Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Unalienable Rights of All

On July 4th, we published a set of Ten Characteristics of ‘A True US Patriot’. Defined by a group of people representing different backgrounds, political affiliations, and philosophies, these Ten Characteristics were not meant to be an exhaustive list, but to serve instead as a base foundation to help counter the misappropriation and misuse of the term.

Having provided a common definition for the core Characteristics, we’ll now examine each point separately in order to clarify them.

The first Characteristic focuses explicitly upon rights and freedoms. It echoes the intent of the Constitution to set the foundation for the ‘unalienable’ rights of people.

A True US Patriot

realizes if the rights of one are violated, the rights of all are at risk, and objects to any attempt to alter the Constitution in order to specifically undermine the rights and freedoms of others, ensuring that the Constitution will never be amended to endorse discrimination of any kind.

The foundations for this point are various.

While the term ‘unalienable rights’ enters our history first from the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, it is within our Constitution that the system of government is defined, and rights are specifically guaranteed. In order to explore the meaning more fully, consider the
Amendment to the Constitution, “Rights retained by the People”.

Boiled down into plain language the 9th Amendment protects our un-enumerated rights. In other words our Founding Fathers realized, even so long ago, that times change, and with change would come new rights that are inherently ours by birth right and that Congress must recognize them as they arose in the public awareness. They knew even then that they could never hope to compile a comprehensive list of all human rights. So they wrote the 9th Amendment as a warning to Congress that they have no power to grant rights that are already ours by virtue of being human beings.

However, in a ‘true’ democracy, the majority has carte blanch to dictate over the minority. This country was never meant to be a democracy, where the majority rules at the expense of others.

We do not live in a true democracy, which, by definition, means that the majority rules all of the time.

Our Founding Fathers realized that in order to protect the rights of every individual, there had to be some limitations placed on majority rule. So concerned were they, they created the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These documents, the foundation for all our laws, decree that majority rules only as long as the majority does not violate the constitutionally guaranteed rights of even one individual.

When a judge or panel of judges rules a law unconstitutional, they are NOT being “activist judges”. In fact, they are simply doing what the judicial branch is supposed to do, which is to protect the rights of EVERY individual from laws that violate their rights guaranteed in the US Constitution.

It doesn't matter how popular a law or resolution might be. If it is unconstitutional, it is up to the courts in our legal system to make such a law null and void. It is their sworn duty and they would be derelict to allow to stand any law that violated the constitutional rights guaranteed each and every one of us.

If we allowed laws based on simple majority rule, then women and blacks might still not have the right to vote. When the rights of one individual are violated by some law, it puts the rights of EVERY individual at risk, especially if such a violation does not go unchallenged. Allowing unconstitutional laws to stand invites discrimination against minorities. For example, by allowing Jim Crow laws to stand, blacks continued to face discrimination even at the hands of law enforcement officials. Today, even the feeble attempt to pass the unconstitutional Federal Marriage Amendment has resulted in a marked increase in hate crimes towards and discrimination against gays.

Our founding fathers wrote a document that was designed to PROTECT rights, not take them away. They could not change social mores overnight, but created a document that would, as society matured and recognized that "all men" meant "all living, breathing human beings," protect the rights of those newly enfranchised minorities. Aside from Prohibition (which was eventually repealed), there's not one instance in which the US Constitution has been amended to deny anyone rights. They created a document that would hold true for a society that was much more socially mature than theirs was. When you think about it this was quite an accomplishment, since they had no real idea what our society would be like in 2005.

Our Founding Fathers KNEW conditions would change, they KNEW they couldn't think of everything, and that's why they made provision to change their work, as needed. However, they made it pretty difficult to make changes because they didn't want the Constitution to go hog-wild chasing every passing fancy. But a MAJOR change in society, such as the eventual recognition that persons of other races are "human" and that women are "human" and THEREFORE possessed of unalienable rights just as they considered themselves to be. THAT level of change is possible to accommodate. However, change should only be in ONE direction: that of protecting rights, not of taking them away.

The rights themselves are unalienable. Attempting to amend the Constitution to take rights away from anybody is misguided and futile. The recognition of those rights is what was accomplished by the Amendments "granting" them. Our rights aren't given or taken away; they are merely recognized or unlawfully with-held.

That's what "unalienable" means. And a True US Patriot recognizes and defends the unalienable rights of all citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


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