Note: A week ago today we completed our last deliberations concerning the Articles of Freedom, a title only agreed upon late Saturday afternoon, November 22, 2009, and held our closing ceremonies, including a signing ceremony for the Preamble, the Civic Action Statement, and the Pledge of Commitment. A week is not enough time to fully digest what we did there and what was accomplished, so this is only a beginning. The documents refered to below are yet to be published.
- Participating in the Continental Congress 2009 as a delegate was in equal measure intense and frustrating, powerful and ultimately affirming. The intensity was so great that during the Congress the outside world receded, and the everyday news took a backseat to our deliberations concerning more fundamental Constitutional issues. And since New Mexico first delegate Michael Lunnon and I drove there and back again, that bubble of intensity continued to a lesser extent until I arrived home on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Thus I have spent the past five days not only preparing and celebrating Thanksgiving, but also in an uneven and still incomplete struggle to re-engage with my previous everyday life. It has only just begun to dawn on me that the maps of my previous everyday life will have to be redrawn; that the terms of the re-engagement must expand to become a new normal. On the map of my life as I understand it, I have pushed the boundaries out into an unknown labeled "Here there be Dragons."
Going into the Continental Congress I understood my role as delegate differently, perhaps, than some of the other delegates. I went knowing that the elections we held drew very few voters, and those chiefly from the New Mexico patriot community, those already awakened to the de facto demise of the Constitution of the United States over the past hundred years. Therefore, I understood that as a delegate I was not going to CC2009 to represent my state in a legislative sense, but rather to represent those who had voted for and/or financially supported our delegation, as well as to try to the best of my ability to bring to the Congress an understanding of Constitutional violations as they affect New Mexico, which like any state, has unique interests and concerns vis-a-vis the federal government. Therefore, I understood that at this juncture, my importance and the importance of the Congress was (and is) modest.
This sense was of great benefit to me when the fear factor of taking on the system became real to the body of the Continental Congress. I understood that unless and until we build a mass movement, we will not be considered a real threat to anyone. Therefore, as the rumor mills got going among some of the more volatile delegates and their coalitions, I held firmly to the meaning of R3volution: we do this out of our love for liberty, not out of fear or anger.
Secondly, I did not go to the Congress with any personal agenda that I intended to push. Rather, I went with the rationale and purpose for which this Continental Congress was called: to document to a candid world that petitions for redress of grievances had been made and gone unanswered; to document the ongoing violation of the Constitution in the instances that the petitions addressed; and to develop peaceful but firm civic responses to be taken upon the gathering of a mass movement in order to bring a rebellious servant government to heel. As I understood it, the first two items were the primary work of the Congress convened, whereas gathering a mass movement would be our job and the job of the various patriot alliances once the Articles of Freedom were written and signed.
Even before the 2009 Continental Congress convened, however, it became apparent that there were individuals and factions who did not intend to come to achieve the agenda laid out by the We the People Foundation and We the People Congress, but that had their own agenda. Some were coming with the view that the Constitution was already null and void, and thus that the Petitions for Redress were futile and that the Congress should take an entirely different approach. Others were coming with the intention of getting the Congress to agree that the United States does in fact have an established religion, a certain form of Fundamentalist Christianity, and thus were pushing a Dominionist agenda. However, as a pre-Congress survey made clear, the vast majority of the delegates agreed with the agenda of the organizing body, We the People Foundation.
As it became clear when the Congress actually convened, even though the majority of the delegates agreed on the purposes of the Congress, and upon the agenda adopted without change on the first day, there was plenty of difference about the outcomes and the civic actions that ought to be undertaken. Although many of us agreed with the groundwork already completed by We the People Foundation regarding the Petitions for Redress, there was a general sense apparent in the first deliberations on Thursday November 12 that the timeline and actions laid out by We the People were too conservative given the rapidity with which our constitutional republican form of government is now being dismantled.
During the first week of the Congress, from Nov. 12 - Nov. 18, the body settled into an exacting routine in which we would hear expert testimony on one Petition for Redress first thing in the morning and another first thing in the afternoon. After each presentation, we would retire to the New Orleans Ballroom in order to deliberate upon the testimony and--at least according to the agenda--determine the answers to the following general questions:
- was the particular petition addressing a real violation of the Constitution?
- if so, what are particular Articles and/or amendments violated?
- was the petition unanswered?
- if so, what instructions should the people send to the federal government (Congress and Executive) to make them accountable? What instructions to the states for them to assert their sovereignty in the matter? What civic actions should be suggested to the the people for them to assert their power and sovereignty?
The first few days of deliberations were more difficult than I expected at the time. It became quickly apparent that the majority of delegates had very little experience with parliamentary process. It was also clear that a sizable minority of delegates had not received a thorough education in matters constitutional, and that many were hearing some of these petitions and their background for the first time. Even with these impediments, I thought that the body of the Congress would "gel" in a few days, and that we would see actual documents emerging, as everyone gained experience and understanding. And to a limited extent this did begin to happen, especially after sub-committees were established to write reports based upon the above general questions, which were made more specific to each Petition in the actual CC2009 Agenda .
