Monday, January 11, 1999

Week of 01/11/1999

The "Other" Constitution?
There Are Real Rights, And Then…
- by David Matthews 2

"We hold these truths to be self-evident - that all men are created equal. That they are empowered with certain unalienable tasks. That among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." - Declaration of Independence

"You have right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. You have the right to sing the blues. You have the right to cable TV. Very important. You have the right to paint the walls. No loud colors." - Officer Kerry Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) in "Police Academy 2"

Listen closely, my children, and you shall hear the tale of two Constitutions.

Once upon a time, there existed a document called the Declaration of Independence. It was a unique document because it took on the abuse of power by a tyrannical government and established the principle that EVERY citizen, not just nobility, not just the clergy, be entitled to rights that cannot be taken away by government.

From that document came forth the Constitution of the United States, a document that established a government elected by the people, not appointed by the Divine Right of Kings. From that document, came the subsequent amendments which established the rights of citizens.

In the beginning, those rights weren’t really taken seriously. Many states thought that those Constitutional amendments didn’t really apply to them. States like Virginia were ratifying the Bill of Rights on one hand, then violating them on the other by passing laws such as the one that outlawed Quakers from practicing their religion in that state.

Then something strange happened - people actually paid attention to those Constitutional rights! When it says "Congress shall make no law," they started taking it seriously! Courts started overturning laws that violated those rights, which pissed off all those politicians who authored and voted for those nasty laws.

So these moralists decided if the courts will do that for the Constitution, all they have to do is make their demands a "right" and the courts will just HAVE to enforce it.

And thus was born the "other" Constitution. Well, it really isn’t a complete "Constitution," but just like the real thing, this pale imitation has its share of "rights" that, in some cases, sound even better than the real rights Americans are given.

For instance, the real Constitution has this pesky thing called "freedom of speech" in which you have the right to say anything you like except in cases of libel or slander or to intentionally cause a riot. Well, that’s good if it is speech you want to hear, but what about all that speech that you don’t want to hear? Fortunately for you, this "other" Constitution has its own "right" - the right not to be offended.

You don’t like what your neighbor is saying? Just call it "hate speech" or "obscene" and have it banned for violating your right not to be offended. After all, under this "other" Constitution, it’s not really "speech" at all, so you’re free to limit it, or even outlaw it if you’re so inclined.

You don’t like your job? Well, under this "other" Constitution, you have the right to an automatic raise, no matter if you don’t do your job or if you do it poorly. Not only that, but if you stick around long enough, you’ll have the "right" to a promotion, no matter if you really deserve one.

How about if you don’t have enough money? Well, under this "other" Constitution, you have the "right" to money just because of past problems. Not just in your life, either, but for what your ancestors got or didn’t get. You think your great-great-great-grandfather got a bad deal in his life? Then you’re "entitled" to some money!

How about what other people do that you don’t like? Well, that’s just what this "other" Constitution is all about! You don’t like smoking? Well then you have the "right" to outlaw smoking simply because you find the act offensive! Same for strip clubs. You don’t like them? You have the "right" to outlaw them. How about certain consentual sexual practices between adults? Yes, under this "other" Constitution, you have the "right" to outlaw those as well simply because the very thought of it offends you.

Come to think of it, there isn’t anything that isn’t a "right" under this "other" Constitution, which is probably why it is so appealing to moralists, liberals, theocrats, and conservatives!

Now let’s get brutally honest here. There’s is no "other" Constitution; simply the demands of power-hungry crusaders that they deceptively call "rights." America has only ONE Constitution, and that document, along with the amendments that are pursuant to it, are the law of the land. But unfortunately, it often seems like lawyers, crusaders, and even elected officials are operating under a different Constitution, one that allows them to change the rules whenever they damn well feel like.

Complicating this even further is this misbegotten notion that everything they want is a "right." Well I’ve got news for you - many of the things that these social busybodies call a "right" are simply nothing more than pure manure.

In America, you have the right to free speech, including saying or doing something that might offend some other people! You do NOT have a right to not be offended by that speech. The same right that gave Martin Luther King his voice also gave the Klu Klux Klan their voice. The same right that gave voice to Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh also gives it to Larry Flynt and Howard Stern, and all the voices in between. And guess what? It also gives YOU your voice!

In America, you have the right to job opportunities. That means you have the right to apply for a job based on merit and eligibility, and not on the basis of race, creed, gender, or in most cases age. You do NOT have a right to use your race, creed, gender, or age to get preferential treatment. Nor does simply being employed give you the right to higher pay or promotions. Opportunities are simply that, chances. Not guarantees.

You do NOT have a right to get what you feel your ancestors were cheated out of. Since America is such a social and cultural melting pot, I’m sure that if we dig back far enough, we can find a social gaffe for EVERY nationality that they can claim reparations for. Every immigrant group coming into America, whether it was voluntary or not, has had problems adjusting. Even the Native Americans had problems adjusting, and they lived here before the Europeans!

The basis of rights means something that is guaranteed to you. Most of the rights guaranteed in the first ten Amendments of the Constitution actually PROHIBIT the government from acting in matters such as speech, religion, and privacy. These are things that moralists and power-hungry members of government try to subvert because it interferes with their own twisted designs.

It’s sort of sad that special interest groups spend so much time trying to create artificial rights when they should be more concerned with the real rights that our elected officials are working so hard to dissolve. It is the REAL rights that give them the ability to gripe about all those artificial rights.

There’s truth in the old saying about something that seems too good to be true. Any time somebody wants to introduce a new "right" to you, think about that saying.

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