How much is that freedom in the window?

Missouri’s Proposition B is an example of threats to our constitutional freedoms.

© St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tad Armstrong

The last two sentences of the Star-Spangled Banner are well known: “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Play ball.”

I saw Stan Musial play his last game in Sportsman’s Park and remember paying attention to the words of our national anthem, wondering how anyone could understand freedom without visiting the “land of the unfree,” wherever that was.

Did freedom mean that window of opportunity between homework and bedtime when I could run like the wind to meet up with friends and go exploring? Perhaps it meant venturing a bit beyond the geographical limits my parents set for me and returning home before the fireflies lit up the night. No, it had to mean more than that to cause people to stand, take off their caps, place their hand over their hearts and sing in public.

My teachers told me a man by the name of Patrick Henry thought it was such a big deal that he would rather die than live without it.

I concluded at a young age that freedom was a relative term, that its best friend was responsibility and that Americans took great pride in having a whole lot of it. It was so important to grown-ups that everyone had to sing about it before a ballgame could even start.

I also observed that getting it was very expensive. At least, that is what was said every time medals were bestowed upon war heroes or wreaths were laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

But, if we value it so highly, then why do the following quotes ring true? Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter: “We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost.” President Madison: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of…freedom…by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” (Anyone taking notes?) Supreme Court Justice Brandeis: “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

The greatest blow to freedom in 2010 did not occur in the nation’s capital. It occurred right here in the heartland and goes by the name of the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (Missouri’s Proposition B). Its success is alarming because, by its terms, businesses with ten or less dogs are exempt, animal shelters are exempt and successful, legitimate dog breeders with an inventory of over fifty dogs are criminalized. Let’s see, “small business” abusers of dogs and poorly run “humane” societies need not comply because, apparently, those dogs don’t need room to stretch like other dogs or it is just too much work for government to prosecute the owner of nine abused dogs or, as we should know, all animal shelters are run by perfect human beings. But a family-run business of seventy-five breeding dogs that exceeds all of the law’s standards is deemed guilty by virtue of its success alone. They are criminals who must reduce their livelihood by one third because illegitimate abusive competitors give Missouri a bad name. Surely such injustice could only happen in the “land of the unfree,” right?

How about a little common sense? 936,000 people do not vote against “man’s best friend” unless something truly sinister is afoot. That has to mean that the other 997,000 either did not understand the proposition or freedom (to them) has far less meaning than it does to the rest of us.

I favor the humane treatment of “all” breeding dogs in “every” facility (no exemptions) and detest making criminals out of legitimate business owners whose only crime is being more successful than their abusive competitors. Such an amendment should add 936,000 to the “yes” column.

In 1776 our forefathers died to defeat lesser evils than the imposition of a limit upon the freedom to achieve and, remarkably, this law wasn’t even created behind closed doors – no Louisiana Purchase or Cornhusker Kickback here. This was done in the light of day by Missourians to Missourians!

Some in the majority are insulted by repeal advocates who claim the proposition was misunderstood. The greater fear is that the majority did understand. Still insulted? So am I, for I would never have thought a majority of my neighbors to the west would have placed such a cheap price on freedom.

My son can hardly wait for the national anthem to conclude with “play ball” at Busch stadium this spring, but it won’t seem quite the same to those who both love dogs and cherish “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the “land of the not-quite-as-free-as-last-season.”


  1. Roy Miller says:

    It seems to me I remember a bill going before the Missouri public about the Right to Carry Concealed weapons. Missourians defeated that bill as well and once again the Government, this time the Missouri government stepped in and had the bill removed because they said people didn’t understand the bill. Why is when things are voted against that may clean up the Puppy Mills in this instance the public didn’t under stand it. Maybe we should recast every vote for that elected a Tea Bagger because the American public didn’t understand!!!! It’s a shame that some bad breeders made it where someone had to get the government involved. But the same goes for Seatbelt laws, and helmet laws, sometimes the law that enforce or encroach on our freedoms are for the GOOD!

    Roy Miller

    • Tad Armstrong says:

      Always good to hear from you, Roy. I have been criticized for not honoring the will of the voters. I am criticized a lot for what I do not say. Please note I did not suggest Missouri legislators should repeal Prop B. I merely point out that the bill is utterly foolish. A great many dogs fall under the radar (small owners and animal shelters are exempt) and punishing otherwise good owners simply for have more than 50 is unAmerican and has nothing to do with caring for dogs. Nothing!! In additon, all an owner of 30 need do to be exempt is ship 10 to cousin Fred and 10 to cousin Mary and all are exempt. I have never been more right on this one.