September 5, 2011
Lefkosa, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
A few hundred years ago, some rather courageous men and women decided that they’d had enough of living under someone else’s rule– that the right of self-determination was stronger than any benefit or protection from living under a corrupt government.
The US Declaration of Independence eloquently posed the colonists’ grievances against King George III, including among others, that he had:
“erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance;”
“obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers;”
“[deprived] us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”
The Constitution was supposed to address all of these grievances as the Founding Fathers sought to create a government where no single branch or office had too much power. Even to this day, US government officials swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies– foreign and domestic.
My guess is that most of them haven’t bothered to read it.
Take the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the US Department of Interior, for example. A few months ago, a government agent from FWS showed up to the home of an eleven-year-old girl with a federal summons in one hand and a citation for $535 in another.
The girl’s crime? Saving a baby woodpecker from being killed and eaten by the family cat. The bird’s mother was nowhere to be seen, so the girl (an aspiring vet) convinced her parents to let her care for it for a few days until the bird was well enough to fly away on its own.
Noble act? Wrong. Federal crime. It turns out that the bird is on the government list of protected species… and according to the government’s newspeak, protecting a bird that’s on the protected species list is a crime.
It sort of echoes Thomas Jefferson’s line about King George having “erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people…” It seems not too much has changed.
What’s more, the agent obviously couldn’t come alone to confront an 11-year old girl and her mother. No, that wouldn’t be threatening enough. That’s why FWS requested to be escorted by a Virginia State Police Trooper who “stood on the porch and said nothing.”
It’s government fear and intimidation tactics at their best… a far cry from supporting and defending the Constitution.
Then there’s the case of Gibson Guitar, a legendary American company that manufactures some of the most famous, high quality guitars in the industry. Less than two weeks ago, armed government agents (also from the US Fish and Wildlife Service) raided Gibson Guitar’s manufacturing plants and corporate headquarters in Tennessee.
Gibson Guitar’s crime? Being in possession of a rare ebony wood imported from India; they use it in their manufacturing.
Here’s what’s funny: possession of said wood is not illegal in the United States.
Here’s what’s really funny: Gibson Guitar has clear evidence– letters from the Indian government– proving that their possession of the wood is not illegal in India either.
And… here’s what’s really, really funny: This is the second time in two years that the company has been raided and inventory been seized by federal agents. Gibson’s management team is STILL waiting for a court hearing to get their property back from the 2009 seizure.
Again, echoes of Thomas Jefferson: that King George “[deprived] us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”
Welcome to the new reality. Executive agencies in the United States have extraordinary unchecked power. They can seize your assets, freeze your bank accounts, intercept your emails, comb through your credit card transactions, and even take away your children… all without so much as a court order or any form of oversight.
We’ve explored before how you can end up on the wrong side of a government agency, even if you haven’t done anything illegal. If you are so much as suspected of wrongdoing, they can come after you… even if you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, they can come after you.
These are two cases where the government has come after its citizens– even when they are doing the RIGHT thing.
Think about it: two of the most unlikely people in the country have become enemies of the state: an eleven-year-old girl who wants to save a baby bird, and a manufacturing company that has managed to stay in business (and continue hiring!) in the midst of the worst recession in the nation’s history.
This is why we internationalize. This is why we have a plan.