This election thing, what is it all about anyway? Why do we get so hot and bothered? It can’t just be Republican and Democratic parties. Something else has to matter, because this whole Democrat/Liberal and Republican/Conservative thing is getting stodgy and seem to have lost their impact. What is there that we can talk about that would make sense so that we could select our leaders based on the US Constitutional plan established for us a very long time ago?
Let me set a few things straight as a Civics teacher. First of all, Americans have always valued their liberty. Indeed, they valued that liberty more than religion. What is so important about the concept of liberty? We wanted a say in the type of government that would represent us. We had these lovely colonies that would become states. What was the reason for establishing a bicameral government with an established system of checks and balances? The answer is freedom. All citizens of the U.S. are guaranteed certain rights and yes, even some restrictions so that if we travel between the states we have knowledge of what we are going to face. Imagine, you can travel from Hawaii to Virginia and the basic rights of man are guaranteed. We don’t get stopped at the border of each state to have our cars searched. We’re a nation. Guess what, the EU decided that the plan they are using should do the same thing between their nations. And it works. It does for us, as well.
The Preamble of the Constitution lets you know the immediate concern of our founding fathers. That we the people of these United (means we hang together through good and bad weather) States (we don’t have to lose our individual identities from where we live to live equally), in order to create a more perfect union…the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. They used big flowing letters and wrote so that we of the future could easily read their plan. This Constitution wasn’t based on RELIGION. No, I hear Congressional staff use the words that our “Forefathers” wanted us to be a christian nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. They could have written Property instead of Happiness, but they didn’t. They gave us the power to choose what makes us happy without requiring us to be one thing or the other. Some are happy being inventors, some preaching, some legislating, some owning a house, some…get the picture?
Then there is the government’s structure. We are a Republic, we chose legislators to govern for us. They are supposed to do what their voters say to do, but they can act in what they believe to be the best interests of their communities. Not everyone will always agree, but some sort of consensus or majority ideals should be acted upon. The Congress was set up with two houses of the legislative branch. One is the Senate, one is the House of Representatives. Both branches are elected by “We the People.” They make the laws.
Next is the Justice department. They insure that our laws meet the basis of the constitution and basic justice for hearing cases between citizens. This judicial branch mandates the judging of the actions of people based upon our laws. Sedition, which isn’t prosecuted much anymore, is one law that is constantly being reevaluated. Jefferson was of the opinion that a little rebellion is a good thing. A little rebellion should be evaluated. If we were forced to give up our rights, we would have the right to protest and protect them. We are not entitled to over throw our government through violent means, we must use the voter’s booth. There are provisions to make sure that decisions can be reviewed and Laws can be reviewed. It’s important. If a president violates a law, they can be tried in the Senate. The outcome can be reviewed by the Judicial branch.
The president’s job is to enforce the laws and to use his office to protect the citizens of the US. This branch is also divided into levels and jobs and has changed only in size as the population of the US grew. I hear people cussing and swearing at Mr. Obama, mostly because how dare he be black. In the initial application of the Constitution, black men and women were only counted at 5/8th of a human person. That application changed when Lincoln was in office. Women were added to the voting population after the Civil War (which was not) and after President Wilson was elected. Can you imagine that women were treated as lesser humans because of our sense of compassion toward others? Women are problem solvers just as men are. Although the equal rights Amendment wasn’t ratified by enough states, we haven’t stopped our resolve to be who we are. Not decorations to sit upon a stage or be abused but as competent sensible humans. Look at how far we have come. And our set up of our government inspired many other nations to join in similar systems.
The First Ten Amendments to the Constitution were added because the founders of our government looked at history and they wanted to bluntly protect certain actions. Amendment One, the freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. If you are Muslim and I am Catholic, we have the right to believe in our religions. The signers of the Constitution had many signers who were Deists. They believed in God, but not necessarily in a church. They couldn’t involve the church in civil matters. They made this abundantly clear. We are a nation of many people from many places. This hatred that is going around, it’s not right. For everyone of us came from somewhere. Bullies pick on victims because they want to suspend our rights to speak, worship and to gather in peaceful assemblies. We need to be louder in our protection of these three things.
The second amendment is something everyone gets twitchy about. It was designed so that we could have the equivalent of the National Guard to protect our homes. We used guns to hunt. Guns were needed to put food on the table because it was a wild world. The founders never saw the weapons we are capable of making. It will be up to the Supreme Court and the Legislative Branch to sort that mess out.
Then the 3rd provision that the armed forces cannot move into your house against your will. That will not happen, not anymore. We have bases and money to handle our billets.
Four, five, six, seven and eight are about the rights we have if charged with, arrested, or held in the possible commission of a crime. You know the “You have the right” quotes. Did you know that the Supreme Court has said that they no longer have to be read to you? If you say you know your rights, that’s good enough for a court. Search and seizure, there has to be a warrant which means there has to be adequate evidence of wrong doing. There are means to enter a property of life or limb are at risk, but you had better be right as anything you find if there isn’t cause, makes it an illegal search and seizure. There is penalty must fit the crime. This is a matter of hot debate because there is ample concern and evidence that your race will affect your treatment and the length of your sentence. Non-violent offenders are spending longer in jail than Norway’s capitol crimes of 21 years. BTW Norway bases its treatment of prisoners on our Amendments. No cruel or unusual punishment.
Then the ninth states that rights not in the Constitution are protected.
The tenth states that federalism is defined by the Constitution in the laws that the federal government is allowed unless laws are voted into play by the states or representatives of those states.
We are a community, all together in our strengths and flaws. We should be actively involved in making life better for the people in our lives and for the strangers who have a need. I so admire Warren Buffet and his family for realizing that while having money is nice, using it to make the world a better place is priceless.