And we all have responsibilities.
The Declaration of Independence says “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.”
Not some men — all men. Endowed by their Creator — not endowed by some government agency. With unalienable rights — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.
This comes before the Constitution. In fact, it’s the basis of the Constitution.
In my opinion, the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were naïve. They said little or nothing about the responsibilities attached to those rights. I think they couldn’t conceive of a society in which people would disregard the responsibilities attached to everyone’s rights.
But here we are, with so many Americans screaming about defending their personal rights, rather than defending the rights of all people.
Need an example? Let’s look at Constitutional Amendment II: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Did you catch the part about ‘A well regulated Militia’? Are you a member of a well regulated militia? If you don’t know the answer, it’s no. If you know you’re not a member of a well regulated militia, the answer is still no. A hunting club doesn’t count. The Proud Boys doesn’t count. The National Rifle Association doesn’t count. The Minnesota National Guard counts. As I understand it, anyone who has served in any branch of the military is subject to recall to duty, making them militia members. Not sure if those recalled would be expected to bring their own guns.
My reading of the Second Amendment is it was written to protect the collective ‘us’ from those who would bring down this country. But now, thanks to the NRA and similar organizations the Second Amendment is interpreted as a protection from each other. And so, guns are everywhere, and nowhere is safe.
Your right to bear arms darn well better not infringe on my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The upside? Maybe what’s happening in Oxford, Michigan is an indication that alleged irresponsible gun owners are beginning to be held responsible for the irresponsibility that allows others to use the owner’s gun or guns to kill people.
The downside? I think it’s too late to do anything about the problem. We’re so rooted in self-reliance, rugged individualism, and individual rights over responsibility that we probably can never go back to a more sensible course. We’ve reached a point in this country where some people are so polarized they can’t conceive of accommodating anyone else’s rights. I don’t know about you, but I don’t especially care for the ‘My way or the highway’ set.
We’re all in this together.
The Quote: “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” — Bob Dylan.
Thom Boncher is a retired marketing communications manager, former Jordan City Council member and Jordan resident since 2003.