Saturday, July 4, 2015

We can be better, do better

It is going to be a wet day here in the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia, which I suppose is a spanner in the works of the plans of many, but not the Apple household. We do not grill out. But Roger will have hot dogs, while I have chili buns because I do not eat wieners, just do not like the things. I am making cole slaw, though, and macaroni salad. We have a couple of fresh tomatoes I picked up at the farmer's market on Wednesday and along with onion, oven fried yellow squash and sliced cucumber I think we shall eat well. I worked yesterday, and from the volume of items rolling out the doors of our friendly local Wal-Mart store, I dare say most of the county will be eating well. 

But this day is not just about what we are eating. For those of us who live in the States, this day is about celebrating this country, in all of her foibles and glory. I hope that each of you is able to do that today. A group of brave and visionary men hammered out what is known as The Bill of Rights, which were ratified as such on December 15, 1791. They are as follows:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The fact that there were amendments to the Constitution tells us something important, and is a legacy we need to remember. Our system works as well as it does because of discourse, and though not always polite and even-toned, discourse is in my opinion still the best way for consensus to be reached. Consensus means not that you or I always wins but that we reach agreement. Consensus means that conflict, difference of opinion, is resolved without physical harm to others or property. Consensus means that we accept the result, even though it may not be exactly what we may have wanted originally. 

These have been turbulent times for our country recently, times of violence and bloodshed. There have been polarizing events that have driven a wedge between friends and relatives. We are so accustomed to our freedoms here, and so fortunate to be able to utilize our first amendment rights, that we forget that - as the saying goes - the knife cuts both ways.

Just because I have a different opinion, or lifestyle, or heritage than you does not mean either of us is right or wrong. No, no, no! It means we are different. That is all. 

To ascribe to entire segments of our population motivation or intent based on the actions or words of a few (or even just ONE) is not fair, nor just.

To assume that if everyone does not follow your particular path, belief system or religion that they are wrong and you are right is not fair, or just.

Wars have been waged, won and lost, and the same problems still plague our society. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, families broken, the environment ravaged and the same problems still plague our society.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to look back at the Bill of Rights and how it came to be. Though the war was waged with England, it was not the bloodshed that was the triumph. The triumph was in the ability of a group of brave men to reach consensus through discourse, and implement the results. 

I keep writing, and saying, that we can be better, do better, as a people. So let me repeat, for emphasis:

We can be better, do better

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