Recently I was part of an international jury at the 29th Aydın Doğan International Cartoon Competition in Turkey. Some of the jurors and competitors were from countries where citizens who criticize the government can find themselves in prison.
The cartoonists, and their editors, in those countries tread carefully. (Yet one of the main themes among the competing cartoons was revolution. Here’s the co-winner, created by the Turkish artist Doğan Arslan.)
In Turkey, there are more than 100 journalists and a number of mayors and activists jailed by the government on invented charges.
In the U.S., our President has been labeled an extremist-Muslim-Communist-terrorist-Kenyan-alien plotting the destruction of our country. The punishment for the accusers is having Fox microphones and cameras thrust into their faces.
We are protected from arbitrary arrest by our Bill of Rights, which, generally, our government has adhered to since the Constitution was adopted. Many people today probably think the Bill of Rights is the Constitution, but it wasn’t even part of the original document.
What Federalists like Washington, Hamilton, Adams, and Madison actually created with the Constitution was a strong central government that was good for business and muscular enough to protect those in power from the people.
But when it came time to vote for or against the Constitution, many citizens refused to give up their demand for a Bill of Rights.
By 1789, with the Federalists pushing hard, all the states had passed the Consitituion. In 1791:
Update: Imagine if George Washington had acted like today’s Egyptian generals and said, “Guys, your Bill of Rights is certainly symbolically important, and I’m all for it in principle, but, for now, I and my army think our national security and the economy require that we put it on hold.”