San Jose, December 15, 2015 — The United States of America has been the primary place where freedom has had an opportunity to grow, and not just for one kind, but for all kinds of people, from all races, all religions, and ways of life. It is natural that people look back upon the words of incredible value within our founding documents in these turbulent times. A key component of the Constitution of the United States of America that was necessary to be added to the initial document for it to be ratified, was the concept of amending the original framework. The first ten amendments, more commonly known as the Bill of Rights, ensured the fundamental freedoms of the American people.
The idea of amendments that could alter the bedrock legal foundation of the nation is unique, but the fact that it ensured protection for the citizens from common abuses inflicted upon the people by most governments of the day was crucial to the survival of a free people and a free society. It expanded upon what the founders agreed were God-given rights and guaranteed fundamental and unalienable rights to the people. This fundamental document was a cornerstone of freedom. Today, the nation and its fundamental values are being challenged, and not only from without, but from within as well. Once again, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution could be brought down from the shelves and dusted off.
Once again, Americans may need to refresh their minds with the words and ideals of these documents and the words of those who made the ideals real. While pondering the significance of the recent events that have re-ignited in the Middle East, it is a good time to re-evaluate the fundamental values that are the bedrock of the United States. That should not be too difficult since today is known as Bill of Rights Day, also referred to as Citizenship Day, a day when Americans are reminded of the value of the U. S. Constitution, the document which guarantees all citizens their fundamental individual rights. Especially at this time in history, it is important to consider what differentiates America from other nations around the world.
Read the Bill of Rights —
Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II – 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.
Amendment III – No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV – The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V –
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb, nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Amendment VI – In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
Amendment VII – In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII – Bails, fines, and punishments. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX – The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Remember the People’s Rights –
In essence, as a result of the Bill of Rights and the subsequent amendments, a far greater foundation for the development and advancement of freedom in the world was permitted than had ever been established. In reality, it is because of the government established by the U.S. Constitution that a greater number of the world’s peoples have had access to more substantial individual freedoms than ever before within the history of humankind. When summed up objectively, minus all partisan political spin, and despite idealistic intellectual or ideological criticism, the United States still shows up as a nation that places ultimate value upon freedom and liberty, and the Constitution is the cornerstone for that to exist in a very troubled and turbulent world.
On Bill of Rights Day, is is wise to remember the previous generations of patriots who have taken up the challenges to America’s freedoms. They have been defenders who stood watch at freedom’s frontier, marchers who broke down barriers to full equality, dreamers who pushed America from what it was toward what it needed to become. Now it falls to the current generations of Americans to build on such heartfelt efforts. On Bill of Rights Day, the current caretakers of freedom should celebrate the liberties secured by the blood of our forebears, should pay tribute to all who have fought to protect and expand our civil rights, and rededicate ourselves to driving a new century of American progress and prosperity.
Protect our Freedoms –
In recent years, most notably since dedicated al Qaeda terrorists made direct attacks against Americans and citizens of the world on 9/11, American freedoms have been impacted as much, or possibly more than the fixed targets impacted by the hi-jacked commercial airliners. The bedrock document of fundamental freedoms Bill of Rights has increasingly come under attack, but not as direct assaults by international terrorists, but by men and women empowered by the government of the United States, namely elected “public servants” as well as their appointees. It is indeed ironic when the very people entrusted to “support,” or in the case of the President: “to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” are capable of weakening the Law of the Land.
Amazingly, much of the American public sleeps, or is incredibly indifferent to the eradication of fundamental freedoms that have been ensured by the Constitution, specifically the cornerstones of individual freedoms proclaimed in the Bill of Rights. Even before the horror of 9/11, the 1st amendment and the 2nd amendment were under attack by those who would seek to dismantle two of the most important guarantees of personal freedom preserved in the founding document. Since 9/11, the 4th amendment, the 5th amendment, and the 6th amendment have been incredibly weakened and possibly rendered meaningless.
Today, Americans tolerate such regular scrutiny as “business as usual,” and it is accepted as part of life in a post 9/11 world. Yet, citizens willingly pay much more than the price of airfare to travel the “friendly skies” as invasion of their personal privacy (quite literally) is accepted as routine procedure. By submitting to standardized scans and searches prior to boarding a commercial aircraft, Americans as well as other world travelers, trade freedom offered under the Bill of Rights for the freedom to fly “freely.” In addition, the Snowden disclosures of the NSA scrutiny of almost all cell phone activity made it apparent that there is technically no such thing as “probable cause” warrant requirements anymore.
On Bill of Rights Day, Americans should consider what has ensured that the nation has arrived at this point in history, no matter how good or bad it is perceived to be. All Americans should celebrate the liberties secured by the Founders and Framers and our forebears. All Americans should honor those who fought to protect civil rights. All Americans should consider what makes America the nation it is today, and what differentiates America from other nations around the world. Thus, regardless of whether the “public servants” fully support the Constitution, it is indeed time for Americans to rededicate themselves “to preserve, protect, and defend” the Bill of Rights of these United States.