Saturday, July 24, 2010
My Rights! My Rights!
Wandering around within the boundary of words, we find terms of interpretation. As well meaning as word constructs appear -- definitions, thoughts, ideas -- their debatable nature allows for connotations. Almost nothing written is above the very nature of the beast: that is, a word is a representation that symbolizes and communicates a meaning. A symbol, in turn, merely represents something else. So, the whole concept of a word is logically muddy from its conception. Words become essential human attempts that often fail to capture complex understandings.
The importance of words must never be understated, for without their incredible power to communicate essential meaning, we lose the very construct of civilization. Words represents the building blocks of every important document and utterance in history. Laws, principles, rights, even nations are built on human-initiated attempts at creating precision with words. Here is an example from the Bill of Rights in the Ohio Constitution drafted in 1851
1.01 Inalienable Rights (1851) The Ohio Constitution
All men are, by nature, free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.
This is quite a wide statement here that opens grounds for countless connotations! How much precision does the phase "inalienable rights" provide? What represents the word symbols for abstractions such as "free" and "independent"? What wide interpretations do broad attempts to describe emotions of "enjoying" and "happiness" imply? Such mixed interpretations and confusing associations often create massive problems for residents who do not understand the precise intentions of those who frame the words.
The very first section of the Ohio Bill of Rights is, at best, a domesticated animal that wanders a wide, free range of interpretation. As much as we would like to stand upon the solid ground of Ohio residency and its intended protection and enforcement of our rights, we soon realize that certitude of protection is a big "Well, maybe..."
Who could argue that many Ohioans suffer daily because
1. They cannot adequately protect their own property under the law.
2. They, after repeated attempts to secure the promise, still remain reasonably unhappy and unsafe.
3. They continually lose personal liberties because of a minority of bad citizens who should be punished for their daily intrusions, threats, and forms of intimidation.
The key words in 1.01 are "certain inalienable rights." Natural rights (also called moral rights or unalienable rights) are rights which are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of a particular society or polity. Natural rights are thus necessarily universal, whereas legal rights are culturally and politically relative. According to philosopher John Locke, these inalienable rights are our sovereign rights. We cannot surrender, sell, or transfer unalienable rights because they are a gift from the Creator to the individual. And, as seen in the Ohio Bill of Rights, all individuals are afforded these God-given rights.
Because humans are divine, and divinely created, we naturally deserve to have governments serve us, and not the other way around. And, because we possess inalienable rights given to us by our creator, governments must not violate those rights. This cognition by Thomas Jefferson of the inherent reality of the nature of man was the true “vision” of the founders. America was destined to be the nation that leads the world to this common re- “cognition.” Christ said “the truth shall set you free.” Jefferson, himself, was convinced this was not only a statement of a personal spiritual freedom, but also a more broad statement of the truth that when humans “woke up” to an understanding of their divine essence, that enlightenment would naturally lead to political freedom as well.
Protection From Crime
Mortimer J. Adler, Ph.D. ("On Unalienable Rights," Center for the Study of Great Ideas, 2008) contends, "First, the criminal by his antisocial conduct and by his violation of a just law has forfeited not the right, but the temporary exercise of it. His incarceration in prison does not completely remove his freedom of action, but it severely limits the exercise of that freedom for the period of imprisonment.
"The right remains in existence both during imprisonment and after release from prison. If the prison warden attempted to make the prisoner his personal slave, that would be an act of injustice on his part, because enslavement would be a violation of the human right to the status of a free man. This human right belongs to those in a prison as well as those outside its walls.
"When the criminal's term of imprisonment comes to an end, what is restored is not the individual's right to liberty (as if that had been taken away when he entered the prison), but only his fuller exercise of that right. It is the exercise of that right that is given back to him when he walks out of the prison gates, not the right itself, for that was never taken away or alienated."
Police protection is not guaranteed. For example, in Ohio, as a citizen, we can depend on the Sheriff’s Office to help make a community that is safe and trouble free. But to be truly effective, a Sheriff’s Office depends on our cooperation. (Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, 2009) Shouldn't it be easier to access our inalienable rights when we become active, concerned citizens?
And, police aren’t required to protect us: In Warren v. District of Columbia (1981), the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled, “official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection . . . a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular citizen.” In Bowers v. DeVito (1982), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, “[T]here is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen.”
We must join together as citizens to protect our inalienable rights. To do less would be to invite further disaster into an already volatile situation. No once should have to suffer the suspension of sovereign privileges. These guarantees to our freedom supersede legal restrictions. Soon, the good people will prove this idea through dedicated, self-motivated action for all needy brethren.