The past several weeks have been flooded with ‘violations’ of constitutional rights. In fact, the past year has shown that a vast number of people have no idea what the constitution is, what it says, what it means and its general purpose. Not to mention who it does and who it doesn’t apply to. I am here to correct a few misconceptions.
First and foremost it is important to understand that the constitution (and the included Bill of Rights) does not, in any way, shape, or form, give us any rights at all. Zero. The rights enumerated in the constitution are natural rights. These are things that we have a right to simply because we exist. It has nothing to do with being an American but more so with simply being human.
When the documents were created there was a huge debate about enumerating our human rights. Jefferson was against doing so because he felt that it would have two consequences. One, that people would come to believe that it was the document that provided the rights and to only a select group of people (i.e. citizens). Two, if a ‘right’ didn’t make the document then it must not exist. In other words, Jefferson was concerned that future generations would suffer because something wasn’t written down. Wise man.
So, why were some of the founders concerned about people assuming the document gave those rights? Because that would negate the purpose of the constitution. See, the constitution does not apply to you, or me, or any one person (or corporation) on the planet. It applies ONLY to the federal government. The constitution is a list of rules and regulations for the government to follow…nothing more.
This is why Phil Robertson being suspended for something he said was not a violation of his ‘constitutional rights.’ First, let’s just ignore the fact that the constitution doesn’t give rights. And, to save my sanity, let’s skip over the vast number of politicians who fail to understand the constitution. For now, let’s just go over what the first amendment is, what it means and who it applies to.
The first amendment actually enumerates a number of rights but let’s start with freedom of speech. The founders believed that you had the natural right to speak your mind without fear of persecution from the government. The last bit is the essential part. The belief was that any human being should be able to say, “King George sucks,” without risking imprisonment. The amendment gives you nothing. It does not protect you from criticism. It does not protect you from repercussions from the public…such as, losing your job. So, what does it do? The first amendment tells the federal government that it cannot make any laws restricting the speech of its citizens. That’s it. All it does is prevent the government from persecuting, imprisoning and executing citizens for saying something (the primary purpose was to allow citizens to speak out against the government).
That being said, the amendment is not all inclusive. Thus, the government does have the power to restrict certain kinds of speech. These include things like revealing state secrets, yelling fire in a crowded room, slander, libel and threats against human life and wellbeing. Hence, why it is illegal to threaten to kill or hurt someone. So, the first amendment protects you from the government if you want to call the President a ‘lying, cheating n—’…or even if you want to tell him to go ‘f— himself.’ However, cross the line and say, “I’m going to kill that lying, cheating n—,’ and you risk being investigated by the government. And, in doing so, the government is NOT violating your rights.
So, do we understand now, that only the federal government can violate the first amendment? If you call your boss an asshole, he can fire you. This does not violate your rights. If you say the President’s economic policy sucks and as a result you are arrested…that is a violation of your rights. See the difference?
Actions have consequences. Nothing in the constitution protects you from consequence. Accepting that your actions have consequences is part of being an adult. Making the choice to say or do something means accepting the consequences that may arise from said action. Saying something and then whining or complaining because what you said or did got you fired or ridiculed is childish and stupid. Vocal disagreement (and in some cases, public shaming…though I don’t always agree with this tactic) are the consequences of speaking your opinion. This is not a violation of your rights. Claiming such is extremely childish and you should probably grow up a little.
While we are on this subject, I am going to quickly address a pet peeve of mine. So, let’s just say we are debating free speech and religion. You think this means that Mr. Robertson’s rights were violated. I disagree. You then proceed to tell me that we are a Christian nation. That the first amendment protects you from providing birth control, seeing gay people be married and gives you the right to say whatever you damn well please. I disagree. You cannot follow up with ANY of these arguments: “Well the gays need to stop being so sensitive and just shut the hell up,” or “That’s the way it is and if you don’t like it, get the hell out.” Reason: The argument puts holes in your own logic so large I could drive a mid-90’s hummer through it. If you say, ‘God hates f—,’ and I tell you that you are wrong, you believe I am violating your rights. However, you then telling me to shut up and get out, by your own logic, is you violating my rights. (That is not, in reality, the case but if you do believe that the amendment protects you from criticism then such a comeback is logically impossible.) These arguments do nothing for your cause. All they do is show the world that you are one giant hypocrite.
You are telling the world that only things you agree with are valid and any form of disagreement you see as a potential threat to your sad, pathetic and isolated worldview…and thus it must be a violation of your rights. By telling someone to leave if they don’t like it you are telling the world that you are a bigot because you only want people who think and speak like you to be an American. You may be a perfectly nice person but these arguments make you appear to be nothing more than a hypocritical, bigoted asshole.
The fact that we can debate our differences in a public forum is awesome. It is one of the greatest aspects of our society. The debate. Do you have any idea how many countries would imprison us for doing so? The fact that Americans disagree on issues and debate them is not only one of the greatest thing about this country but also the very reason we have progressed as far as we have. The debate is the reason we don’t have slaves, women can vote and that we have civil rights. All thanks to debate.
You know who wants a country full of people who only share their views and opinions…despots. Now, I am not saying that you are a despot. What I am saying is that all despots want to suppress the ideas, opinions and beliefs of those that differ from their own. Now, if that is the type of country you are looking for I can give you hundreds of examples throughout the annals of history as to why that is a bad idea.
I don’t think that is what you really want but that is what your words imply. This is why people don’t take you seriously. I am not saying that you have to agree with my opinions and beliefs…just accept the fact that I can have a differing opinion and we can still occupy the same country. If you disagree with me, debate me. Please. Tell me why you disagree. Don’t just tell me I am wrong and walk away. We cannot possibly solve our problems that way and we have a lot of serious problems to solve.
Wow, ok. So this post kind of got away from me. We will stop there for now but I promise we will continue to discuss constitutional issues and the intents of the founders throughout the year.