Let me tell you about 56 men who risked everything -- their fortunes and their lives -- to take a stand for truth. These men laid everything on the line, pledged it all -- "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor" -- because they believed in a radical idea: that all people are created to be free. They believed that freedom is a spiritual concept in that the rights we possess are, in their words, given to us by the Creator. Let me emphasize: At the heart of these rights is a radical freedom, the freedom to speak, to dissent, to protest, and to seek relief, if necessary, against an unjust government -- that is, one that won't listen to the people.

"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots." -- Barbara Ehrenreich, The Worst Years of Our Lives: Irreverent Notes from a Decade of Greed

Recently, I was invited to speak to a group of affluent, upper-middle-class retirees. The host's estate was extensive, his home was airy and spacious, original art graced the walls, and the guests ranged from dignitaries to activists from the civil-rights era.

I had been invited to lead a discussion on ways to minimize political polarization and find common ground, and I agreed, hoping that these people -- who are well-educated, well-connected and well-to-do -- would want to get involved in the freedom struggle and effect change within their spheres of influence. Instead, I came face-to-face with those I've been writing about for years: materially comfortable, disconnected from reality, and totally oblivious to what's been going on in the American government as far as the erosion of our civil liberties and the amassing of power by the federal government.

I quickly realized that what these people call "polarization" is actually Americans challenging the status quo, especially the so-called government elite. To my surprise, I found myself on the receiving end of a group lecture in which I was reprimanded for being too negative in my views of the government. I was also informed that I need to have "faith" in our leaders and refrain from criticizing our president because Americans still live in the best country in the world. In other words, my patriotism was called into question.

"We must see the need for nonviolent gadflies." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

When it comes to the staggering loss of civil liberties, the Constitution hasn't changed. Rather, it is the American people who have changed.

Once a citizenry that generally fomented a rebellion and founded a country, Americans are no longer the people they once were. Americans today live in a glass dome, says author Nicholas von Hoffman, a kind of terrarium, cut off from both reality and the outside world. In his words, they are "bobbleheads in Bubbleland. They shop in bubbled malls, they live in gated communities, and they move from place to place breathing their own private air in bubble-mobiles known as SUVs."

Quite simply, most Americans, having been beguiled by materialism and technology, are more or less compliant lambs, only protesting when someone takes away their cell phone or causes them material discomfort. And if the specter of a terrorist attack (no matter how tenuous) is raised, most are willing to give over their rights to feel safer. Indeed, while the government inches ever closer to authoritarianism, many Americans are blissfully oblivious to the fact that a police state -- even martial law -- may be one terrorist attack away.

Ominous developments in America have been a long time coming, in part precipitated by "we the people" -- a citizenry that has been asleep at the wheel for too long. And while there have been wake-up calls, we have failed to heed the warnings.

Just consider the state of our nation:

We're encased in what some are calling an electronic concentration camp. The government continues to amass data files on more and more Americans. Everywhere we go, we are watched: at the banks, at the grocery store, at the mall, crossing the street. This loss of privacy is symptomatic of the growing surveillance being carried out on average Americans. Such surveillance gradually poisons the soul of a nation, transforming us from one in which we're presumed innocent until proven guilty to one in which everyone is a suspect and presumed guilty. Thus, the question that must be asked is: Can freedom in the United States flourish in an age when the physical movements, individual purchases, conversations, and meetings of every citizen are under constant surveillance by private companies and government agencies?

"The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." - James Madison

Over the course of his first year in office, Barack Obama has shown himself to be a skillful and savvy politician, saying the things Americans want to hear while stealthily and inexorably moving forward the government's agenda of centralized power. For example, in one breath, Obama pays lip service to the need for greater transparency in government, while in another, he issues an executive order that will result in even more government secrecy.

He is aided in this Machiavellian mindset by a trusting populace inclined to take him at his word and a mainstream media seemingly loath to criticize him or scrutinize his actions too closely. A perfect example of this is the media's relative lack of scrutiny over Obama's recent transformation of Executive Order (EO) 12425 from a document that constitutionally limits the domestic activities of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to one that establishes it as an autonomous police agency within the U.S.

"I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore.' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad! ... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it." -- Howard Beale, Network (1976)

Imagine a world exempt from parking tickets, where gym membership is free and health care is second-to-none. To receive these benefits, you also only have to work two, maybe three days a week -- a time period during which you will be shuttled around in a nice car. The other days of the week you can spend at home with your family. Luckily, every weekend is a long weekend, and you won't have to be back at work until Tuesday evening.

This job description might seem too good to be true, but for our so-called "representatives" in Congress who enjoy incredible job perks ranging from free meals to membership in swanky health clubs, all at taxpayer expense, it seems that there is such a thing as a free lunch -- literally and figuratively!

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." -- Thomas Jefferson

According to President Barack Obama, making school days longer and extending the academic school year will increase learning and raise test scores among American children. However, it's not the length of the school year that is the problem so much as the quality of education being imparted to young people, especially when it comes to knowing American history and their rights -- what we used to call civics.

Clearly, the public schools are fostering civic ignorance. For example, a recent study of 1,000 Oklahoma high-school students found that only 3 percent would be able to pass the U.S. Immigration Services' citizenship exam, while incredibly 93 percent of those from foreign countries who took the same test passed. Only 28 percent of Oklahoma students could name the "supreme law of the land" (the Constitution), while even less could identify Thomas Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence. Barely one out of every four students knew that George Washington was the nation's first president. None of the students correctly answered eight or more of the 10 questions, and 97 percent scored 50 percent or less.

Religion and religious expression have been objects of censorship in the public schools for quite some time. However, the intolerance of anything related to religion has taken a turn for the absurd in recent years. It makes no difference that the material in question does not proselytize, or that it was presented to people who by and large do not know that it was religious, or even that it is not meant to be religious. What matters is what school officials consider to be religious.

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Nurre v. Whitehead, which affirms the right of school administrators to censor material that has the remotest connection to religion, illustrates exactly how outlandish things have become.

"I call not upon a few, but upon all: not on this state or that state, but on every state; up and help us; lay your shoulders to the wheel; better to have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake."" -- Thomas Paine, 1776

Federal law mandates that all high schools, colleges, and universities across the country that receive federal funds host educational events about the Constitution on Constitution Day, September 17. There will also be various festivities in Washington, D.C., and in some communities across America celebrating the Constitution.

Yet we would do well to do more than pay lip service to the Constitution once a year. Formally adopted on September 17, 1787, it has long served as the bulwark of American freedom and as an example for struggling nations worldwide.

Unfortunately, the rights enshrined in the Constitution are under constant attack.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. now stands at 9.5 percent and soon will top 10 percent. And the number of U.S. households on the verge of losing their homes soared by nearly 15 percent in the first half of this year. This has caused some economists to question whether the country is headed toward another economic meltdown - a point of no return. However, watching the news coverage of Barack Obama's adventures while in office, you might be forgiven for thinking there were no problems left to solve in terms of the economy.