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A 21st Century Bill of Rights

I grew up thinking about our Constitutional rights as something akin to what Moses brought back from the mountain. I felt as if they were somehow sacred– as if handed down from God. The rights in our Constitution seemed to come from America's version of Moses' stone tablets. Conversely, if something was not a part of those founding documents, then it must not be worthy. Much of that, I'm sure, was generated from the way that American history is taught. The Founders are portrayed as almost super-human men. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Ben Franklin. Their names ring with the stature of some of our nation's greatest people: our nation's original rock stars!

As I have grown older and learned to better understand how our country works, I have reconsidered this concept of rights – as well as the men who drafted them. I have come to the conclusion that our rights are clearly earthly/human concepts – developed out of a decidedly political process as opposed to anything from "on high". As such, they deserve to be thought about that way. To start, it is absolutely critical that the aura of infallibility be removed from our Founders. With all due respect, they were mere human beings – no different than you and me. They may have been called upon to perform great deeds, but they also – no doubt – suffered from their share of moral failures and peccadilloes as well. I've always wondered how the Founders could be considered so right about everything related to our founding documents, yet so wrong in having the sensibility to think it OK to own and dehumanize other human beings.

It seems foolish to think that anyone, however brilliant and prescient, could contemplate the ways this nation has evolved. Jefferson, quite clearly for example, could not imagine 2006. In writing about the concept of integration, he said "deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites - ten thousand recollections by the blacks of the injuries they have sustained . . . the real distinctions that nature has made, and many other circumstances which divide us into parties (would) produce convulsions which would never end but with the extermination of one or the other race." Through contemporary ears, Jefferson sounds like the most virulent of racists as opposed to one of our most beloved statesmen. (Go figure!)

If the men who established American rights were "mere mortals", then is there any way that the rights themselves that came from them are anything more? Perhaps we should consider our rights in a more organic fashion. That is, as thoughtful Americans, perhaps we should critically evaluate our current menu of rights – adding and subtracting to meet the needs and sensibility of contemporary America. In psychology, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that people have to secure their most basic needs before worrying about others. For example, you've got to breathe before you can worry about self-esteem or self-actualization. This concept would seem to apply to rights as well. We have the right to free speech, and the freedom of religion, and the right to a "speedy trial", but do those rights secure our most crucial societal and human needs? What good is the right to free speech if you are struggling just to put food on the table? Is a speedy trial more important than a legal system free of bias and fraud? We are told that we are a democracy, yet Bush v. Gore and electronic voting seem to challenge that.

Let's briefly consider the following rights:

  • The right to live free of racism, classism, sexism, or sexual orientation bias etc.

  • The right to a legal system free of race, class, or any other bias

  • The right to a living wage – to not be exploited for your labor

  • The right to vote (NOT in the constitution) and to have it count

  • The right to a quality public education

  • The right to quality healthcare

  • The right to clean air, water and wholesome/healthy food


    Seriously, can anyone say that the right to bear arms, for example, approaches any of the above with respect to the ability to lead someone toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Many of us voraciously defend some of our current rights, yet excuse exploitation that flows from not being protected from much more critical issues.

    This country was founded by wealthy white men for wealthy white men. Naturally, they constructed the rules (our laws, rights, etc.) to serve their interests and to sustain their position. No doubt, the United States of America has become more populist over the generations. Perhaps a 21st Century Bill of Rights needs to be constructed to codify the evolution of our thinking to include protection of ALL Americans. To be clear, these proposed rights are not meant to take anything away from anyone. They are, however, designed to create the even playing field that our original documents profess. "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." Those are their words, not mine.

    Martin Luther Kind said "Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy". A 21st Century Bill of Rights would take us a long way toward that end.

    That's our challenge. That's our opportunity!
  • © MBM

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    The Founders Fathers were indeed a bunch of highly intelligent, elite, racist white men, the cream of their crop (in America) and highly regarded back in Britain, as well. Considering the circumstances at the time, I believe they had one helluva idea -- to try and perfect British rule of law to establish a better, more relaxed type of governing. They first asked Britain if they could, when Britain said no, they only way they could make it happen was to go to war and fight for it (typical European way). Thus the American Revolution and War of Independence.

    Having won their war and independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was born. They are documents of a great American Dream, the foundation to the establishment of a whole new country. The only one constant of this ever-changing society was designed to be -- and actually has been -- the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Any and all changes to our national law are based on it.

