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Redress My Grievances Please!

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Robert Brescia
June 21, 2020

“Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

~ Daniel Webster
(1782-1852) U.S. Senator

A well-known news anchor recently stated, “Whoever said that protestors have to be polite?” Nobody said that—they don’t have to be polite, but they must be peaceable. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech… or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Back in the early days of the Republic, citizens generally petitioned the government for a redress of grievances by showing up during congressional session. The House set aside special times for this to happen. Each petition had to be presented and heard by the full House, standing or collapsing on its own merit. Whether these petitions survived or not, they had two interesting overall effects: 1) Citizens were significantly controlling the national legislative agenda and 2) The popular petition system devolved over time into a redefinition of “free speech” because of the onslaught of petitions by abolitionists—Congress just couldn’t handle the massive petition load so a limiting process came about; we citizens ceased to be heard directly by all our representatives—only by our own representative. “Town Hall” style federal government stopped because of the significant (and in my view essential) opposition to slavery.

Every now and then there comes a national movement of redress and grievances so powerful that it causes either a wrinkle in our governmental structure, or at a minimum, some type of redefinition of existing societal norms. These turning-point events are so compelling that they spawn lasting, durable movements. From those movements come sustainable social change. The trigger to our current change movement was the death of Mr. George Floyd. Heinous and compelling, it exploded on the world scene, bringing about protests, riots and the acceleration of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

We understand that social change is a macro-process and that the public sector will be among the last parts of our society to change as a result of social breakdown, unrest or protests. We need for some things to “break” so that they can be rebuilt in the image of who we are as a people—indeed as a nation. Protesting is not only necessary but encouraged as a vehicle to bring about awareness of issues that may otherwise fester or go unnoticed. Our concern is that these degrade into a denial of the rights of others – that is anarchy and lawlessness and it must not be tolerated. When a protestor steals a police horse, dons a police vest and gallops through the streets of Chicago, that is pure anarchy and that is not who we are as a people. We have a rule of law.

Somehow the topic of totally defunding the police departments has surfaced in the national conversation. I find this mildly amusing because I believe the argument to defund police departments has no basis and assumes a zero-sum situation, i.e. a one-to-one correlation between budgets for non-governmental organizations, movements, etc. and the police departments. In no way can public monies be diverted from public agencies to social movements. The level of police department funding is a local issue, not a federal one. Finally, the folks who are clamoring to defund police departments may fail to understand that when they are in trouble, there will be no one to call for help.

Another seemingly baseless assertion is that a federal watchdog agency over the police should be created. The belief is that by creating an agency and spending lots of our tax dollars to fund, support and resource it will result in fewer horrific incidents of police racism or brutality. The problem is that it assumes a very high current and pervasive institutional racism by police departments, something that is just not true. All races, colors and creeds serve in our police and the bad ones are in the extreme minority. I believe it just makes no sense to create yet another government structure and somehow give it oversight of local police.

Conclusion

We need true leadership presently by those who occupy positions in the public sector. The most important and visible of these positions are city mayors, police departments and many other community leaders.

Anarchists cry out for freedom, yet they can bring about oppression, because human beings seek order, not anarchy. When there are widespread chaotic conditions, a new order is right around the corner and will result in more oppression and control over personal freedoms and liberty. That causes pushback against increased controls—which can lead back to anarchy, a never-ending cycle. We must remain true and faithful to our Constitution so that our Republic is preserved through the tribulations of the day. This will prevent a national unraveling.


Author: Dr. Robert Brescia is a senior executive with service to the nation in military, business, and education sectors. He respects the wisdom of generations and promotes the thrill of learning. Bob’s latest book is Destination Greatness – Creating a New Americanism. Bob has a doctoral degree with distinction in Executive Leadership from The George Washington University. Please contact him at [email protected].

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

2 Responses to Redress My Grievances Please!

  1. Chase Sam Reply

    June 23, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Agree with concise and thoughtful assessment

  2. Ted Tuminowski Reply

    June 22, 2020 at 6:05 pm

    Well said Bob, this needs to be in the “guest column” of the newspaper.

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