This week marks the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta (Great Charter) by King John on June 15, 1215. The charter consisted of a preamble and 63 clauses. Among the greatest interest to later generations was clause 39, which guaranteed the right to trial by jury. This document marked a turning point in English history. From that point onwards, no English king could rule as an absolute monarch without risking civil war.
It is important to remember that the Magna Carta was not a declaration of new rights but rather an assertion of existing ones. The U.S. Declaration of Independence carried on in the tradition of the Magna Carta in that it was a statement of existing rights, and that since those rights were being denied with no end in sight, the colonies were declaring independence from Great Britain.
It is also important to remember that Archbishop Stephen Langton and the noblemen of England did not get John to sign the Magna Carta by marching in the streets, or sending humble petitions to the king, because they knew that would not work. They knew that John was a tyrant and that tyrants respect only one thing — force. The nobles trapped John in a castle and forced him to sign the document on pain of dethronement and/or death.
Today, as Americans struggle with how they are to regain their liberty, we offer this fictional story of a possible future. God grant that we turn this Republic around before such a future befalls us.
April 18, 2035 – New York City
President John Paladino’s motorcade is headed to JFK for the flight back to Washington. The president has just concluded a speech to the New York Chamber of Commerce promoting his new economic stimulus package which has been blocked in Congress for weeks.
The president looks with pride on the city he helped restore as mayor. The city had been a wreck when he took office. Looking to the example of his mentor Rudy Giuliani, Paladino had but the city back on track. He had done such a good job that he had been asked to join his party’s presidential ticket as vice president.
Paladino had ascended to the presidency just a few months earlier when his predecessor, President Richard Lyons, had died in a tragic hunting accident. Lyons had been a very popular president and Paladino would have to work hard to get out of his shadow.
Just before reaching the JFK, an explosion nearly destroys the presidential limo and sends its occupants tumbling. The source of the explosion is an advanced road-side bomb, and it is quickly followed by several more such explosions which cause the motorcade to stop dead in its tracks. Almost immediately over 30 heavily-armed men wearing masks (they will later by indentified as an elite group of ISIS commandos) attack the motorcade with the goal of taking the president hostage.
The secret service and NYPD fight heroically in defense of the president and his 14-year old son Jack Jr. The firefight lasts for less than ten minutes but will leave effects felt for years in America. When the smoke clears all but one of the ISIS commandos are dead, the last one is severely wounded and was spared only for interrogation purposes. The cost to the president is much more severe. Thirteen secret service agents (including three women) lay dead; seventeen more are wounded. Fifteen NYPD personal are dead and twenty-nine wounded. Twenty-nine civilians have been killed and over sixty wounded. Most tragic of all, Jack Jr. was struck by shrapnel and dies in his father’s arms.
During the week following the New York attacks, news reports reveal that most of the ISIS commandos came across the Mexican border with most of their heavy weaponry. They acquired more weapons from sleeper agents in the US and were joined in New York City by their unit commander who arrived by airplane on a fake visa.
Paladino is furious after the death of his only child and is determined that such an attack must never happen again. He knows what he wants to do won’t be popular, but he isn’t very worried. “After Waco, Oklahoma City, 9/11, the Patriot Act, wiretapping, internet spying, and all the rest, Do you really think these sheep who call themselves “free citizens” will do anything about this but moan a little bit and stage a protest or two?” Paladino sneers to his chief of staff. “They will do exactly what they are told.” The chief of staff grins and replies “Yes, Mr. President.”
May 4 – Washington
President Paladino signs several emergency executive orders which will (1) create a national gun registry; (2) close loopholes in the purchase of guns; (3) create a mandatory buy-back program for all assault weapons; (4) create an domestic uniformed police force; (5) allow all the phone, email, and web traffic of Americans to be monitored in detail by the NSA; (6) triple the U.S. Border Patrol; (7) build fence on both borders; (8) and change airport screening and visa process with the practical result of making it virtually impossible for non-citizen Muslim men other likely terrorists to legally get into the country without great scrutiny. The orders are collectively known as the Defend America Executive Orders (DAEO).
DAEO is meet with great opposition. Protests erupt in many cities. In Washington protesters chant “USA” and “Death to All Tyrants”. Opposition comes from elected officials as well, with one southern governor decrying DAEO as “Un-Constitutional, Un-American, Tyrannical, and Hitlerian”
President Paladino responds to the criticisms by stating that DAEO is “absolutely necessary to national security. This is no time for internal division and backbiting.” Paladino scoffs at the attacks commenting “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.” Paladino warns dissidents that “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Over the next few weeks, several governors and hundreds of sheriffs and mayors announce they will not comply with certain parts of DAEO. Virtually every elected official in America is against at least one part of DAEO.
Governor Steven Langdon of Georgia announces that he will be filing a federal lawsuit to stop DAEO and vows to call out the Georgia State Defense Forces to protect his people if the federal government attempts to seize any guns in Georgia. Governors of both parties express support for him.
Georgia Governor Steven Langdon (left) being interviewed after his decision to resist President Jack Paladino’s(right) DAEO in courts and by force if necessary.
June 4 – Atlanta
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocks the implementation of DAEO pending review by the Supreme Court.