    I think you have to look at our Constitution and the Founding Fathers as a fallible document produced by fallible people. Indeed, it was either ignorance or arrogance that led them to look at human beings as animals. How much more failing can a person be? But, I also believe it's true that there are a lot of African Americans who believe the "Dream," the promise of America, due to the fact that our ancestors made America what it is today ... whether or not credit is given for doing so. It's a fact of life. Without Black blood, sweat, tears and life, there would not be an America as they (and we know it). And the promise of America is the Constitution.

    The Bill of Rights are actually Amendments (the first 10) to the Constitution. It wasn't right the first time. It needed adjustment. And the Congress did just that. And (thank God) the Constitution is not exactly finalized, because other Amendments can still be added, although it takes a vote by 2/3 of the 50 states to pass one (another safety net courtesy of the original Constitituon!)

    Those rights that you listed above today are all subjects that are (supposed to be) legislated by our Congress, but without mention of becoming any sort of addendums to the Constitution itself. We've yet to have a Congress to adequately legislate any of those things. But the Congress is composed of those who are supposed to represent us. The fact that we continue to let them without holding them responsible for either legislating or amending the Constitution to acknowledge these societal necessities is on us, at least to some degree.

    I personally believe the Constitution was a very strong, powerful, enduring founding document. And I highly commend the brainpower that went into drafting and instituting it. They almost covered all bases. And then fortified it pretty good with the Bill of Rights. And although I strongly believe that your 7 "rights" listed above definitely need to be added as amendments to it, I don't believe any of our two dominant political parties are capable of making that happen. They can't even agree on the premise of those things. let alone see them as a necessity. I believe Republicans would rather die a slow death. Roll Eyes
    That's our challenge. That's our opportunity!---MBM

    I wholeheartedly agree!!!

    Let's briefly consider the following rights:MBM


    The right to live free of racism, classism, sexism, or sexual orientation bias etc.

    I would add 'in the law', or better yet, 'prohibited in the law'.

    The right to a legal system free of race, class, or any other bias

    I would add the same.


    The right to a living wage – to not be exploited for your labor


    The right to vote (NOT in the constitution) and to have it count

    I would add the definition for 'living wage'.

    The right to a quality public education

    Quality education need not be tied to being public.


    The right to quality healthcare

    The right to clean air, water and wholesome/healthy food---MBM

    Encompassed in, or corollary to your bias item, I would include permanent protection of the 'right to vote' on the basis of 'race and color'.

    And recognize the descendants of America's institution of slavery as an indigenous people of North America.

    PEACE

    Jim Chester
    Most of those are not rights MBM. They are all privileges granted by a criminal institution.

    We have no rightful authority to dictate who others may associate with, hire, allow onto their property, etc for whatever reason. You make an abomination of the cause for racial harmony when you threaten to destroy the business of any who practice racism. You will only achieve your noble cause on the moral battlefield. To send thugs against any who exercise their right to racism perverts and destroys our cause while empowering theirs. The only way to fight it is do it with nonviolence: boycott, spreading of information, debate, persuasion, protest, etc...

    You may choose mutually agreed upon arbitrators to settle disputes between you and others but one has no authority to impose a legal system upon another which they do not consent to.

    An employer may hire another for any payment or lack thereof that both parties agree to. In fact by dictating an arbitrary minimum wage you are hurting those on the lowest income levels. Businesses put money into things of value, if a worker has a value of $3 an hour than he/she will not make any income. If you raise minimum wage to $7 all those who have a labor value of below that will lose their jobs unless they can increase their value to $7. You simply make it harder for the poor to obtain employment. You hobble the economy in its' ability to raise overall income and employment on its' own, which it does in time and free of large-scale coercion. It is not exploitation to exchange money for labor, it is honorable and nothing but the law of supply and demand can dictate the value of a person's labor. If minimum wage is so great, why not raise it to a thousand dollars an hour?

    We have no authority to vote for rulers of people who do not consent to that rule. You will never keep monied interests from corrupting democracies unless that democracy is a violent mob which crushes entrepeneurs, then it is simply taken over by pathological personalities drunk on violence giving lip service to equality while filling their coffers with stolen money (Taxes).

