By Ron VandenBoom
In the final refrain of the national anthem of the United States describes our country as the "land of the free and the home of the brave." But increasingly, the phrase rings hollow as one by one Americans are having their freedoms stripped away and bravery comes from only the few courageous soles willing to risk fines and jail to exercise freedom.
I know this sounds harsh and to many it might even sound ridiculous, but what amazes me is that others fail to see it and become equally upset.
As an example of what I'm talking about, take the recent announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that they are considering a ban on nutritional supplements, shampoos, body care products, and anything else containing hemp or hemp oils.
Hemp, of course, is another name for the plant that produces marijuana.
Rest assured that none of the products meant to be taken internally contain the marijuana's psychoactive ingredient THC. Nor is the hemp used to produce the products grown in the United States.
The DEA argues that it "might" be possible for traces of the drug to be absorbed through the skin by people using the body care products thus causing them to give positive test results if they are ever tested for substance abuse.
The Coalition to Save Hemp (CSH), an organization assembled specifically to fight the ban, argues that THC cannot be distilled from the products and cites numerous studies to indicate it cannot be absorbed through the skin.
Despite facts to the contrary, the DEA wants to create an "interim rule" that will have the force of law as soon as it's published in the Federal Register. No public input or legislative action is necessary in order to implement the rule.
Imagine facing up to one year in a federal prison and a $10,000 fine on a salad dressing rap.
I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you don't believe me, check out the CSH Web site at http://www.SaveHemp.org.
If banning shampoo and salad dressing doesn't shake you up, then perhaps a future ban on cigarettes will. Not because cigarettes are a good thing, but because the attack on tobacco companies and smokers has been so quick, so direct, and so public, it is hard to ignore.
If you thought the war on drugs was something, wait until the war on cigarettes starts.
Cigarettes are a terrible habit that directly contributes to the death of an estimated 400,000 people every year, but the question of making cigarettes illegal is something that transcends the health related issue and enters the arena of personal rights and freedoms. It raises the question of how far government in a free society should go to protect people from themselves.
Of course the Constitution never guaranteed people would only make wise choices. Quite the opposite, it guaranteed the individual right to make stupid choices and left the responsibility for those decisions in the hands of the individual.
Philosopher/economist Edmund Burke once said "the true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients."
The expedients today include a smoke free/drug free society, safe playgrounds, safe jobs, safe cars, and a safe environment. They also include free or low cost health care, free or low cost prescriptions, and a comfortable retirement. You can add to the list the so called freedom from hunger, freedom from illiteracy, and freedom from failure.
Government today has ruled that it is expedient to sacrifice personal freedom on the alter of good intentions and has removed personal responsibility from the formula. By so doing we have also come to believe that misbehavior is the fault of society and our jails have become crowded with victims rather than offenders.
The reward our country reaps for this transgression is a homogenized society of sameness where individuals need not distinguish between right and wrong and responsibility is always found elsewhere. Individuality languishes in a sea of irresponsibility where all fault for personal shortcomings lie elsewhere.
Those who disagree with governmental pronouncements will not be tolerated and the individual's only obligation is to obey.
Woodrow Wilson once said, "The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it."