Dec. 15 a true American holiday
I propose another national holiday. That day is Dec. 15. What makes Dec. 15 special to any American citizen? The answer is one we all should know by heart. Most American taxpayer-funded schools and colleges manage to teach us about Christopher Columbus, the pilgrims and the Mayflower mission for religious freedom, the Jamestown settlement, and many other important events and dates leading up to the Revolutionary War victory after our Declaration of Independence and the debates that pounded out a proposed constitution.
Where we often fall short is a full appreciation of the fact that the basic Constitution was hotly rejected and suspected by so many American patriots that it was in danger of ever being ratified or accepted as governing law by the original 13 colonies. The original release of it on Sept. 17, 1787 only asked for nine of the 13 colonies to vote yes. The colonists went on to debate and demand, over four more years, that serious and specific restrictions on the power we were granting to the new president, representatives, senators and Supreme Court Justices would be forever held up to the light for all citizens to judge their actions and the laws they tried to put in place over us.
Dec. 15, 1791 should be up for consideration as a Day of Remembrance, of ceremonies and study of the vital importance of what the day represents. We have natural rights to our lives, to personal liberty and to our private property, and the pursuit of happiness. You get to decide for yourself what happiness you pursue, but there is no government guarantee you ever get it, just as there is no government guarantee you will have some set amount of money or property. You still have to earn it.
The natural rights that are spelled out in black and white include your freedom to exercise your worship of God, your freedom to speak out or write critically against your government, and to rally or protest and gather signatures on formal petitions to demand removal of abusers of power. You have an individual right to keep and carry weapons, as did your colonial ancestors own and use the rifles and pistols and swords that the soldiers of that era used. The government shall not demand that you give up your house for soldiers bunks, and shall not search you or your house or your stuff without a specific warrant to do so. No federal judge can put you on trial without a jury, or take away your freedom or full enjoyment of your property without an open, objectively fair legal process. You shall not be arrested and locked up for want of excessive bail money, nor can you be singled out for excessive fines or cruel punishment. Remember, these people were still smarting from the abuses of King George and his English bureaucrats. You have to go to seriously fascist places in this century to find prisons, torture, hangings, beheadings, and injustice like King George inflicted on his subjects. The colonists wanted no part of that ever again.
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments covered the rest of the bases with a blanket policy of private citizen protection. Number 9 spells out, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” In other words, just because the colonists did not spell out another personal freedom here, Congress and the president do not have a free pass to go after your life, liberty or property as they like.
The Tenth Amendment saves the best for last. All of us citizens and our elected state leaders should memorize this and hold it up like a solid shield more often. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibit by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Why do we all attempt to memorize the preamble to the Constitution, and call it sufficient? The preamble is like an introduction, nice and formal, but the binding law is the important stuff, and it comes later. We should all know what Article 1, Section 8 spells out for our federal representatives to take responsibility for, and what to keep their hands off of. Same goes for the senators and the president. And Supreme Court justices are not divine, infallible agents of God, and can have their decisions reversed or nullified by still sovereign states in 2014.
More importantly, we should all study and defend and exercise our natural rights that are written in plain English in the Bill of Rights.
Every Dec. 15, think on these things. Discuss them with your family. Remind your friends to take the time to review them.
Celebrate Dec. 15 as a real and all-American national holiday should be.
Bruce Edward Haas lives in Marietta.