    We must not accept being forced to pay for either the brainwashing of children or their education. It is virtuous to give charitably to those in need and education is of the greatest value. Do not sully that virtue with force. More people would recieve not only an education, but a quality one if all schools must compete with each other by providing lower cost, higher quality education. Governments use their education institutions to bend populaces to their will by dominating their minds. Vouchers are not only still theft, but also insinuate Government considerably into Private schools, perverting yet another institution independent of Government.

    No one has any authority or right to force another to take care of them. Like education, health care would be provided at lesser costs and at higher quality if Government did not interfere.

    You have a right not to be poisoned or your property harmed by pollution. Much like nonviolent struggles against racism, so can pollution causing elements be nonviolently dealt with, far more effectively then a democracy, far more ethically then socialism. As for food, each of us has the right to eat as unhealthy food as we desire and for sellers of food to sell food as unhealthy as consumers are willing to buy.

    Behind everything the government does, innocents must be stolen from, kidnapped and murdered.

    I wonder what Martin Luther King would say when nonviolent protestors protest and are the victims of violence used to further and corrupt his own ideals.
    In fact by dictating an arbitrary minimum wage you are hurting those on the lowest income levels. Businesses put money into things of value, if a worker has a value of $3 an hour than he/she will not make any income. If you raise minimum wage to $7 all those who have a labor value of below that will lose their jobs unless they can increase their value to $7. You simply make it harder for the poor to obtain employment. You hobble the economy in its' ability to raise overall income and employment on its' own, which it does in time and free of large-scale coercion. It is not exploitation to exchange money for labor, it is honorable and nothing but the law of supply and demand can dictate the value of a person's labor. If minimum wage is so great, why not raise it to a thousand dollars an hour?---'9'

    You lost me with this one.

    Bad rationale.

    When I paid a mimimum of $5/hour, the law required $3.75, 1/3 more.

    I thought I was a 'good guy'.

    The real reason I paid that amount is because I knew I would get 'garbage labor' at that rate.

    Your rationale says raising the minimum wage makes it harder to find work.

    Surely there is an oxymoron for that.


    PEACE

    Jim Chester
    We have no authority to vote for rulers of people who do not consent to that rule. You will never keep monied interests from corrupting democracies unless that democracy is a violent mob which crushes entrepeneurs, then it is simply taken over by pathological personalities drunk on violence giving lip service to equality while filling their coffers with stolen money (Taxes).---'9"

    Voting for rulers who do not consent to that rule.

    Please explain that.

    The logic sounds incestuous.


    PEACE

    Jim Chester
    quote:
    Originally posted by The 9th and Baklavey:
    Most of those are not rights MBM. They are all privileges granted by a criminal institution.


    No, they are not rights. But I think the point is that they should be.

    They are not and probably never will be primarily because the reasonings you presented above are the prevailing thought of too many others just like you ... and they hold the power to deny such basic humanity. Frown
    MBM,

    "The right to vote (NOT in the constitution) and to have it count."


    The 27 amendements are part of the constitution. What do you mean the right to vote is not in the constitution? Do you mean it is not in the bill of rights(first 10 amendments)?

    "The right to live free of racism, classism, sexism, or sexual orientation bias etc."

    People already have the right to not be discriminated because of their race, class, sex, and sexual orientation. It is now just a matter of enforcing this.

    Now, racism, sexism, and other bias are beliefs, so people can never live free from it. People only have the right for these biases not to impede on their lives.

    As far as the 2nd amendment(the right to bear arms) it was written when this was necessary. Now, not that what you listed was not important, but being able to defend yourself is just as important, especially if you live in a crime ridden area.

    Being able to protect your family from violence and crime is not just as important??
    Last edited {1}
    quote:
    Originally posted by Sweetwuzzy:
    The 27 amendements are part of the constitution. What do you mean the right to vote is not in the constitution? Do you mean it is not in the bill of rights(first 10 amendments)?


    Sweetwuzzy,

    There is nothing in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or any of the other Amendments that says anything about a "right" to vote. Eek The ability to be able to vote was pretty much automatically given to rich, White landowners, and through time as been expanded to include almost all U.S. citizens ... but nothing says that U.S. citizens have a right to vote.

    Most of the Amendments dealing with voting are there to secure and protect the ability of those who are entitled/eligible to vote to do so without problems due to race or sex. But no clause or amendment states that any of us have a "right" to do so!
    quote:

    You lost me with this one.
    Bad rationale.
    When I paid a mimimum of $5/hour, the law required $3.75, 1/3 more.
    I thought I was a 'good guy'.
    The real reason I paid that amount is because I knew I would get 'garbage labor' at that rate.
    Your rationale says raising the minimum wage makes it harder to find work.
    Surely there is an oxymoron for that.