Governor Langdon addresses a cheering crowd of over 50,000 in Atlanta shortly after the court decision, declaring “George the Third had his Washington, Hitler his Churchill; and Jack Paladino would do well to learn from their examples. “Sic semper tyrannis – thus always to tyrants”. Within days, Sic semper tyrannis will appear on t-shirts, cars, and most prominently on yard signs stuck on the sides of highways all over the country.
President Paladino announces that he will proceed with DAEO until the Supreme Court rules on the issue. The president mocks Langdon as an “18th century throwback” and a “Jefferson wannabe”.
Paladino has counted the votes on the Court and believes he has a 5-4 majority for DAEO.
June 8 – Washington
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Lee announces that the Supreme Court will hear the case from Georgia regarding DAEO.
June 15-17 – Denver
President Paladino and several governors meet to discuss potential reforms to the DAEO. Both sides appeal to the Constitution, federal law, and the Supreme Court for assistance to justify their positions in the dispute. Georgia Governor Steve Langdon is specifically excluded from the talks. During the negotiations, the governors produced an initial document, which calls for the amending of DAEO and several other changes to federal policy. Paladino hopes that the courts (who almost always side with the federal government against the states) will give him the valuable legal and moral support he needs, and so he plays for time.
Paladino also begins preparing police and military forces for the implementation of DAEO. There is much less opposition then expected from the military leaders on the idea of martial law and gun confiscation. Ever since the 1990’s the military had been purged of it’s more conservative members of the officer corps and there is no Patton, MacArthur, or even an Eisenhower to be found in the top brass anymore.
The same cannot be said for the lower ranks and enlisted men. Media reports indicate that the number of sick leaves, family leaves, and AWOLs are at an all time high. Speculation runs rampant that this is due to opposition to DAEO.
In a further move to shore up his support, Paladino starts plans to bomb and possibly invade ISIS bases in Yemen and Sudan, a move which he hopes will give him additional political support, and take attention away from the domestic crisis.
June 18 – Washington
Drudge Report breaks the story that the White House has been working with the NSA, IRS, CIA, and FBI to threaten and blackmail private citizens, journalists, members of congress, and even a supreme court justice. This is the biggest leak of government information since the Edward Snowden leak of 2013.
These revelations show Governor Langdon and several other governors that there is nothing Paladino will not do to get his way. Paladino has control over the military, the intelligence services, and even (it appears) the courts.
Afternoon, June 28 – Washington
The U.S. Supreme Court announces that they are divided on the issue of DAEO case. 4 justices rule that it is constitutional, 4 rule that is not, 1 (the one who Paladino had been trying to blackmail) abstains. Both sides see this as a justification of their case since lower courts have already ruled both ways on the issue.
Evening, June 28 – Atlanta
One of Chief Justice Lee’s clerks meet secretly with Governor Langdon. The clerk informs Langdon that the Chief Justice is willing to support Langdon if the governor decides to resist DAEO with military force. “You must change your tactics or lose the game, governor” the clerk tells Langdon. The governor is silent for a moment and then speaks words that will change America forever. “The die is cast; there is no going back. Sic semper tyrannis”.
Governor Langdon (in his capacity as Chairman of the National Governors Association) calls an emergency conference of governors in Atlanta to discuss how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision and the eminent implementation of DAEO.
July 1 – Atlanta
36 governors meet at the Georgia State Capitol to discuss the proper response to DAEO. About two-thirds of the governors want to resist with non-compliance. The more radical governors point out that strategy won’t work since President Paladino is planning to use the military to enforce DAEO.
July 2 – Atlanta
The radicals (led by Governor Langdon) propose a series of resolutions collectively known as the Articles of Freedom. The articles assert the rights of the states and of the people to resist Paladino’s tyranny based on precedents going all the way back to the Magna Carta. The articles require President Paladino to resend DAEO as well as hundreds of other executive orders put in place by his predecessors going back over fifty years. The articles call on Congress to pass constitutional amendments which include, giving the states a veto over federal action by majority votes by governors or state legislatures; establishing an automatic sunset on all federal laws, regulations, and executive orders; and requiring a balanced budget and super majorities to raise taxes or the federal debt limit. The articles further state if congress does not pass such amendments within 100 days, the states will call an Article V Convention to pass them. The most radical part of the articles is saved for last. The final article states that if President Paladino refuses to resend his “unconstitutional and tyrannical” executive orders, the states will regard him as an “illegitimate usurper and despot, who has forfeited all protections and prerogatives of the Office of President of the United States”.
Although an informal vote on passage fails 17-18, the radicals are encouraged on how close the vote was.
July 2 – Washington
President Paladino is informed of the actions of the NGA and calls a press conference for the next day.
July 3 – Washington
President Paladino holds a morning press conference to announce that “certain subversives” are meeting in Atlanta to discuss “treason against the people of the United States”. He further announces that he will travel to Atlanta that afternoon to “settle to issues and bring the matter to an end”. He announces that those who have been misled will have mercy extended to them. Paladino also declares that for those who continue in their “treason”, the punishment will be trial and execution.
