This Fourth of July as we go about our activities with family and friends, we all should take some time to reflect upon the true significance of the holiday. Yes, it is a celebration of our country's Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, but it is much more than that. It is a celebration of an idea that was revolutionary then and unfortunately is still considered revolutionary by many today.
The Declaration of Independence boldly states: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government ..."
This revolutionary declaration is the foundation of American political thought and has inspired millions around the world in the 236 years since Thomas Jefferson wrote it. The common view at the time was that rights were granted by the government to the people. Instead, Jefferson declared there is a higher law, "unalienable Rights," that every human has by their mere existence. Government only has those powers granted to it by the people, to protect these natural rights.
Unfortunately today it seems that many have rejected Jefferson's declaration and have returned to the antiquated idea of government supremacy. They define patriotism as supporting the government. Most disheartening of all are the discussions about the Constitution.
Political commentators, major party politicians and Supreme Court nominees talk about our "constitutional rights," as if the government were granting us our rights through the Constitution.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. In the Constitution, the founders again make it abundantly clear that all power comes from the people. The Constitution is a document where the people have granted the government certain limited powers: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Further, the Ninth Amendment declares: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Because so many Americans have forgotten the fundamental idea behind the founding of this Country, today we have people willing to abandon our basic liberties, giving the government the power to do anything it wants.
They falsely assume that invasions of liberty and privacy will not affect them, though history has shown otherwise. Too many today are willing to abandon freedom for the illusion of security.
Benjamin Franklin said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
This Fourth of July please take time out from the celebrations to reflect on the founders' vision for America.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Don't Abandon Freedom, Protect Your Natural Rights
Here is a commentary I wrote that was published in the Rochester Post Bulletin on June 29, 2007. I have posted it on my blog a few times in the years since, but I think it is worth repeating (I do update the number of years each year):