“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.”
How long has it been since you last read the Declaration of Independence?
Yes, it was a political document, written to represent a nascent government, but it was also pertinent to individuals, as the above clause makes very clear. At the time it was written, it was a break from the history of mankind. Individual rights was a somewhat new concept. England had been sidling up to the idea, but hadn’t – and still has not entirely – embraced it. It took an unlikely revolution, one that a betting man of the time would not have laid odds on to succeed, to fully form the idea that every person has rights.
And let me digress here. All men does not exclude women, unless you are woefully ignorant or looking for offense. in the English language, we are all men. Humans are men. It’s not until you want to break out the sexes for some reason that we find the words change to men and women. I’m a man, in this sense, despite my very evident female form and having borne four children in my womb. All men are created equal, and that includes the female, the male, and whatever is in between. Having disposed of that…
Life. We have the right to live. This right is eroded constantly in some big and small ways. We have decided, for instance, that unborn children do not have a right to life. A small and nasty movement of people are trying to extend that even past the moment of birth. Another movement is trying to allow the cessation of life for those they deem unnecessary to human society – the disabled and handicapped. My sister, who is mentally about four years old in her abilities, faces severe discrimination from her own doctors who don’t think they should treat her because she offers nothing to them. This contradicts not only their own oaths, but their duties as humans to give her the right to life. As outlined in the second amendment, we humans also have the right to defend ourselves against those who would take our lives from us. That right to self-defense cannot be contracted out. Each of us are responsible for our own lives, and further, I propose, to defend the lives of those in our care, who cannot stand fully on their own. I stand for my children while they are in my care. My husband would lay down his life for me. We both teach our children how to defend themselves should they be caught outside our shelter.
The abrogation of one right falsifies all of them. Dear readers, most of you agree with me that the right to life, extends into self-defense and the ability to defend my family when they are unable to do that themselves. But there are some who do not fully understand what this means, and who are complacent to say things like ‘I defend myself with my cell phone, by calling the police if there’s danger’ because they do not believe that the right to keep and bear arms applies to all people of our country. I utterly reject that notion as dangerous to all our rights.
Liberty is under constant threat, and without the power to enforce our rights, we will lose them. Liberty can only be held with strength. Not to own others. But to say ‘you shall not own me. I am my own person.’ Liberty can be taken. Liberty can be given away, and all too often we give it, in bits here and there until what remains is the mere shade of what was once a formidable substance. Freedom is useless without life. The pursuit of happiness is not fully possible without freedom. The rights of man are inextricably linked to one another.
I have the great privilege of having been born into this nation, where my rights are recognized. I understand, having been powerless and unable to exercise my rights, how insidious that state can be, and how important it is to regain control and to be able to defend oneself. No one can force your rights on you should you choose to abandon them, but there, you had a choice. If you choose not to live, if you choose to live in bondage (there are many forms), if you choose to seek misery rather than happiness… you are free to do so. However, those are your choices. Your rights. By choosing, you are seizing your rights. You cannot force your choices onto me, or mine, because that is the ultimate betrayal of human rights.
We must think about these rights constantly if we are to maintain them. It’s easy to drift through life focused on the day-to-day demands of family, work… simply living to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothing to wear. We work hard for those things, because we have been given the right to do so. In the short-sightedness of routine, we lose sight of the greater Rights we are born into, handing over the care of those to representatives. Do we think those we voted into offices are smarter than we? Wiser, perhaps? More able to protect the Right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? We don’t think, that’s the answer. We simply find it easier to hand that care over to someone else so we don’t have to think about it. We’ve got enough on our minds going to work, coming home, flopping on the couch to watch mindless entertainment, sleeping, and repeating ad infinitum. The last time you read the Declaration of Independence? The last time you thought about it? Well?