Begging the Question
The Preamble of the Constitution states:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” makes me ask:
What does it really mean to secure the blessings of liberty? Or rather, what are the blessings of liberty?
The second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence starts as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” begs another question: “What was meant by equality?”
More pointedly, do the people of the U.S. have the right to be assholes? Do said assholes have the right to assemble together?
These questions arose as I watched video from the recent protests in Charlottesville. A young man looked into the camera and said, “We’re proud to be white!” Are you now? And what exactly creates this pride? It is a glaring truth that we are all born where and to whom the Creator wills. It’s the same premise if you have no belief in a creator. No one has any control over their birth. Can we agree on that?
I like knowing my ancestry, I find it interesting to hear stories about who came before me. I’ve heard my Welsh grandmother was temporarily apoplectic when her sons married outside of their ethnic and religious roots. She was raised in an enclave of European immigrants who joined their families when they arrived. Seems perfectly natural to me to join with familiars when in a new environment. And Gramma Bevan, as we called her, came to love her extended family, no matter where they had originated from. She saw the value of the individuals as she got to know them as family. I enjoy hearing stories of her and my other ancestors, but do not believe she or anyone else informs my personal worth as a person in my day-to-day life.
I also enjoy the idea of being created versus being a universal accident. To me it gives value and purpose in life on earth in a way nothing else can. The intrinsic gift of being alive. But this faith doesn’t create pride either. Achievement does. Achievement of trustworthiness or wisdom or responsibility or productivity or honesty or integrity or humility or diligence or courage or loyalty. Believing one person has more value than another by an accident of birth is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
So I view humanity as having intrinsic worth no matter the time and place of birth. But there is a wide chasm between intrinsic value and individual evil actions. The experiment that is America has the Constitution for that reason. The entire judiciary branch of government was formed to deal with that reality.
But can you be an asshole? If you don’t break any laws, can you assemble with like-minded people in a free state?
The early Americans under tyranny from the King of England, fought a war to provide freedom. With the creation of the Constitution, weren’t they asking all future Americans to give up something of themselves to join in and “identify” as American? Weren’t they asking us to give up a certain level of security and safety and ethnic identification in the name of freedom? Weren’t they asking us to give up the right to make value judgments on groups we disagreed with? Gramma B eventually learned that there were good people in the Italian, Polish, and German enclaves around the bend. That individuals should not be defined by their group.
Every person on the planet makes value judgements, of course that is not wrong! You can’t live without doing so. Should I do this thing or that thing? Do I believe in this thing or that thing? Do I like this person or that one? This freedom is beautiful.
But it comes at a price. Day in and day out there will be groups of people who claim truth with their set of beliefs. There will be zealots in all quarters of the thought spectrum who defy the rule of law and commit violence. My favorite things about free speech are: my undeniable right to ignore whoever I want, and to disengage with whoever I want. The freedom to speak never mandates respect for disrespectable speech! We can tell someone all day long that their thoughts or words are intrinsically wrong, but we can’t take away their right to have them or speak them, IMO. I’ll admit it, I value my freedom. I don’t want to be gagged for anything, at any time, ever. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. No one is required to agree with my words, but I beg you, please don’t limit them.