Many of us will pick a particular cause to champion, with various human rights being a favorite topic of most.
Some people fight to squash racial prejudice.
Others fight for the rights of those with unconventional sexual orientation.
Religious freedom, free speech and the right to keep and bear arms (RKBA) are other worthy causes.
However, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that all of these things are interrelated.
For instance, we could not defend our right to practice our chosen religion (or choose NOT to practice one) without being able to voice our preference.
We could not influence laws covering religious freedom without the right to petition our government.
Without the ability to have an impartial jury of our peers arbitrate our grievances, we would be at the mercy of a dictatorial government.
Our unique form of government was constructed with the intention that the populace would actively participate in the administration of the state.
Our founders realized that without the ability to practice and preserve certain natural rights, things that could not be granted or denied by any government, that we could never be free. So they amended our constitution to include the Bill of Rights.
There was quite a debate at the time and many of those opposed to the addition stated that they were afraid that the amendments would be misconstrued as implying that these were grants from the government instead of what they really are – statements of fact.
In the end, it was decided that the natural rights listed in the first 10 amendments were so important that they should expressly be protected.
In fact, some believe that the abolition of slavery, the right of blacks and women to vote and many more major advancements in freedom were facilitated in part by the decision to enumerate these basic human rights in our Constitution.
No one will contest that most of these rights are just as relevant today as they were three centuries ago.
However, there are some who say that the RKBA is obsolete.
Others say that we need to limit the ability of people to bear arms…either who can own them or what types should be available. We must remember, however, the inherent danger of these attitudes.
When the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were drafted and ratified, there were muskets and cannons. Today we have machine guns and rocket launchers; guns that shoot faster, and have a higher capacity. Some say that this was not what the framers had in mind, but if we think logically we will see that they absolutely did envision such possibilities.
The Founding Fathers, fresh from waging war to gain their freedom from an oppressive government, wanted to ensure that we would always have the means to prevent future despots from overpowering the populace and imposing tyrannical rule.
They realized that the only way to safeguard ALL of the enumerated rights reiterated in the Bill of Rights, and the only way to guarantee self-rule…and therefore freedom…was for the citizenry to have at least the same firepower as the government. They no doubt counted on future advancements in technology. Many of them were more than infatuated with current scientific advancements, and some were even pioneers in the field.
It was further debated, as we see in the Federalist Papers, whether or not we should have a standing army.
The danger of our own government oppressing the People is greatly enhanced when there is a standing army authorized by the Constitution.
However, the flip side to that is the need to be ready to defend against attack with a fully functional military force.
The compromise was to make provisions for a national military force under supervision of the federal government, with a review of funding for this force every two years. The countermeasure, to ensure the freedom of the People, was the guarantee of the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.
To put things even more into context, think about the era immediately following the Civil War.
Slaves were freed in theory, but in fact they were still persecuted.
They were denied many things that were taken for granted by most of us today. For instance, they were forbidden to vote for some time (as were women of that day).
In many localities they were not allowed to own land or businesses, reducing them to the paid equivalent of slavery coupled with severe poverty.
Freed blacks were not allowed access to the court systems, not even to testify against someone who had murdered their loved ones or stolen from them (no ability to redress).
There were many organizations who murdered and raped blacks who spoke out against injustice.
Laws were passed to forbid the freed slaves from owning guns, canes, knives or other means of personal defense, and these were some of the first gun control laws in this nation.
They were intended to keep FREE PEOPLE from exercising the very basic human right of self-preservation.
Yet they were upheld by the courts and by popular opinion as relevant and justified because those who had been targeted were not allowed to testify.
Today we understand that everyone has the right to defend themselves…or do we?
Flash forward to current times
In Germany the Jews were named as scapegoats and blamed for a poor economy. They were stripped of the fruits of their labor, forced into crowded neighborhoods, disarmed so they couldn’t fight back, and later taken to concentration camps or murdered.
This is only one example of a government-sanctioned genocide in modern times, and it was facilitated because a group of people were denied their basic human rights, including the viable means for defense.
In Australia, Aboriginal children were taken from their parents by the government, a practice that was instituted in 1909 and continued into the 1970’s, with the claim that the children needed to be protected from the “primitive” lifestyle of their parents.
The Kurds in Iraq, the Armenians in Turkey and the Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia were modern-day instances of governmental ethnic cleansing…a more palatable term for genocide.
So, to say that tyrannical governments are a thing of the past is wishful thinking at best.
The point here is that we must take measures to safeguard all human rights…
For all humans.
We must be aware that there is a balancing act and that giving up – or placing less importance on – any one right is like taking a piece out of a Jenga game stack. You may not topple the whole structure right away, but you will weaken it so that it will not be able to withstand any greater stress.
You have heard the concept of united we stand, divided we fall. This applies especially to our civil rights.
Even when we do not necessarily agree with others, we must take care to defend the interests of ALL of our neighbors.
Because without the freedom of speech, we do not have freedom of religion.
Without the ability to air our grievances, we do not have control over our destiny.
If we are not able to reap the fruits of our labor, we are slaves to our benefactors.
And if we do not have the ability to protect any and all of these rights then we are mere subjects to those who would dictate our destiny.