09 December 2002

Bill of Rights Day

This coming week, some of us will be celebrating what should be a National holiday. We will be rejoicing by doing the same things we do every day. We will be celebrating by writing letters to our Congressional representative or to the President, by praying to whatever Power we believe in, or by going target-shooting and hunting. The holiday that encompasses all these is Bill of Rights Day.

Last year, the Michigan House of Representatives passed Resolution 264 proclaiming December 15th as Bill of Rights Day. These amendments were ratified 210 years earlier on December 15, 1791, and this year will commemorate 211 years that the Bill of Rights has been on the books.

As United States citizens, we have the obligation to remember that the Constitution would not have been ratified if the Bill of Rights were not guaranteed. The unfortunate truth is, most Americans have no idea what the Bill of Rights includes.

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. They list the most basic rights of the people living in this country. Some include: the freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, protection against unreasonable searches and testifying against oneself, as well as eliminating cruel and unusual punishment. The two most important amendments are the last two, those that are directed not at specific rights, but to guard individuals against any future encroachment by the government.

Since the early Americans founding the United States had just broken away from Great Britain where they had limited freedoms, they were afraid of a strong central government. They assumed that breaking the government into three different, and sometimes competing, parts, would create a self-checking system. While some, federalists were happy with this compromise, others, such as the anti-federalists, felts that a three-pronged government was simply not enough to guarantee the freedoms of the ordinary citizen. This is where the Bill of Rights came in.

While America is not perfect, and there is quite a bit that needs work, we must realize that the basic framework is solid. Instead of people complaining that there are too many problems, and relying on others to fix it, we should look at the fundamentals. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights show us what can be done and where we can move ahead as a country. Whether you are a Socialist or a Libertarian, a Liberal or a Conservative, a Democrat or Republican, there is a place for all of your philosophies.

Other countries around the world do not have many of these freedoms. Slavery still exists in the world. So does torture. Limitations on free speech still exists in the world, and how you practice your religion is still limited and made illegal in parts of this planet.

While people living in this country have difference in views on the United States and its future, we all have the right to disagree and discuss our views without worrying that we are breaking the law. This is our entitlement.

On this upcoming holiday, please remember how lucky we are compared to the rest of the world. Don’t take for granted what our forefathers fought and died for, and that we live everyday.

Hey, maybe you’ll even break out the barbeque.

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