I first took the oath of office as a newly commissioned second lieutenant in the Army, some 30 years ago. I recall the sacred importance of the oath, as I was pledging my life and potential death in fidelity to those words. The oath of all U.S. federal officers is to “the Constitution” and not a person or position. Specifically, that we would “support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” From a Christian perspective, Romans 13 commands us to follow the direction of the “magistrate,” and in the United States, the ultimate “magistrate” is the Constitution. With the rioting and ideological attacks on our foundational document, it is time to consider what makes a domestic enemy of our sacred Constitution and what to do in defense.
First, John Adams presciently wrote about the kind of citizen required of our constitutional system: “ We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.” As the constitutional system is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Lincoln said, its citizens must not only support the Constitution, but have the self-disciplined moral character to conform to laws without force. They must be moral and religious for the system to work and allow freedom.
The Constitution was the legal document protecting the philosophical framework found within the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration asserted all men are created equal and the Constitution protects legal equality of all. The Declaration asserted we are endowed by our Creator with rights and the Constitution protects the God-given rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (property). The Constitution provides the system of checks and balances between branches and between state and federal authority to prevent government overreach. It ensures that citizens cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. It protects fundamental minority rights from the democratic majority. It is the most enduring written constitution in the history of mankind and the reason so many still give everything to come to America. Behind the Bible, it is the most perfect writing.
Unlike so many other nations throughout world history, the Constitution allows for peaceful assembly and protest. It allows for freedom of speech, including unpopular speech. Yet with these constitutionally-protected rights comes the responsibility of citizens to respect the rights of other Americans. It also demands respect for the constitutional system. The constitutional system puts trust in its citizens and, as Adams made clear, is not made for general lawlessness. The founders believed and wrote that a religious moral framework among the majority of citizens was critical.
Now we come to lawlessness on a scale that exceeds almost anything in American history: The attacks on police, the burning of police precincts, the attacks on private property, attacks on churches and attacks on citizens. Worse is the treasonous rhetoric exhorting insurrection against the Constitutional system. The president of “BLM of Greater New York,” Hawk Newsome, recently told Martha MacCallum on Fox News: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right?” In Portland, protest organizer Lilith Sinclair called for the “… abolition of the United States as we know it.” Open calls for burning every police precincts and even killing police grow.
Equally disturbing, Marxist calls for ending protection of private property, fundamental to our Constitutional system, have become ubiquitous. This is not only among groups like Antifa and BLM at protests, but we are discovering the cancer in mainstream publications. Seemingly-benign Teen Vogue is a perfect example. Kandice Mallet, writing an opinion piece in Teen Vogue openly called for the end of private property rights, after calling for the abolition of police. The magazine has published a number of recent op-eds decrying capitalism in America and calling to end the system. The number of openly-Marxist university professors has grown in recent years and many now openly teach Marxism as a superior system to our constitutional republic. The effect is a growth in popularity of socialism. The founders of BLM proudly declared being “trained Marxists” in a 2015 interview. Countering the rhetoric brings the risk of being labeled the ultimate stigmatizing word in modern America — racist.
In comparison, Martin Luther King, Jr. brought civil rights advances through non-violent protests and adherence to and respect for the founding documents and ideals and Christianity. In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, King repeated the words of the Declaration that “all men are created equal.” He didn’t threaten or demand the constitutional system be torn down. The vast majority of the civil rights movements have been respectful of our founding documents and appealed to the promises of those documents. We have never seen a mass movement repudiating the Declaration and Constitution and demanding to tear down the whole “racist” system. What comes after the constitutional republic is utter darkness and the end of freedom for all subsequent generations.
As Americans, we must ask ourselves if our constitutional system can survive these kinds of attacks physical and ideological attacks. That oath before God was to defend this system against all enemies foreign and domestic. It appears time to demand that we, as Americans, will not allow the Constitution be “abolished” or burned down. We have a duty to pass its freedoms to our children and grandchildren. Hopefully, those openly advocating against the Constitutional system will wake up and stop before it’s too late. It may take speaking out more forcefully, perhaps in counter-protests, about our collective love of this nation and the Constitution. In the end, the Constitution will be defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic — that is a promise, “so help me God.”
Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel Graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.