Saturday, November 6, 2010

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

I've always told Justin that I think he would make a good politician.  He's got a huge knowledge base about world events, is a voracious reader when it comes to politics, is firm in his convictions and beliefs, and is actually honest.  Hm...maybe that wouldn't make for a great politician, since it seems that most of our elected officials these days make all kinds of promises to actually get into office and then, once elected, forget about what their constituents put them there to do in the first place.  Honesty and politics may be an oxymoron.

I voted last Tuesday, as is my privileged right as an American citizen, and I take that right very seriously.  My oldest son voted for the first time as well.  I saw an article in the little local paper today that talked about how, when younger kids came out of the polls with their parents, they seemed to have "voted" along their parents' party lines.  I've always encouraged my kids, when they are old enough to vote, to vote for the person they think is most qualified for the job instead of blindly following what their mom and dad think.  Ben was proud of the fact that he was able to finally take part in this civic privilege and I was proud of him for thinking it was important.  How he voted was between him and the voting booth.

Justin worked as a volunteer at the polls  Tuesday morning, in favor of Virginia's much beloved Congressman, Frank Wolf.  Representative Wolf has made a political career out of fighting for the rights of the Virginians he loves so much, as well as trying to work both sides of the aisle to come to agreeable compromises.  He is involved in legislation for children with special needs and takes a special interest in autism research and the care and early intervention of autistic children - all of which make me think he's still the best man for the job, even after just being elected to his 16th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Obviously, at least one of his causes is near and dear to my heart.

When I arrived at the polls on Tuesday, Justin had in hand a handout made by the Apple Blossom Tea Party movement, which he, in turn, handed to me.  It turned out to be an exact replica of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  I don't care who you voted for, those are two of the best documents ever written and they were written by people who understood that they might face persecution or even execution for daring to go against King George and having the audacity to form the government of the United States.  These were very brave men in a very turbulent time.

I admire the guts it must have taken to break off from England and declare themselves a separate entity.  These documents were voted into being by a small group of revoluntionaries who knew their asses were on the line, but chose to follow their consciences and do what they knew was right.  So I thought the least I could do was review my U.S. Government (from a distance of many years between me and the twelfth grade) and give the brochure a good read.  After all, I don't really keep up with politics the way Justin does and it's always a good thing to know exactly upon which principles your government was founded.

The Declaration of Independence is a document that gives me chills when I read it.  The Constitution is a little more dry, but the amendments kind of make it for me.  There are certain, guaranteed rights that we, as citizens of the United States have that just aren't available to people in other countries.  Look at what happened to those hikers who accidentally got caught on the wrong side of the Iranian border.  Clearly not political dissidents or terrorists, the two young men are still being held in an Iranian prison with no charges or trial in sight and not knowing what is going to happen to them.  Americans everywhere are in danger when we leave our country and are at the mercy of governments who don't believe in individual rights and freedoms.

I wouldn't consider myself a "tea partier" by any means.  If I had to define myself politically, I'd probably say I'm a Republican, but one who leans way more towards the middle than to the extremes our government seems to lean at any given moment.  Can I be a Republican who believes in woman's right to choose (in certain situations - never as a means of birth control), gay marriage, and that religion is not the answer to world's problems?  In fact, I would propose that organized religion is probably at the root of some of the most horrific bloodshed in history.  Just look at the Ancient Romans or the the concept of Jihad.  How can a religion that preaches peace participate in the killing of innocent people simply because of their beliefs?

But I started this history dissertation with a point and my point is this.  Under our Constitution, we are guaranteed certain rights and the ones that are most pertinent to individuals seem to fall under the amendments.  Although I would have to say I'm a fan of them all, I particularly like the First Amendment.  Since I'm lousy at paraphrasing, I'll quote it here:

"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."  (Bold and italics, mine)"

Meaning that if the government (or an individual) offends me, I have the inalienable right to offend them back and not be thrown into prison for doing it.

Most people who know me know that I have a pretty high tolerance before becoming offended.  I try to look at things from other people's points of view and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Unfortunately, most people are not even slightly self-aware and often give offense, either without meaning to, or in a deliberate fashion.  I call deliberate offensiveness "going back to junior high school," because when you go seriously out of your way to offend someone, aren't you really just resorting to your childhood days of immaturity?  I can take a lot of crap before snapping, but eventually, I'm going to get there.

I'm also a big fan of the nineteenth amendment, giving me the right to have a say in this nation's politics and the right to bitch if I don't like what the government is doing.  Which again leads back to the first amendment, which, in turn, allows me bitching rights without fear of being thrown into jail.

The rights of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi party to spout their hateful rhetoric with police protection never cease to amaze me.  Clearly, their message is awful, but still they have the right to believe and say whatever they want.  These rights have been upheld time and again by the Supreme Court.

Say what you will about America, about the government, about the "tea partiers," the leftist extremists, the country's leaning towards socialism by our current Commander in Chief.  I may not respect his viewpoint, but I certainly respect his right to have it and I have to grudgingly admire the fact that he's trying to get things done, whether I agree with his agenda or not.

Another line that I hold near and dear to my heart:  "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."  Of course, we have created certain laws since the publication of the Declaration of Independence that say if you do certain horrendous things, like putting a child who is a cancer survivor into a wood chipper or killing your pregnant wife and throwing her body into a lake to avoid detection, you are going to lose at least your liberty and pursuit of happiness.  But, in general, the right to speak our minds remains, in my mind, my own inalienable right and I reserve the right to say what I think without fear of retribution.

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