Does exercising your rights mean you have something to hide?
By Gerard Valentino
We have reached a new low when it comes to the Federal government's overzealous attempts to fight crime. According to a recent news story, the FBI and police in Westerville, Ohio are going to try and enforce a ban on wearing a hood, hat, sunglasses or use of a cell phone inside local banks.
According to a quote attributed to the local police, would be bank robbers will be easy to spot since law abiding bank patrons won't be wearing a hat or talking on a cell phone.
From the story:
The FBI said that the majority of bank robbers conceal their identity in several ways, by wearing hats, hoods, sunglasses or partially covering their face with a cell phone. The phones can also be a security risk because many are camera phones that could capture security camera images if someone were casing a bank.
The new policy will help the "would-be" bank robber be more noticeable to staff and customers if they do not comply with the policy, police said.
You can bet as soon as the first person is harassed after wearing a hat into their local bank, the powers that be will claim that people "with nothing to hide" don't have a reason to fight the policy. That is a more and more common argument used by authority when they want to force compliance with an unconstitutional policy, or a policy that interferes with someone's civil rights.
The simple fact is that people "with nothing to hide" have every right to defy an order by government that infringes on their rights. It might mean getting arrested, or even convicted of a crime, so this isn't advice to go out and flout such policies. Still, if more people stood up to such bullying, the government might not be so quick to try their shenanigans in the future.
A citizen doesn't need a reason to exercise the rights granted by God and affirmed in the Constitution. It is the government and its representatives who need a valid reason to infringe those rights.
In America today, however, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that it isn't the FBI or local police who allow us exercise those rights. Instead, we actually elect them to protect those rights and need to demand they do so.
People caught up in a legal mess don't need a reason to retain counsel, it is their right. Yet, prosecutors are often quoted in the media stating that people "with nothing to hide" don't need a lawyer, and that exercising the right to counsel somehow makes people appear guilty.
Many Americans buy into the argument that a person asserting their rights is hiding something, or is a crazed right wing anti-government zealot – or both. Few people consider that a prosecutor or other government official has a vested interest in getting people to talk, and therefore have a vested interested in convincing everyone that their rights don't matter.
Juries are often instructed to ignore that a defendant chose not to talk local police, prosecutors and agencies like the FBI. But, those instructions are often ignored because the state uses the tired argument that innocent people have nothing to hide. That message is repeated by the establishment media for years and has slowly become accepted in today's America.
The simple fact is that prosecutors use the inference to get convictions and that should outrage Americans.
The message in these situations in clear: If you're fighting to exercise a right the powers that be deem as insignificant or dangerous to their powerbase, you will be marginalized as having "something to hide."
The willingness of people to let the government dictate how they dress while using the local bank feeds the perception that the government has the right to do so. The sad fact is that many of the restrictions we live with on a daily basis fall outside the scope of government control. But over time, as the government has gobbled up more of our rights, the ability to exercise them becomes harder and harder - and the public will to fight back slowly erodes.
Even after 9/11 and Katrina, Americans seem more interested in their material needs and forget that without the rights our Founders fought to affirm, anything can be taken away.
If you don't think your rights matter, remember as an example, that if you don't exercise your right to bear arms, everything you own, or hold dear, is only as secure as the lock on your front door.
Gerard Valentino is the Buckeye Firearms Foundation Secretary/ Treasurer.