Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Know My Rights

If a man went simply by what he saw, he might be tempted to affirm that the essence of democracy is melodrama.

Irving Babbit

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In the dispute between Andrei Sitov, correspondent for Russia's official news agency ITAR-TASS, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the score was Sitov 1, Gibbs 0. In a discussion about the massacre that took place in the Tucson parking lot, Sitov offered his condolences to "all Americans" and the victims. Then Sitov said the slaughter that took place "does not seem all that incomprehensible, at least from the outside. It's the reverse side of freedom. Unless you want restrictions, unless you want a bigger role for the government."

Gibbs strongly protested that assertion.
"No, no, I would disagree vehemently with that. There are -- there is nothing in the values of our country, there's nothing on the many laws on our books that would provide for somebody to impugn and impede on the very freedoms that you began with by exercising the actions that that individual took on that day. That is not American. There are -- I think there's agreement on all sides of the political spectrum: Violence is never, ever acceptable. We had people that died. We had people whose lives will be changed forever because of the deranged actions of a madman. Those are not American. Those are not in keeping with the important bedrock values by which this country was founded and by which its citizens live each and every day of their lives in hopes of something better for those that are here."

Gibbs's rhetoric is very fine and few Americans, if any, would argue with it, but it does not address the issue posed by Sitov. One may say it's splitting hairs or "just a matter of interpretation" but the fact remains there is a big difference between freedoms and rights.

President Bush said that we were fighting in Iraq to protect our freedoms. And now the same is said about our troops in Afghanistan. But what freedoms are they fighting to protect? The freedom to shoot a bunch of innocent people in a parking lot in Arizona?

I am free to take your car and you are free to take my computer. Yes. You can come into my apartment, unhook my computer and take it away and if I see your car parked somewhere and I can get into it, start it, drive it away and no one stops me I am free to take your car. Anything one can do one is free to do. But if everyone did what they wanted to we would be living in a state of barbaric anarchy.

So we enter into n agreement with each other, a contract. I agree not to take your car and you agree not to take my computer. Then we firm up that contract with a law, thus making it illegal to take your car, and if I'm caught with it I've broken the contract, I've broken the law, it's a crime, grand theft auto, and I will go to prison, thus depriving me of my freedoms.

The most important contract we have in this country is the Constitution. Attached to the Constution is a series of 10 amendments, known as the Bill Of Rights. It's actually a bill of restrictions. "Congress shall make no law..." etc.

The second amendment states "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. " That amendment can never be removed from the Constitution, it can only be amended against. But if it loses its position and influence that might put into jeopardy the entire Bill of Rights. We might find ourselves losing the right to speak, publish, worship, assemble, protest and have a fair trial So did Jared Loughner have the freedom to own a gun? Yes. Did he have the right to own a gun? Yes. Did he have the freedom to shoot people with it in the parking lot in Arizona? Yes. Did he have the right to shoot them? No. Why not? Because of a contract with Americans which allows them the right to live, a freedom they already have. To steal a man's car is a crime. To take away a man's life is a crime. For the same reasons. The freedom to do those things are denied by the contracts, and hence the laws against them.

The US Congress is in the business of passing legislation to define and protect our rights. Which they will do if they ever stop insulting each other. They can't protect our freedoms, any more than the troops in Afghanistan can. We own those freedoms. But they can protect our "unalienable rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Dana Bate
Vagabond Journeys
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WINTER QUESTION
(This is not a contest)

What was the most significant event that happened in 2010?

dbdacoba@aol.com

Only 2 responses so far

I await your answer.
DB
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4 comments:

Cathy said...

So many of our "constitutional" rights have been slipping away seemingly without our care or concern. "Bill of Restrictions" I like that phrase. I was reading the Paris Treaty (post Rev-war)helped along by Franklin and John Jay, and it's truly a collection of what the King would cease doing, hardly anything about what the colonies would be permitted to do without help from anyone - which is what we demanded. The freedom to make choices, mistakes, have consequences and learn from them, should be sacrosanct. Enjoyed this post, thanks DB.

Beth said...

You did a great job in distinguishing between the freedom to do something and the legal right to do it. Nicely done.

pacifica62 said...

I am thinking that this is a problem that only Americans can deal with. We do not have these same issues in Canada, and probably many other countries do not as well.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

For all our challenges, this is still the greatest country to live in.