Johnny-on-the-Spot … by John Foster
When written, our U.S. Constitution contained 4,400 words.
It is the oldest and shortest constitution of any major government in the world.
The document today contains more than 7,000 words, including 27 amendments.
My discussion today involves the first 10 amendments, often referred to the Bill of Rights.
For the sake of discussion, those 10 amendments address the following basic issues;
- Freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.
- Right to bear arms.
- Citizens do not have to house soldiers.
- No unreasonable search or arrest
- No double jeopardy or witness against yourself.
- Rights of accused in criminal cases to a fair trial.
- Trial by jury.
- No excessive bail, fines or cruel and unusual punishment.
- People get right not listed in the U.S. Constitution.
- Any right, not given to the federal government are given to the states and the people.
This document has provided a pretty solid framework for our nation to conduct itself.
But I see a problem with the Bill of Rights.
Comedian Bill Maher says “We have a Bill of Rights. What we need is a bill of responsibilities.”
By definition, “rights” are defined as a moral or legal ENTITLEMENT to have or obtain something; that which is morally correct, just, or honorable.
“Responsibility” is defined as the state of fact of having a DUTY to deal with something; the state or fact of being ACCOUNTABLE.
“RIGHTS” are freedoms we have that are protected by our laws while “RESPONSIBILITIES” are duties or things we should do.
It seems to me a lot of individuals want those rights but don’t care to think about the responsibilities that go with them.
American educator Randy Pausch says, “It makes no sense to talk about rights without talking about responsibilities”.
In this country, it’s supposed to be “the majority rules”.
That would be easier to live with if, for example, everybody voted.
In the 2020 Presidential election, about two-thirds of the nation’s eligible voters cast ballots.
When it’s a close vote, that means nearly two-thirds either didn’t vote or voted for the “other” guy.
In reality, until we get many more people voting, forget “majority rules”.
The 30th President of our country, John F. Kennedy told us, “Our privileges can be no greater than our obligations . The protection of our rights can endure no longer than the performance of our responsibilities.”
So, if you don’t vote, I think you lose the right to complain.
And, of you don’t vote because “they’re all crooks!” then you need to get involved earlier in the process to encourage better people to seek office.
Then we hear the cry from time to time to “Vote the bums out”!
But I find most people think the problem is always with the OTHER guy’s bum.
Then, nothing every seems to change.
I think those wise souls who came up with our Constitution never figured on having career politicians.
I think the idea was from time-to-time, folks like you and I would run for public office, serve a few terms and then return to the homestead.
The founding fathers didn’t think we needed “term limits”.
In theory, we’ve always had “term limits” with that thing called “the vote” but I’ve already discussed the shortcomings we’ve experienced there.
American educator C. Edward Griffin believes “right and responsibilities are different sides of the same coin”.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw cut to the chase with “Liberty means responsibility. That’s why most men dread it.”
That cuts to the chase, doesn’t it?
Former college football coach Lou Holtz said, “Everybody wants to talk about their rights and privileges. Twenty five years ago, people talks about their obligations and responsibilities.”
So, Coach, where did we drop the ball?
Some might argue that we need more laws to further define our lives.
But the great Athenian philosopher Plato reminds us, “Good people don’t need laws to tell them to act responsibly and bad people will find a way around the laws”.
Today we have more means to share our opinions than we’ve ever had.
But it’s also provided society with more opportunities for those who used to eat Cheetos on the hide-a-bed in mommy’s basement to expound like a great orator.
My Father used to say, “Opinions are like a–holes. Everybody has one”.
But just because you have one, does that make it right or the final word?
In theory, Facebook (Meta) sort of had the right idea with “fact-checkers” but who are they and who’s checking their facts?
Former President Ronald Reagan told us, “If freedom, democracy and the rights of man are to be preserved through the ages, free men and women must accept the responsibilities that go with their freedoms.”
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.
That’s a right.
But we also have a responsibility to listen.
Not just hear.