If you think about it America has many nicknames. Some call this country the land of the free and the home of the brave. Others see it as the land of opportunity. Then there are those who call us the Great Melting Pot. Like I said, a lot of nicknames. But suppose I were to ask you to pick one word which defined the principle upon which you believe our country to have been founded upon, what word would you pick?
I can almost hear your answers; democracy…liberty…freedom…opportunity. Yet noticeably there is one word missing that I would hope to have heard…JUSTICE. People misunderstand justice. They think justice is when someone robs you, gets caught, then goes to jail. To them, that is justice. But that’s not what justice is all about, or what it means, at least not to me anyway.
Dictionary dot com defines justice as: “the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness” while Merriam Webster’s says this: “the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.”
But when looking up terms, especially legal terms, a standard dictionary often isn’t your best choice when trying to find out the meaning of a word. Sometimes it is better to pick up a legal dictionary, or encyclopedia and search there. So when browsing through Bouvier’s Dictionary of Law I find the following definition of justice: “The constant and perpetual disposition to render every man his due.” Such a short definition, yet it implies so much, and it is the last six words which I really want you to focus on; to render every man his due.
Due is one of those multifaceted words, it can mean a lot of things. If I ask a pregnant woman what her due date is I am referring to when the baby is expected to be born. Then again it also could refer to something that is owed, as in the rent is due at the end of the month. When referring to the definition of justice I am of the inclination that it means something that is owed.
There are a couple ways a person can be owed something. I can loan you some money and then you will owe me that money back; you can go to work for someone and at the end of the pay period you will be owed the wages you have earned. But there is another way in which people can be owed something, it can be a birthright.
What is a birthright you ask? Glad you did. According to the dictionary, and they are all pretty close on this one, a birthright is a right or privilege that a person is entitled to by birth. Our Founders believed that our rights were our birthrights as human beings. They believed that our rights weren’t given us by government, but by our Creator, and that governments were established to protect those rights, not take them away. You see, governments are a creature, or entity, created by man and therefore bound by the rules man imposes upon it. Our rights are beyond the reach of legislators to restrict or violate.
The Preamble to our nation’s Constitution states that one of the reasons they wrote it was to establish Justice, and if justice is to render every man his due, and if by his birth man is born free to fully exercise their rights, then the purpose of government is to ensure that we enjoy our rights, not have them taken from us.
Founding Father James Wilson, one of the first justices to the Supreme Court appointed by George Washington, once said, “Government…should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.”
You see rights are different from entitlements in that entitlements are things that are given to you by someone else. Bust as former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark said, “A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you.”
So where are we today in America 228 years after the Constitution was written? I’ll tell you where, we are at a point in our nation’s history were the overwhelming majority of the people don’t even know, or understand their rights. We are at a point in our nation’s history where people are willing to surrender their most precious possession, their freedom, for the false promises of safety and security. That’s where we are!
We have taken to punishing people, infringing upon and violating their rights because of the actions of a few. That is NOT the American way. Rights are a two sided coin; on one side you have the right to fully exercise your rights as long as you do not violate the rights of others. Then on the other side comes the responsibility to exercise your rights intelligently. That is why you do not walk into a crowded theater and yell FIRE, as that is irresponsible and could cause injury to others as they stampede for the doors. Yet were someone to do that you would not deny others the right to say the word fire, or speak freely. Yet that is what we have done with so many of our other rights.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is frightening.” That is so true.
True freedom is complete and absolute self-reliance. True freedom means you do not need, nor ask, of anyone anything that you need to survive. When you are truly free you are free to speak your mind without fear of retribution or offending someone. Yet today we have lost so much of our freedom of speech simply because certain things are offensive to others. Political correctness is the bane of liberty and it stifles our free speech.
Let me tell you something, you are NOT entitled to go through life without being offended. Got that! If a child praying in school is offensive to you…tough shit, deal with it! I am offended by the non-stop talk of football during football season. Do I tell them to shut up? No, I either ignore them or leave the room. You cannot tell me to stop talking about things simply because they offend you. Do you understand that? Freedom of speech means exactly what is says, a person is free to say whatever they want. But on the flip side if they say something ridiculous or idiotic then others are free to challenge them. My best advice would be to keep your mouth shut unless you have the facts to support your point of view. That way you don’t say something stupid and find that others attack you on your views.
Our government has morphed from one whose job was to preserve our rights into one who believes its job is to limit them. The Court interprets the law as it sees fit. As Justice Charles Evans Hughes said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” This is something our Founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, were rightfully concerned about. Jefferson once said, “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”
When our government passes a law which violates one of our rights, then the Court either remains silent upon it, or upholds it, then we the citizens have all these agencies, from local law enforcement, to federal bureaucracies such as the DEA, ATF, and FBI to enforce them. They do not even begin to question whether the laws they are enforcing are unconstitutional, they just enforce them because they are following orders to do so. Let me tell you something about just following orders, look up the Mai Lai Massacre and see what happens to someone who is only following orders. Orders have to be just, the root of justice, for them to be legitimate. And when an order to enforce a law which violates our rights is given, IT IS UNJUST! Yet, if we fight back and try to defend our rights then WE are the ones treated as criminals. Do you call that justice?
A government, especially one who seeks to enlarge its power, will always find new justifications for limiting the rights of the people…ALWAYS! Our government has taken to calling these justifications wars. We have the War on Crime, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror. War denotes a patriotic response from people and anyone who argues against these ‘wars’ is labeled and criticized as being unpatriotic. Yet when these so-called wars infringe upon my God-given rights you bet your ass I’m gonna complain about them.
In our War on Terror we have seem many of our rights, especially the Fourth Amendment right to be secure in our persons and possessions, violated. Yet in 1967 Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled, in the case of United States v. Robel, “Yet, this concept of “national defense” cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal. Implicit in the term “national defense” is the notion of defending those values and ideals which set this Nation apart. For almost two centuries, our country has taken singular pride in the democratic ideals enshrined in its Constitution, and the most cherished of those ideals have found expression in the First Amendment. It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties — the freedom of association — which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”
You only have those rights you are willing to stand up for, to fight for, if the need be. But first you must learn which rights you have before you can begin talking about defending them. That is why I included the following quote in my last article, because far too many people have forgotten, or not been taught what their rights are. This comes from Democracy in America by de Tocqueville, “Another tendency, which is extremely natural to democratic nations and extremely dangerous, is that which leads them to despise and undervalue the rights of private persons. The attachment which men feel to a right, and the respect which they display for it, is generally proportioned to its importance, or to the length of time during which they have enjoyed it. The rights of private persons amongst democratic nations are commonly of small importance, of recent growth, and extremely precarious; the consequence is that they are often sacrificed without regret, and almost always violated without remorse.”
Although you may not, I understand both the nature of and the purpose for my rights, especially those enshrined in the Bill of Rights. I refuse to simply sit back while you allow them to be taken from me. As Joseph Warren, Founder, Physician, and General who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill once said, “Stain not the glory of your worthy ancestors, but like them resolve to never part with your birthright; be wise in your deliberations, and determined in your exertions for the preservation of your liberties. Follow not the dictates of your passion, but enlist yourselves under the sacred banner of reason; use every method in your power to secure your rights.”
That is my calling, that is my duty as an American, to stand up for my rights. Even if you aren’t willing to do so yourselves.