Digging into the archives again; I first posted this Dec. 15, 20217, five years ago today … stay tuned for a postscript.
A long time ago in a land of hope and plenty, a perfect union was formed. But after a few years people got together to try again, declaring the new arrangement was “a more perfect union.”
Even at that, they perceived something was missing from their founding document. They made 10 additions.
On Dec. 15 each year, we celebrate Bill of Rights Day in honor of the added words that enhanced the founding document and cemented the ideals of this more perfect union.
1. We have the freedom to tap into the Power of the universe as we see fit, to speak and publish our views, to gather together in peace, and even to petition the government to right a perceived wrong, all without fear that some agent of the government will interfere with these freedoms.
2. We have the freedom to defend our lives and property against aggression and to be prepared for such defense.
3. We have the freedom to decide who can live in our homes.
4. We have assurance that government agents have to have a good reason before they search or seize us or our property.
5. We have the freedom to decline an invitation to confess our sins, even when we didn’t actually do it. The government has to spell out what we’re accused of doing, it can’t put us on trial for the same alleged offense more than once; and if it wants to use our property for some “public purpose,” it has to pay us a fair price for it first.
6. If we’re accused of a crime, we have a right to have the matter resolved as quickly as possible, to know exactly what it is we’re supposed to have done, to have a jury of local people decide the facts, to face the person(s) who says we did it, to be able to bring witnesses who say we didn’t, and to have a lawyer help us defend ourselves.
7. We have the right to have a jury decide private disagreements, too.
8. The government isn’t allowed to set bail or fines that are way too high, and if we’re found guilty the punishment can’t be cruel or unusual.
9. We have many other freedoms and rights, and just because they’re not covered in the first eight points doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
10. On the other hand, if the founding document doesn’t specifically say the federal government has the power to do something, then it doesn’t – those powers belong to the state governments – or to us.
Of course, these are ideals. Every day brings new evidence that we do not live in a utopia where these principles are honored. But at least the vision was declared – set in stone, even – so that we may compare the vision against the reality and resolve to improve the reality.
That’s what we celebrate on Bill of Rights Day. Be happy; be free.
P.S. Back here in 2022, I always feel obligated to emphasize that these are described as “constitutional rights” but they were not created by the Constitution. Rather, these are more of the “certain, unalienable rights” that were mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights doubles down on the assertion that governments are founded to protect (“secure”) these rights, not restrict them.
Chew on that thought the next time your “elected representative” suggests creating another link for the chains.