The Pterodactyl's Shadow

The Sound-Byte

Sometimes the shadows become so blatant, so arrogant, that even the mainstream feels a vague disquiet. Such is the case with Elian Gonzalez.

The Details

The radical left is said to be dangerous - they give us cop killers like Mumia Abu-Jamal (convicted). Likewise, the radical right is said to be dangerous - they give us mass murderers like Timothy McVeigh (convicted). And in between we have the rich and famous like O.J. Simpson (not convicted). Folks sleep better at night knowing that extremists are off the streets. They are not so sure about O.J. - he is so photogenic. The economy is better when folks aren't worried about extremists like Mumia and McVeigh, and when soccer moms aren't so transfixed by courtroom drama that they forget to go to the malls.

All is well in our little corner of the world. We live in the land of the free and are protected from anxiety by the rule of law. Our prosperity is unmarred by the fringe elements frantically trying to draw our attention to shadowy figures they see lurking behind the scenes. It is easy to dismiss the fringe and go about our daily lives. Politicians like it this way as well. The Democrats take the left fringe for granted as a core constituency. The Republicans take the right fringe for granted as a core constituency. They all wage the political battle for the votes of the soccer moms and the folks enjoying the good economy in the middle. Both Democrats and Republicans treat the fringe as one might a crazy aunt who lives in the attic, but whose sizeable estate is up for inheritance - privately doting, but publicly embarrassed. But still the shadowy figures weave their threads, unnoticed except by the fringe.

But every once in a while the cozy reality of the middle is threatened by shadows that take on too sharp a focus to be ignored. O.J. beat a murder rap because a jury of his peers did not trust the police. Some folks cried racism. And maybe this epithet might have stuck if Los Angeles police hadn't gotten caught planting evidence in the Rampart case. Yes, the shoes later showed that O.J. probably did it. But the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution saved him, working exactly the way our Founding Fathers intended. Mumia Abu-Jamal also claims he was framed. I have no idea if he was or not. But I remember the case of "Hurricane" Carter, who was framed by New Jersey cops. Timothy McVeigh claims that he was set up by a government conspiracy. I don't know. But I do know that his trial was a sham, in which he was not allowed to present his evidence, and in which the prosecutor whipped the jury into an emotional frenzy during the part of the trial that should have been reserved for sober consideration of the facts. The economy is good, so mainstream folks need not fret. Politicians do their best to distance themselves from talking about these issues, for fear of alienating the uncommitted voter who just wants to go-along to get-along. Thus the shadowy figures continue to weave their threads, unnoticed except by the fringe.

But sometimes the shadows become so blatant, so arrogant, that even the mainstream feels a vague disquiet. Such is the case with Elian Gonzalez. In response, politicians coo about the importance of the father-son relationship, striving to banish the shadows from the consciousness of the middle-of-the-road voter, so that they can get back to business-as-usual bidding for votes with different mixtures of tempting give-aways - everything from free drugs to tax reform.

Heaven help our Republic if our so-called elected leaders manage to smooth over the Elain case without firmly banishing the shadow that lurks within. Because here the shadow is brazen, exposed to the world. The shadow has a name now: violation of the Bill of Rights.

The issue is not about child custody - that is decided in state and local courts everyday. A family in Miami trusted the court system to settle a dispute - a family had legal custody and a court date. A family was attacked at dawn by the Federal government, using a fraudulently obtained warrant to search for a concealed illegal alien. (Elian was neither illegal nor concealed.) Overwhelming force - assault weapons, gas, and cursing.

What Bill Clinton calls the "Rule of Law" emerged from the shadows to confront - not a defenseless Cuban-American family in Miami, but to confront the Bill of Rights. To confront every American on the left, on the right, and in the middle. If this violation of due process, this violation of states' rights to settle domestic issues, this violation of the individual right to be secure in one's home, is allowed to stand, no American can sleep secure. We will have become no better that Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, or Castro's Cuba. Because the true rule of law embodied in the Bill of Rights is not a go-along-to-get-along kind of thing as long as the soccer moms and the stock market are OK. It is an absolute law, based in our Founding Father's belief that all [persons] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Of those unalienable rights, the ones they most worried about being trampled by a despotic government they enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

If the Democratic and Republican politicians cannot be bothered to put aside seeking election long enough to remove from public service those responsible for this brazen violation of the public trust at the highest levels of the Federal government, then it is time for new blood in Washington. The Reform, Libertarian, and Constitution parties are waiting to come on stage ... It's your call, Al Gore and George W. Bush -- will the Democratic and Republican candidates seeking the ultimate position of public trust defend the Bill of Rights? Or will the "mainstream" parties adopt a new mascot -- the pterodactyl?

Copyright © 1999 Daniel Weyrich.

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Last updated: May 12, 2000; Version: 1.2