We Wouldn’t Need the Bill of Rights if Everyone Agreed

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No really, think about it.  We need the Constitution to set out the structure of government.  It’s basically like traffic laws in that it’s just laying out the rules so everybody can follow them and have an efficient structure.  But the Bill of Rights is completely different.  That is to lay out what the individual has that must not be taken away by government.

When do you need a contract?  When everything’s hunky dory and going well or when things hit the fan?

Rights are the same way.  You don’t need to worry about rights when they aren’t violated.  The person walking down the street and isn’t stopped by the officer probably isn’t running the 4th amendment through their head (unless they’re a lawyer, of course 😉  But the person who is stopped and search and feeling violated, they’re going to that amendment pretty damn skippy.

Now, we can all pretty much agree the cops shouldn’t be hassling an innocent person walking down the street.  Where the Bill of Rights comes in and where we see the need to remember those rights are for every single American citizen, is when the person is suspected of a crime.  When the cops are sure that’s the person who just murdered somebody and they want to search him for the knife.

That’s when we need to remember the rights inherent in us as human beings.

Now, most people could even agree on that.  And they’d say that’s when the cops have to make sure they have reasonable suspicion or probable cause (normal people know those terms, right?  I don’t remember, I haven’t been a normal person in 5 years… actually, I’ve never been a normal person, but I mean I haven’t been outside the legal world in 5 years 🙂

But what about other rights?  What about ones where there’s serious disagreement over whether that should even be a right?

That is where the Bill of Rights comes in and throws its weight around.  Especially in a democratic society.  Everyone calling for a restriction or a repeal of rights, you are why we have that thing in the first place.

The forefathers knew government craved power and the majority could squash the minority if it wished unless there were safeguards put in place.  And there is no smaller minority than the individual.

It’s easy to say we believe in our rights, we’re Americans, we will protect rights when it’s something you believe in.  But what about when it isn’t?  When it’s a rally to support gay rights, most people would agree even if they don’t agree with gay marriage that the first amendment protects that.

What about when it’s Nazis marching in the streets?  They have all the proper permits and followed all the rules, they have just as much right to march down that street as the gay pride parade.

We don’t worry about our rights when everyone agrees those are rights.  We worry about them when everyone doesn’t.  That doesn’t make them less of a right.  Even when the government steps in and starts regulating them, it still has to justify that regulation.  It has to have some greater reason, something to justify even that small Inconvenience.  If it doesn’t, it’s the court’s job to smack them down.  Which it does sometimes, even though it may take it awhile to get there.

Even the court isn’t perfect and the judges have their biases.  It may take it years to catch up.

As people living in a democratic society, and as the smallest minority in the country, every single individual has to remember when they are calling for the limitation on rights, either by claiming it’s not really a right or that’s not what the forefathers meant, or by saying the Constitution should be amended, remember that when someone’s saying the same about one of the rights you hold dear.

And when you’re arguing about some right you don’t think is one or shouldn’t be, apply those arguments to the other side when they are arguing against one of the rights you do believe in.

Notice any similarities?

(Like my post? You may like my fiction. Check me out at my Author Page on Amazon.)

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One thought on “We Wouldn’t Need the Bill of Rights if Everyone Agreed

  1. Interestingly, the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. Being the country that made huge contributions to legal process, that nobody is above the law, democratic accountability etc. etc., the whole thing is a bit… messy. Essentially, a citizen of the UK has freedom to do anything – unless there’s a law against it. We’ve had grief from right-wingers over the last decade or so ever since the UK signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights in the 90s. We hear a lot about criminals/migrants/terrorists getting away with not being prosecuted/deported/imprisoned as it would infringe their human rights. The spurious arguments in favour of repealing the ECHR fail to appreciate it’s the only place in UK legislation (as opposed to case law) where our fundamental rights are laid out.

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