But even with rules changes and an increased ability to use Robert's Rules of Order on the part of the delegations, I noticed that certain people tended to "camp out" at the microphone, and that there seemed to be determined core group(s) that used procedure to actually subvert the will of the body. Some of them seemed to be pushing specific agendas that were not that of the group, some seemed to be loose coalitions, but by far the most worrisome were a few individuals who seemed to foment division by espousing different sides of issues at different times, inconsistent to any personal or group agenda. This was different from what I observed of other groups and factions, which were consistent over time.
I believe that this one small group of infiltrators had the intention of discrediting CC2009 and used the passions of some of the other factions to try and make it happen. Additionally, and more unforgivably, this small faction appeared to use some delegates who had unstable personalities to achieve this purpose. In my opinion, this was the cause of much of the drama that occurred during the Congress.
That drama, along with the intensity of our days, and the immensity of what we were learning about the destruction of our liberty, created an edge to our deliberations. It heightened our passion to have the perfect solutions mapped out with respect to instructions to our servant government and to the States, and later when we began to write the Articles themselves, our recommendations for civic action for the people. The problem was that among 113 strong-minded individuals, there was nearly the same number of "perfect" solutions.
In order to deal with this, most of us tended toward finding like-minded individuals for discussion and support. I found Libertarians and libertarian-minded people whose understanding of the problem and whose principled solutions resonated with me, and from whom I could learn when my own analysis failed me. Thus my mind was engaged by the ideas of our President, Michael Badnarik, the anarcho-capitalist John Bush, and the scholar Jon Roland. I also had invigorating conversations with some of the young people who were just discovering libertarian ideas and the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
I did speak up at the Congress, but not being one to camp out on the microphone queue, I spent far more time listening, thinking and in private discussion. I also worked on several committees, and as the secretary for the General Welfare Clause committee, I made my proudest contribution word-smithing both the primary and the ancillary reports. I also got to the microphone a few times during open discussion, and once I helped stop a change of language amendment that would have made us look foolish by changing the name of the Department of Homeland Security. I was also among those of an impromptu coalition that got the Non-Initiation of Force Principle (NIP) into the final document.
I saw that among my fellow delegates there were many moments in which personal prejudices and individual agendas led to public or private statements inconsistent with their own avowed principles. Some of these were religious in nature, as were certain efforts to impose the dogmas of specific religions upon the Congress and the people of the United States in what I call the "Christian nation" claim. Others involved prejudices against certain groups of American citizens, such as the denial of private property rights to Native Americans on the reservation, in what I call the paternalistic "white man's burden" claim. There were others, and for my part, I know I did not think deeply enough about the Mann Amendment that was passed without debate at the end of the Congress when many delegates were out of the room. I concurred with Ron Mann that the language was suitably non-sectarian, but I did not enter into a dialogue about the vote with my delegation.
Despite the drama, the inconsistencies in principle, and the personal and factional agendas--that is, despite the very human nature of those of us assembled--the Congress did accomplish the intended goals: to develop a series of instructions to Congress, to the States, and recommendations to the people, with respect to Petitions for Redress of Grievances. They included those dealing with the First Amendment right to petition, the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the War Powers clause, the misuse of the "General Welfare" clause and the right to private property. Even those reports and recommendations that seemed "obvious" to some of us met with strongly passionate debate that served to increase the understanding of many of us, and also heightened our commitment to liberty.
And at the last our trust and reliance upon the honor and the integrity of those who will be charged with the style and formatting of all of the documents made it possible for many of us to sign the Preamble and Pledge sections of the document. And since those who signed were present as each tiny pearl of agreement was wrested from contention, we all understand both the frailty and magnitude of what we accomplished.
I stood in the line to sign after the closing ceremony, laughing from the relief of finishing the document together, even though it was imperfect. I felt light, and thought: "This is what freedom feels like." And then, as I stood with the pen in my hand in front of the Zia Flag, I felt the gravity of the moment. Putting my hand to that Preamble and that Pledge, I suddenly knew, meant that my personal maps of reality would change. Here there be Dragons!
In the end, the magnitude of our accomplishment will depend upon our ability to persuade our fellow patriots--those who already passionately uphold the principles of liberty and who espouse the idea of unalienable rights derived from the Eternal Source of Liberty (however we conceive that Source. It will depend upon our engendering a mass movement of liberty among those who are ready to sign on to holding our servant government accountable to the founding principles of the United States as declared in our Declaration of Independence and as prescribed for government in the Constitution.
In the end, the frailty of what we have accomplished can only be obviated on the uncertain road ahead, the journey upon which will require us to expand our own personal maps across the parted seas where there be dragons, and which will lead us from the security of the fleshpots of Mitzrayim—the Hebrew word for Egypt that means the Narrow Places--and into the vast unknown lands that can, if we let them, develop in us principles that will lead us to trust a mixed multitude of ways for all of us to live liberty.
At this moment, as I stand on the edge of my known world, straining to see beyond the Dragons, I believe that those who endured the labors of the Continental Congress to the end have developed a strong and enduring bond. And this bond has the strength to be shared with all who love liberty and which will withstand the storms and squalls of the voyage yet to come.
Edited Once for Grammar and Content. EHL