• The Bill Of Rights: The Fight For Freedom

    July 4, 2024
    Credit: Evgenii Baranov | depositphotos

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    The first striking thing about the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to our Constitution, is their brevity. While Congress struggles to keep legislative bills under 1,000 pages today, the original Bill of Rights, arguably one of the most important governing documents ever written on this planet, was 556 WORDS. Not pages, words.

    The second is that the Bill of Rights had universal agreement among the Founding Fathers, and among men today with any sense of the value of freedom. The only conflict in the 1780s was an argument about whether there was a need to include such obvious and universal rights, or whether including these would prompt corrupt government officials to claim that anything not specifically mentioned was fair game for the government. How prophetic that argument was.

    Since the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, there has been a continuous and unrelenting assault attempting to eliminate and restrict rights that continues to this day. On the other hand, many rulings have been made granting the government more and more power in areas not specifically mentioned therein. Clear violations of the spirit of these rights are overlooked to the point that, for all practical purposes, some rights no longer exist. You might say, you can’t win with a Bill of Rights, and you can’t win without one. The corruption of power is that all-consuming.

    Understanding the Bill of Rights begins with understanding rights vs privileges. Those who prefer tyranny want to eliminate any concept of natural inherent rights that are unalienable. Unalienable means they cannot be taken away from an individual. These rights came with a man when he arrived, and he will take them with him when he leaves. Unalienable.

    The tyrant must convince everyone that they don’t have any such rights, that any freedom they have is a privilege granted to them by the state, the ruler, or the ruling class, and nothing more. With that established, any right, as a privilege, can be taken away. While there are different degrees and flavors of tyranny, some much crueler than others, state- granted privilege is the lifeblood of tyranny.

    So where do we stand here in the 21st century? Who was right, those Founding Fathers who wanted the Bill of Rights, or those who warned against it? Remember, the Bill of Rights came after the Constitution was completed. There was much argument for and against it. The rights themselves met no argument among the Founding Fathers. Everyone wanted rights for the people. Reading the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution makes that clear. One obvious theme runs throughout both. The federal government must be prevented from running amok with power. The limits, checks, and balances must be strong and redundant. The distrust of government overreach ran hot back then. Boy were they

    So what was the argument? One side said they must state these rights to ensure they would not get overrun by overzealous rulers. Universal or not, they said, tyrants in the past had violated them, and tyrants in the future would undoubtedly try to do the same. These were practical men from the “if it isn’t written it isn’t true” camp. They wanted the rights laid out in words. No assumptions necessary. No confusions. Why don’t we just say what they are?

    The other side, and they were the most suspicious of government abuse and government in general, asserted that these rights were universal and undeniable. They had experienced laws being manipulated to bad ends. They were afraid that naming a few rights would open the door for the totalitarian-minded to claim any space not covered for government use.

    They worried that they would overlook something important, or be too narrow in defining them and thereby lose rights by default that would fall through the cracks. Who could predict the future?

    Both sides feared abuses might destroy the system they built, and both sides were right. Damned if you do damned if you don’t, certainly applies here. Anything not written down in the Bill of Rights has been stolen by those seeking power. They have even managed to pry up some of what is written and abscond with that.

    There is a reason why one of the most popular and often cited Shakespearean quotes comes from a rough character named Dick the Butcher who, when asked how to fix the country, said he would first kill all the lawyers. Over the course of two centuries, the Bill of Rights has been squeezed and shaken, twisted and beaten by lawyers and judges until the landscape of America today would be unrecognizable to those Founding Fathers who so rightly knew that freedoms were the commodities that most needed protecting.

    Those unpredictable futures that have now arrived, like phones, computers and the internet, were not specifically covered by the Bill of Rights and have been conveniently ignored by those who crave power. So much so that brazen attempts to short-circuit rights have been made like the short-lived DHS “Disinformation Governance Board” that was a dead ringer for the Ministry of Truth from Orwell’s prophetic book 1984. While that effort at legitimizing censorship thankfully failed, the actions of censorship have not stopped.

    All in all, 20/20 hindsight lands squarely on being supremely grateful that those who wanted the Bill of Rights won the day. One can only imagine how few rights we would have now had no Bill of Rights been written. As it is, you can hear the totalitarian’s teeth grind and the dark grumblings under their breath whenever people’s rights are mentioned. Some of the darkest have even said out loud that the Bill of Rights stands in their way. Thank God it does.

    Expecting flawed men to be able to protect themselves from their own base instincts may have been folly, but you must admire the effort. The Constitution and Bill of Rights still stand, even if lesser men have rationalized away so much of the freedom that both were designed to protect.

    All is not lost. The simple truths may need to be dusted off, in some cases scrubbed vigorously, but they are still there. Step one is reading and understanding what those truths are. Only then can we restore the vision that proffered that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights that no government of man should ever take away.

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    Ed Thompson

    Ed Thompson has worked in education for over 25 years, both tutoring individuals and teaching classes. He has helped students from three to seventy-three years old, and in subjects from beginning reading all the way to MBA classes and postgraduate biology. Students ranged from severely challenged to gifted and advanced. This work has given him a unique perspective and has led to insights on what’s broken about our educational system and how we can make it better. He is the host of the Basic Education Series podcasts and author of educational books. Learn more at https://basiced.substack.com.

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