Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grateful Citizen

I was thinking yesterday about how grateful I am to be a citizen of the United States of America. But, being me, I wanted to determine for exactly what I was so grateful. As it turns out, I am grateful for things that may not seem to go together. But it is a crazy patchwork of things that has made this country not just survive, but thrive, in the manner that it has for more than 200 years. Granted, that is a short time in the relative history of many other nations but a sign of the dynamism and wonder that is this nation.

So, what are the things for which I am grateful (as a citizen)? There are three and all are enshrined in the US Bill of Rights (and upheld through the law):

  • The right to bear arms (the right, not the obligation)
  • The right to freedom of speech (and the right to suffer the consequences accordingly)
  • The freedom of the press to monitor the actions of both the government and the people (admittedly, I am an NPR - National Public Radio - fan)
 Yet these are seemingly incongruous within the current political landscape. Or, to be more precise, certain political groups would support the right to bear arms but deny the right of NPR (or most other news organizations) as being politically biased and therefore useless - and vice versa. Yet it is the ability of these ideals to exist with each other that makes this nation stronger, in my opinion. My right to bear arms is to help moderate the power of the government and help to ensure that it remains answerable to its citizens rather than a tyranny under which the citizens must suffer. My right to speak my mind without fear of arbitrary punishment as a result - though I am (and should be) held accountable when my speech causes undue harm to others (such as shouting "Fire!" in a crowded building). And the right of the press to monitor and report upon the government, in particular, helps to ensure, much like the right of the citizenry to own guns, that it will remain responsive and responsible to the people which it is designed to serve.

The key part of all three of these things is that they all be practiced in moderation. And herein lies the point of contention with many who inexplicably (at least in my mind) oppose them in given situations. Just because you have the right to own a gun does not mean you have the right to use it on your fellow citizens. Just because you have the right to speak your mind means you should do so without thinking first. And the power of the media should be moderated to ensure that it is not a power unto itself but a moderating force upon those it should report.

It is a delicate balance and there have been, and continue to be, the occasional errors. But, for the most part, it has worked and I am glad and grateful that it does.

(As a side note, I should also mention that writing early in the morning makes it more difficult to recall certain words that I wanted to use but couldn't immediately recall. I reserve the right to edit this post later when I remember the proper words. EDIT - "arbitrary" was the word I was looking for.)


  1. It difficult because often people don't understand a few things about their rights:

    1. Rights come with responsibility.
    2. When do my rights interfere with yours?

    Many of those groups you mention certainly seem to think their OWN right preclude everyone elses'. More frightening; some of them think their RELIGIOUS views should preclude others' rights.

  2. Yeah, I wouldn't argue either of those points. Too many people assume that rights mean you have them without the proper responsibility to maintain them. There are too many to list...

    And, I believe there is a saying that your rights to do as you please end when you walk past my front door. Too many people tend to forget that the right to do as you please only exists so long as those rights don't interfere with the rights of others. We all have to live together and that is most easily accomplished when we recognize that not everyone has the same thoughts/ideas/morals but that living within the established law is the best manner to ensure less conflict.

    And the idea of one religious point of view trampling on the rights of others is a subject that I may have to address in a separate post - and I'm sure that I will have plenty to offer on that particular subject. :-)