Over my years of foreign travel and entertaining people from other countries visiting the United States, I’ve developed a little lecture that explains some of the mysteries about this country that bedevil a lot of foreigners. If you’re a native-born American, don’t be ashamed if this is new to you, too. A major part of the problem is that too many Americans have never heard, never understood, never known and never cared about what comes next.
It’s easy to think of America as a “country” like Canada, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, name one. They’re all “countries,” right?
Wrong! Until recently, innocently wrong. In the age of Obama, disastrously wrong.
It’s easy to make that mistake. Consider Europe. You step from a country called Estonia into a country called Latvia and you don’t understand a word. The Estonian and the Latvian who don’t understand each other can take a few more steps and enter Lithuania, where neither one can understand a word. Then they all turn eastward and take a few steps into Russia, where none of the three can understand. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Russia are all “countries.”
America is dramatically different. America started out as 13 different countries; colonies, as they called themselves. Because, unlike Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, those 13 American “countries” spoke the same language and were ethnically identical, it was easy to suppose, “Well, this new America is another country, like Canada, Mexico etc.” We drew up a “marriage contract” nailing down rules as to how we would live together. That contract, of course, is the Constitution. As America grew and more countries were added, that fact of American birth and American life didn’t change. America is far from a “plain old country.” America is a union of 50 different sovereign states! So, what’s the big deal?
The big deal, and it’s a very big one, is that, wherever you live in America, you are in a sovereign state connected to 49 other ones. Interesting coincidence: The territory between Great Britain and the Ural Mountains has 50 sovereign states. We call it “Europe.” The territory between Canada and Mexico also has 50 sovereign states. It’s called “America.” Wrap your mind around that concept and hang on tight. It’s going to get bumpy.
Educated Europeans are more than amazed – staggered is more like it – by the freedoms of our “states” to make their own laws about driving, drinking, marrying, building, farming, taxes and a whole lot more. Sure, there are “divisions” inside their own countries, but here’s the difference: No Canadian, French or German “province,” no Norwegian “fylkring,” no Swedish “lan” has a fraction of the freedom inherent in the American “state.” The lines on the maps inside those other countries are mere “administrative zones” set off by arbitrary borders for housekeeping convenience. The American state is sovereign.
In a recent radio interview with the head of the “10th Amendment Foundation,” my spirits soared. Strother Smith, whose devotion to the Constitution approaches religiosity, detailed his mission, starting with an embarrassingly necessary reminder as to what exactly the 10th Amendment really says. If you know that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are the “Bill of Rights,” you pass the course. To get an “A,” however, you have to know that the 10th Amendment provides that powers not granted to the national government nor prohibited to the states by the U.S. Constitution are reserved to the states or the people.
Strother Smith and his growing band of members of the 10th Amendment Foundation may grow to give the Obama team spine-bending gas pains as the administration’s juggernaut-agenda storms forward. And for two reasons. The Constitution, if not the Obama High Command, reminds us how limited the powers of the federal government really are and how powerful are the 50 “sovereign states.” Moreover, the major media have an easy time portraying right-wing nuts as right-wing nuts. They’ll gag when they try to bite and chew the 10th Amendment Foundation. It’s nothing less than an “ACORN” (on our side!), one that’s honest and out to defend the Constitution and not at all interested in helping pimps and prostitutes enter the country illegally and set up whore-housing tax-free! Smith’s growing cadres of assiduously law-abiding patriots wrap themselves in the description of “nonpartisan, tax-exempt, political educational foundation.” Sorry, fellows; no weekend paintballing or other war games or target practice. Only nonviolent constitutional karate applied in strong chops to those legislators who seem to have no more appreciation than a disinterested tourist for what America really is.
Strother has already scored the Constitution lover’s equivalent of a hunter’s stuffed moose head over the fireplace. In one of his visits to Capitol Hill, he actually had a congressman ask, “What’s the relevance of the Constitution, that dates back to the 18th century?” Strother replied, “Mr. Congressman, if you don’t see the relevance of the Constitution, you ought to pack up and go home!”
The whole nature of the 10th Amendment Foundation is beyond noble in today’s America. If ACORN’s funding were to suddenly turn literally liquid, the whole sordid enterprise would float away. In contrast, the 10th Amendment Foundation is totally dependent upon our support. And neither Strother Smith nor his associates get a penny for their pro-Constitution work. Every dollar we contribute goes straight to the front lines of the fight. Not one cent is diverted to salaries for Smith or his assistants or anybody else in the movement.
America has lived through fear of depression, Nazism, Communism and Islamic Fundamentalism. This is the first time Americans have ever feared radical change and oppression from their own government. The 10th Amendment could be a marvelous defensive weapon. Strother Smith has made it his job to lift that weapon down, dust it off and make sure it’s clean and lubricated and well-known to all
When Smith told me about the monumental taxpayer funding ACORN enjoys versus his efforts to rally voluntary public support, I couldn’t help but think of the farmer down South who let the local boys use his pasture to play baseball.
One day, as the farmer was walking around behind the pasture during a baseball game he yelled to the outfielder, “What’s the score?”
“Twenty-five to nothing,” answered the outfielder.
“Twenty-five you or twenty-five them?” asked the farmer.
“Twenty-five them,” replied the outfielder.
“You all ain’t doin’ too well, are you?” asked the farmer.
“Well,” replied the outfielder, “it’s too early to tell. You see, our team ain’t been to bat yet!”
Strother Smith of the 10th Amendment Foundation has just picked up the bat.
You can help him by going to the organization’s website.