July 3 – Atlanta
The governors are shocked and galvanized by Paladino’s announcement. Two governors leave but thirty-four remain, determined to see it through. A formal vote on passage of the draft Articles of Freedom passes 20-11. The conference decides to hold formal release of the articles until meeting with Paladino. Governor Langdon is working to get a unanimous vote in favor and so prepares for the meeting with the President.
July 4 – Atlanta
President Paladino arrives at the Georgia State Capitol with fewer than usual secret service agents. Paladino wants to show his contempt for the governors by appearing to be unafraid of them and their states.
In his address to the governors, Paladino offers no compromise and warns them that if they do not adjourn immediately, he will order the FBI to arrest them when they return to their states. The governors boo him and shout “Sic semper tyrannis”.
After Paladino finishes his speech, Governor Langdon responds with a short and powerful speech that brings the governors to their feet with applause. Langdon then calls a recess after which the Governors will vote on the final draft of the articles.
President Paladino, Governor Langdon, and a few other governors meet during the recess. Paladino refuses to discuss any compromises until the conference adjourns and Langdon resigns from office.
Langdon surprises all when he opens a side door and in walks Chief Justice Lee. Lee declares that he is siding with the governors and gives them his blessing. Paladino still refuses to relent.
Langdon informs Paladino that the Georgia State Defense Force (SDF) has sealed the building and the President will not be permitted to leave unless he signs the articles. To prove it, he opens the door to reveal the SDF have disarmed the secret service agents on the president’s detail.
A furious Paladino screams and threatens for a solid ten minutes before realizing that the Langdon, Lee and the governors will not relent. He then agrees to sign the Articles.
The conference reconvenes with Chief Justice Lee presiding, Lee, Langdon, and Paladino makes short speeches supporting the articles, which then pass unanimously and the President, Lee, and all the governors sign them.
On the plane back to Washington that night, an enraged Paladino declares that “I will have the traitors in jail by next week or I’ll be dead”. He has no idea how prophetic his statement will be.
July 5 – Washington
President Paladino orders an airborne brigade deployed to Atlanta to arrest Langdon, Lee, and the NGA. Paladino’s Vice President Theodore “Buck” Henry urges him not to take this drastic step. Henry is a moderate and civil libertarian who has opposed DAEO (in private) from the start.
July 7 – Atlanta
Paladino lands with the airborne brigade at the Atlanta airport to find Langdon and the Georgia SDF waiting for them. Paladino mounts the lead tank and nearly fails off as his smooth soul shoes get almost no traction on the slippery armor plates.
Paladino leads the tank column and airborne troops to the edge of the airport to confront Langdon. Langdon orders the SDF to “not fire unless fired upon. But if he wants a war, let it begin here.”
Paladino’s tank stops just short of strips of three-inch spikes laid down by the SDF to stop trucks and jeeps. Paladino (mindful of the cameras and reporters watching) declines any help dismounting the tank.
Paladino meets Langdon for a few minutes in between the two forces. Langdon offers to resign as Governor if Paladino will honor the Articles and withdraw the troops. Paladino refuses and declares that he will not honor the articles and intends to arrest Langdon and all the governors as well as declare martial law in every state whose governor signed the articles. Langdon tells the president that he will resist to the last rather than submit to such terms. The two part and prepare for battle.
Paladino is so angry he fails to watch his step and as he reaches the top of the tank he slips and falls backwards onto the spikes, his body impaled and pierced over twenty times. A truce is called and Paladino is rushed to a hospital, but he falls into a coma shortly after reaching surgery.
July 7 – Washington
Paladino’s cabinet invokes the 25th Amendment and Vice President Henry becomes Acting President. Henry’s first two actions are to order the withdraw of troops from Atlanta and the halting of the implementation of DAEO.
July 8 – Atlanta
President Paladino, having never come out of his coma, dies from his wounds. Governor Langdon writes in his diary, “Today a dishonorable man died in a dishonorable manner. Sic semper tyrannis”.
July 8 – Washington
Acting President Henry is formally sworn-in as president in a quiet ceremony in the Oval Office.
The death of Paladino ends the crisis that might have resulted in tyranny or civil war.
President Henry works to secure passage of the Articles of Freedom amendments (collectively know as the “Second Bill of Rights”) through Congress as well as resending the executive orders named in the Articles.
Henry wins re-election in 2036 and 2040 and presides over an era of peace and prosperity. Henry takes limited roles in both congressional affairs and the state maters, allowing both to regain their rightful influence. When he leaves office in 2045, Henry will have the highest approval rating for a retiring president in the history of the Gallup poll.
Governor Langdon declines many calls to run for President and instead accepts an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court from President Henry. Langdon serves on the Court for over forty years, including thirty-two as Chief Justice. Langdon will lead the court in a constructionist direction and will be remembered as one of the three most influential Chief Justices in history, along with Earl Warren and John Marshall.
Though, while but a hundred of us remain alive, we will not submit in the slightest measure…We do not fight for honor, riches, or glory, but solely for freedom which no true man gives up but with his life. — Scottish Declaration of Independence
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. — Thomas Jefferson
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States, where men were free. — Ronald Reagan
Victory or Death — George Washington