Your Rights…

…mean just as much as mine.  Go figure.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ The Declaration of Independence, 1776


“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.”

~ James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10, published 23 November 1787


Liberty is a funny thing.  The revolutionary idea that everyone is entitled to fundamental rights is still….well, revolutionary.  One would’ve hoped that almost two and a half centuries into this whole democratic republic thing, we might have actually gotten the hang of the concept.  Poor founding fathers, they really did try, it’s not their fault that the population apparently remains too ignorant to put it together.  It seems that no matter how hard you try to integrate the idea of inherent freedoms into a nation, writing it into a Declaration of Independence, codifying it as the law of the land in the Constitution, people just don’t get it.  Oh sure, they’re happy to harp on their own rights, but if you ask them to extend that thought the tiniest bit to realize the person next to them is entitled to the same exact set of rights, they go nuts over the differences between them and their fellow citizen.  You would think we’d be beyond debating at least the concept that we all should have rights that the government cannot infringe on, but alas, it seems we’re still stuck in the same exact place we started.

Here’s an intriguing concept courtesy of the American Revolution – you don’t get to write your personal opinion into law.  You know what they say about everyone having an opinion, well the crazy idea of American liberty was that you got to be entitled to your opinion, and no one could lock you up for it or abridge your right to it!  Unfortunately for all the people out there who want everyone to agree with them all the time or think only they are right, everyone else gets the same set of liberties.  Your opinion, your beliefs, your rights only go so far as they do not infringe on those of anyone else.  That is why, say, murder, is illegal, but at least under the theory of American Constitutional Law (though admittedly not always in practice), public dissent is not.  Believe me, other countries without the same set of guiding principles aren’t so gentle on that front.  The founding fathers were reacting to the ideals of the Old World that saw men locked up for disagreeing with the King.  Today, well, check out any current news on Russia or the Middle East to see what happens to people who publicly disagree with those in power or who try to promote greater fundamental freedom in societies that do not have the notion of liberty and rights at the core of their government framework.  And yet, despite seeing this around us, we are still trying to oppress one another and abridge each other’s rights!  My silly, spoiled fellow Americans – do you even understand what the Constitution and Declaration of Independence means??

The Revolutionary generation worked and fought and died for a concept that we still don’t seem to understand as a nation.  We are so tied to our petty political bickering and weighed down by the immense force of our own self-centered ideas that we speak and debate and never stop to actually think.  Our liberty, our unalienable rights, our fundamental freedom as citizens only work when everyone has them.  That’s what “all men” means.  Not just me, not just you, dear Reader, not just the President, or the political party currently in power, but everyone in this nation is entitled to their rights.  And it takes everyone; me, you, Congress, the Judiciary, the President, every single citizen, to set aside our own opinions for ten seconds and acknowledge the opinions of our most different fellow citizen, to make sure our government continues to function as it should.  Our nation is ridiculously revolutionary because of this, because it demands that we as citizens look at one another and say, yes I have rights AND so does the person next to me, and it is my duty to ensure that I preserve not just my own rights but that I seek to preserve that other person’s as well, no matter how different they and their beliefs are.  The founding fathers did this, they set aside personal differences, religious ones, political opinions, all of it.  Did they debate?  Certainly, but they actually tried to come to a consensus that would preserve the most freedom and abridge the least.  We are lost.  We are lost because we no longer care for anyone but the person we see in the mirror.

Res Publica

Documentation without Representation:

The Declaration of Independence,

Federalist Paper No. 10 by James Madison,

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