    PEACE

    Jim Chester


    Actually HE MAKES PERFECT SENSE.

    Mr Chester - what would you do as a CONSUMER of raw materials that you later assembled into a finished product?..........you purchased FLOUR, EGGS and some POWERED CONFECTIONERY SUGAR to make $0.99 cupcakes. After seeing how prosperous your business has grown over the years the guy who sold you the powered sugar for years began to make the case that he had a RIGHT to earn money for his business at a rate commensurate to YOUR success. He first doubles his price one year. No problem because you are able to accept this increase into your MARGIN. That next year he tries to DOUBLE it again. This price increase begins to jeopardize your ability to continue to sell your goods at $0.99. All the while a DIFFERENT sugar processor has been knocking on your door who is based in the next town. You resisted her invitation for business because of your loyalty to the other guy. Now that THE ORIGINAL GUY'S PRICES are at a point at which they both are - far beyond the MARKET VALUE of the benefit that they have to you - as the powered sugar is only a decorative toping - not a core ingredient to the finished product AND you have a secondary alternative in this other sugar processor - who's prices are half as what you are currently paying.

    JWC - WITH RESPECT TO THE ORIGINAL SUGAR PROCESSOR - what are the chances that his INCREASED EXPENSE is going to allow him to continue to have a relationship with YOU?

    There are 3 likely outcomes:

    1) Drop the current supplier and go with the new, lower cost provider
    2) Stop using the powdered sugar because it is a decorative add on and the high price has now beyond the UTILITY of the good
    3) Go back to the original supplier and tell him to DROP HIS PRICES or you will do #1 or #2

    So you see JWC - the LABOR RATE as was articulated above is a function of THE VALUE that this unit of labor has on the process and the CONSUMER of this labor.

    To believe otherwise is to totally ignore YOUR OWN CONSUMER BEHAVIOR.
    quote:
    I have come to the conclusion that our rights are clearly earthly/human concepts – developed out of a decidedly political process as opposed to anything from "on high". As such, they deserve to be thought about that way. To start, it is absolutely critical that the aura of infallibility be removed from our Founders. With all due respect, they were mere human beings – no different than you and me. They may have been called upon to perform great deeds, but they also – no doubt – suffered from their share of moral failures and peccadilloes as well. I've always wondered how the Founders could be considered so right about everything related to our founding documents, yet so wrong in having the sensibility to think it OK to own and dehumanize other human beings.


    This "flawed document" is a worthy reference to the average so-called "Civil Rights/Civil Liberties" activist.

    To my knowledge there IS NO DOCUMENT on this Earth that was written from the hands of anything other than MAN. It appears that your standard of "infallibility" is an insurmountable hurdle.


    quote:
    the real distinctions that nature has made, and many other circumstances which divide us into parties (would) produce convulsions which would never end but with the extermination of one or the other race."

    Sounds to me that he fully understood what Public Enemy communicated years later - "White Man, Black Woman - Black Baby"

    quote:
    If the men who established American rights were "mere mortals", then is there any way that the rights themselves that came from them are anything more? Perhaps we should consider our rights in a more organic fashion. That is, as thoughtful Americans, perhaps we should critically evaluate our current menu of rights – adding and subtracting to meet the needs and sensibility of contemporary America.


    Sounds to me that you are spounting that famous liberal line - "When THEY did it, they didn't know what they were doing. We are smarter. When we try it everything is going to work fine"

    Sounds to me that the Constitution is a "living document" that should have a "Version X" produced every so often to make it relevant for the day.

    MBM - when you say "meet the needs and sensibility of contemporary America"..........who's MEANS will you use to satisfy other's NEEDS? Does the "means providers" have any RIGHTS to defend their property against society marauding when the MAJORITY votes itself ownership of his property?

    quote:
    In psychology, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs suggests that people have to secure their most basic needs before worrying about others. For example, you've got to breathe before you can worry about self-esteem or self-actualization. This concept would seem to apply to rights as well. We have the right to free speech, and the freedom of religion, and the right to a "speedy trial", but do those rights secure our most crucial societal and human needs? What good is the right to free speech if you are struggling just to put food on the table? Is a speedy trial more important than a legal system free of bias and fraud? We are told that we are a democracy, yet Bush v. Gore and electronic voting seem to challenge that.


