Federal agents are on the streets of Portland, OR, and many more could soon be showing up in Chicago, Albuquerque, NM, and other cities experiencing crime-waves and riots. In these cities, Democrat leaders abdicated their responsibility to maintain law and order. On July 24, the Department of Justice revealed that 18 individuals involved in the Portland unrest – which has now continued for more than 50 consecutive days – face federal charges. It is time, then, to talk about violations of citizens’ rights. Which citizens, though? Who is really having their rights violated, and by whom? And has the Democratic Party and the extreme left abandoned its own philosophy in its haste to defend the lawbreakers?
On the surface of it, one would think that advocates of limited government and individual liberty would be horrified that the federal administration is deploying hundreds of armed, camouflage-wearing agents to restore order in sovereign states. Has President Trump gone full totalitarian? Are we not now witnessing the tyranny of government so feared by the Founding Fathers?
A False Perspective
What the establishment media, the Democrats in Washington, DC, and those governors who have so badly failed their respective states are feeding us is an entirely false perspective, though. To cut through the blatant politicization and the phony hand-wringing to regain a more valid perspective, we must remember the one principle that lies at the very heart of the notion of individual liberty: that one person’s rights end where another’s rights begin.
To explain that, let us consider an analogy to which we can, today, all relate: Americans have the right to gather in public spaces and protest the actions or policies of federal, state, or local officials. It’s there in the First Amendment. That right, however, ends at the property line of a private business or residence. That right ends where another person’s right to not be physically harmed begins.
To put it in even more basic terms, you have the right to possessions – to own things – but I have that same right. Your right to own stuff ends when you take my stuff because, at that point, you are violating my rights. One man’s or woman’s rights exist only in a space that does not violate the rights of another man or woman.
Peaceful protesters are exercising their rights. Rioters and provocateurs, however, are actively violating the rights of the many other citizens merely trying to live in peace and safety. When you loot and burn down someone’s business, you are committing a gross and heartless violation of that person’s rights.
Are these federal stormtroopers trampling on people’s rights, then, or are they doing what local governments and law enforcement agencies have been unwilling or unable to do, which is to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens? To the faithful advocate of individual rights, there would be no more worthy task than putting an end to the orchestrated riots and violence that is stripping regular folks of their right to live in peace – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
A Philosophical Disconnect
Let us also wonder why the political left, in its rush to defend the actions of rioters, has abandoned the very core of its philosophy. Left-wing political thought is rooted in the idea that individual rights and freedoms must be suppressed in the interests of the greater good – the common good. Call it what you will; socialism, communism, Marxism, fascism, Nazism (or, to use the correct term, national socialism) all derive from the fundamental left-wing principle that the collective is more important than the individual.
That being the case, should not the “right” of malcontents to burn and loot, to deface monuments and to attack the police and innocent passers-by be restricted for the common good?
Yet another interesting analogy is the debate over wearing masks to supposedly stop the spread of COVID-19, which is apparently not working out too well. Those who refuse to wear a mask – and this writer is among them – are demonized as thoughtless and selfish monsters who are recklessly endangering the health of their fellow citizens. Isn’t that precisely what the rioters are doing, though? Are they not indulging in their personal beliefs, fears, and emotions with utter disregard for the safety and well-being of the greater population? If you are going to tell someone who doesn’t wear a mask that his or her personal choice is putting others at risk, then should you not be saying the same thing to the rioter and the looter?
Choosing not to wear a facemask has not been proven to exacerbate the Coronavirus pandemic. After all, most Americans are now wearing masks, and yet we are told that the virus is overwhelming us. Burning down a person’s retail store, by contrast, is most certainly inflicting upon them potentially catastrophic harm. No scientific study is required to establish the truth of that.
Yet, the very same leftist politicians and so-called journalists who rail against the use of federal law enforcement officers to quell the growing violence have no problem with using law enforcement officers to fine, arrest, and even imprison people for not following the COVID-19 restrictions. Do they not see the disconnect there?
Picking and choosing what one believes when it is convenient has become a hallmark of the left. The truth is, any force deployed to bring an end to the violence and destruction is in the interests of the larger community. Not only that, but such measures protect the rights and liberties of all those people who are just trying to go about their business. For it is the rights of those people that have now, strangely, become less important than the alleged right of political agitators to destroy what is not theirs.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.