As it says in the Declaration of Independence, we are all endowed with "certain inalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
As it says in the US Constitution, the purpose of government is, in part, to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
The Rights and Freedoms we all deserve must be defined in our laws, and protected by our government, or we will find ourselves without them.
When everyone gets the Rights and Freedoms we all deserve from our government, that is justice.
In a government of, by, and for the people, it is up to US to define what our rights and freedoms are, and to discover how they are to be protected through our laws.
The bill of rights defines several well known rights and freedoms.
The first amendment protects our freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.
The second amendment protects our right to bear arms.
The third amendment prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes for quarter.
The fourth amendment requires a warrant from a judge before any government person perform search and seizure of any person or their property. Such a warrant is only to be issued upon ‘probable cause."
The fifth amendment ensures the right to not be compelled to testify against oneself.
The sixth amendment ensures a right to a public trial by impartial jury and a right to an attorney in criminal trials.
The seventh amendment ensures the right to trial by jury also exists in common law cases.
The eighth amendment prohibits ‘excessive bail,’ ‘excessive fines’ and ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’
The ninth amendment clarifies that we are free to define, in our constitution and our laws, additional rights we believe we all deserve, beyond just those listed in the original Bill of Rights.
The tenth amendment clarify that powers not belonging to the United States belong to the states, or else to the people, unless they are powers prohibited by the Constitution.
Over time, as encouraged by the 9th amendment, additional rights and freedoms have been defined by we the people, as well as clarifying what powers the United States federal government has.
For example, the thirteenth amendment prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude.
The sixteenth amendment clarified that US Congress has the power to collect income tax.
The nineteenth amendment ensures that the right of citizens to vote ’shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The twenty second amendment prohibited any person from being elected President more than twice.
The Supreme Court over the years, has helped to clarify the exact meaning of our rights and freedoms, whenever they come into conflict with one another.
For example, in 1919, the Supreme Court ruled that yelling ‘Fire!” in a crowded theater is not speech protected by the first amendment right to free speech, because it endangers the lives other and thus violates their right to life.
In 2008, the Supreme Court clarified the second amendment. Firstly, they stated all citizens have right to bear arms regardless of whether they are part of a ‘well regulated militia.’ Secondly, they clarified that "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of fire- arms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”
Frankin Delano Roosevelt, in his famous “Four Freedoms” speech, argued that we need to consider that “necessitous men are not free.” In other words, a person stricken with poverty is not free to pursue happiness, and is thus being unjustly denied this right.
FDR also described a “Freedom from Fear” - understanding that people living in fear of violence are not truly free either.
Without freedom from fear and freedom from want, Americans are not truly free.
To ensure real freedom for all, we need a fair economy, so the poor are not enslaved by poverty.
To ensure real freedom for all, we need a foreign policy seeking peace, so we don’t live in fear of war.
To ensure real freedom for all, we need diligent public health, so we don’t live in fear of disease, pollution, and violence.
To ensure real freedom for all, we need quality education and guidance for all, so that we all have equality of opportunity to escape the trap of poverty.
To ensure real freedom for all, we need Medicare for All. We can define healthcare as a right we all deserve.
Freedom, Justice, and Our Rights, they are all inseparable, and we are all equally entitled to them.
Because we live in a land of self-governance, we get to define them all, and enshrine them in law.
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