    MBM - WHAT IF Zimbabwe, Guatemala and Laos were to PASS A CONSTITUTION that had all that you have listed?
    DOES THE FACT THAT IT APPEARS ON PAPER - IN AND OF ITSELF - GUARANTEE THAT IT WILL COME TO BE?


    Worse yet - absent "The Right To Free Food" in the US Constitution has allowed all but the rare exception of Americans today to have FOOD to eat. Wow - we actually got food into our stomachs without a law having been passed.

    YOU ARE A DANGEROUS MAN MBM -
    It is interesting that Bush was criticized for putting RESTRICTIONS upon man in a document that detailed an individuals RIGHTS that the government cannot abridge........YOU are no better with your philosophy. You wish to put into the sovereign document provisions that ONE INDIVIDUAL must bestow UPON ANOTHER.

    Having the RIGHT to a QUALITY EDUCATION assumes that the GOVERNMENT is the critical element that produces QUALITY. (No doubt in your mind you are going to SPEND - daggumit until this elusive QUALITY is achieved - TAKING AWAY FROM OTHERS WHO HAVE REACHED YOUR PERCEIVED STATE OF "QUALITY" until we have a common set of QUALITY on a RELATIVE basis but doubtfully the "ABSOLUTE" level of quality that SOME were able to achieve prior to your intrusion.

    A parent that FAILS to do her part in the achievement of "quality" could SUE THE GOVERNMENT despite HER FAILINGS and demand that the GOVERNMENT "fix her child" BECAUSE IT IS HER "RIGHT"!!!!!!
    quote:
    Seriously, can anyone say that the right to bear arms, for example, approaches any of the above with respect to the ability to lead someone toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?


    My RIGHT to own a gun is specifically introduced to prevent a government that is headed by a group of people who would dare put these other absurd items into the sovereign document of the nation from HAVING THEIR WAY WITH ME AND MY PROPERTY - the product of my efforts and wise judgment.
    quote:
    Originally posted by Constructive Feedback:

    To my knowledge there IS NO DOCUMENT on this Earth that was written from the hands of anything other than MAN. It appears that your standard of "infallibility" is an insurmountable hurdle.


    The whole point of the piece is to describe our founding documents as completely fallible and human. The objective of that understanding is to get us to question them and to push to adjust them as society evolves.

    I'm sorry this point was lost on you.


    quote:

    Sounds to me that the Constitution is a "living document" that should have a "Version X" produced every so often to make it relevant for the day.


    Perhaps you're not aware that the Framers thought it important for the Constitution to evolve. Why else would they create a process whereby amendments could be added? I believe there have been 27.

    quote:
    MBM - when you say "meet the needs and sensibility of contemporary America"..........who's MEANS will you use to satisfy other's NEEDS? Does the "means providers" have any RIGHTS to defend their property against society marauding when the MAJORITY votes itself ownership of his property?


    This is a fundamentally flawed perspective. History has shown that MOST redistribution of income has come from the poor, working, and middle classes being exploited (i.e. raped) at the hands of the elites.

    quote:
    You wish to put into the sovereign document provisions that ONE INDIVIDUAL must bestow UPON ANOTHER.


    Where else does law come from CF? If not from God, then doesn't it have to be from man? Is government itself a function of God or of man? Are laws creations of God or man? Did God write the Constitution? Confused

    The whole point of my commentary is that the Constitution is in no way akin to the Ten Commandments or other writings that are believed to be divine. The Constitution is a writ created by men to organize a government - based upon their best thinking in in 18th century.

    BTW - CF what else from the 18th century are you pledged to? Do you want you doctor practicing medicine from the 18th century? Do you want an 18th century home (hint: there aren't any in Atlanta)? Do you want an 18th century car? What about an 18th century computer? Cell phone? Can you think of anything that you would prefer vintage 18 century? Etc. If you can appreciate the evolution of human thinking and achievement that occurred over the last 300 years as it relates to these items, why not with regard to how we think about government and society?

    quote:
    Having the RIGHT to a QUALITY EDUCATION assumes that the GOVERNMENT is the critical element that produces QUALITY.


    Does the government produce the airplanes that it regulates? Does it produce the food that it ensures is safe and fresh? C'mon CF . . . td6

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