The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, offered with these words a unique view of human rights:
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.
Eleven years later, the preamble of the brand-new U.S. Constitution presented an equally unique view of government’s purpose:
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, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The common theme of both documents? The idea that government derives its power from the consent of the governed and should work for them and their interests, not for any other entities or interests.
We are now seeing a degradation of that intent.
We see daily news reports of the treasonous activities of the previous head of the Executive branch, in collusion with elements of the Legislative branch. And we see a failure of the Judicial branch to safeguard individual rights from the arbitrary exercise of power at state level, impelled by certain religious interests. These events are parts of a bigger picture: the attempted overthrow of the ideals of individual rights set forth in our founding documents.
But rather than just wring our hands, the publishers of Fact Keepers wish to celebrate this 4th of July by postulating a brighter future, a future in which rights that most of us believe can never be taken away from us—unalienable rights—are protected for all time, out of reach of the political influences that may exist in any branch of our government. We therefore propose these specific rights as those that should be protected by the next ten amendments to our Constitution.
- Citizens of the United States have the right to insist that their local, state, and Federal leaders fulfill their oaths of office in letter and spirit, placing the good of the people above their personal interests and political success.
- Voters of every persuasion have the right of unrestrained access to ballot boxes, at polls or by mail, with no possibility that their votes will be ignored or overturned by any official at local, state, or federal level.
- Children have the right to go to school without having to fear attacks by madmen armed with military grade weapons.
- Women have the right to decide when and whether to have children according to their own beliefs and values, never controlled by others’ religious beliefs with regards to when life begins.
- People have the right of access to health care, effective medicine, and healthy food, provided in the most cost-effective manner possible, with prices not inflated for the sake of the profit of individuals or corporations.
- Employees at every level have the right to a living wage rate sufficient to pay for quality housing, food, health care, childcare, and the ability to secure their futures through savings.
- Students of all ages have the right to learn the history of America from the perspectives of all of the peoples who experienced it, so as to better understand how we can work towards “a more perfect union” of those peoples.
- Our children and their children have the right to grow up in a world where their parents and leaders worked together to make every possible effort to decontaminate the land and oceans, preserve diversity of wildlife, and limit global climate change.
- Individuals have the right to choose their form of sexual expression and the people they wish to love and create families with.
- All categories of human beings from birth onward who live in this nation shall be protected under Federal law from violations of the above rights at any level of government.
How do we turn hopes like these into reality? It’s simple: we must make our voices heard.
The phrase “use it or lose it” never meant as much as it does now. A concentrated campaign is underway in more than half our states to curtail our ability to vote, or to simply ignore our choices. We can’t let this happen.
Our plea to readers is simple: Celebrate this Independence Day, and use it to forge a decision to make your own voice heard as the year goes forward through the primaries and November elections.
Have fun with the fireworks, BBQs, and softball games. But let’s also make this 4th of July a day in which we reaffirm the purposes of our founding documents and renew our allegiance to the ideals they express.