December 15th was the 229th anniversary of the ratification of our Bill of Rights. These first ten amendments to the Constitution did not “create” rights, but rather clarified the constitution to protect them. Outlining these inalienable, pre-existing rights and liberties and setting up a system to prohibit our Government from infringing on them is the foundation of this country, and the beacon that continues to inspire and attract.
- The rights of freedom of speech and religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to dissent;
- The right to keep and bear arms.
- Protection from quartering of troops
- The expectation of privacy, and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
- Due process of law and freedom from arbitrary imprisonment via habeas corpus
- A speedy and public trial by an impartial jury;
- The right to a civil trial by jury
- Protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
- Liberty from unwarranted government intrusion and protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
- Powers of States and people
But it is a beacon we must continue to protect and improve. Throughout our history, it has been necessary to clarify the meaning of these rights and to further amend the constitution to add greater protections, including the rights of nondiscrimination and voting rights. Recently we have witnessed many examples of these rights being ignored as black people are searched and even killed unreasonably. And since 9-11, fear has motivated a number of political policies that dramatically infringe on these rights. Reading the recent media story that firearm and ammo sales in our state are at an “absolutely insane” high is a reminder that fear of the loss of rights still motivates so many. So indeed, the work is ongoing.
We struggle with how the rights of one group impact others. How do we ensure that every individual has every right we claim for ourselves? Whose rights “outweigh” others? And what are the responsibilities that go along with these rights? We continue to ponder these questions in search of that more perfect union. And as Bob Marley’s popular song reminds us, we must continue our vigilance so that our rights and those of others are not eroded by fear and power and more so that we do not forget that our rights come with responsibilities to each other and our community…Betsy