heard as reported were not threats. They were personal opinions stated during an open school board meeting.
Some of those speaking may well have disagreed with actions by the school board and in some cases the boards inaction. Stating we will not reelect you is not a threat. It’s just a statement.
When the head of the Justice Department indicated they should be listed as a domestic terrorist, I may have identified one of the “domestic enemies” I swore to defend against, since he appears to be in direct opposition of the Constitution. Maybe it is time for Merrick Garland to take the high road and resign, since it appears he does not fully understand the Constitution as it applies to free speech.
We cannot afford to have an attorney general who doesn’t fully understand and follow the Constitution. He was appointed by the president and approved by the U.S. Senate. The overwhelming vote was not political. He was approved by the Senate in a 70-30 vote.
Now is the time the president and the Senate take a hard look at who they approved as attorney general, since he seems to be unable or unwilling to fully follow the free speech portion of our Constitution.
This column is published on the Opinion page of the paper and is just my opinion. Hopefully, it is still protected by my first amendment rights and might help protect all of our first amendment rights.
Citizen Columnist Thomas J. Sheehy retired from the U.S. Army following 26 years on active duty. He and his wife of 50 years moved to Florence in 2009. They have two sons and four wonderful grandchildren. Contact Sheehy at firstname.lastname@example.org.