Many years ago a little document called The Declaration of Independence was written. Inside of this document was a small passage:
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Life, Liberty and Happiness – doesn’t sound too hard to maintain does it? In fact it looks pretty simple. Many years ago it was.
I’m not the first guy in the world to take notice of the happenings of these three words. In fact, several other bloggers have written at great length about it. N.Z. Bear, Common Dreams, Spare Change, Getting Elected Blogline, Dust in the Light, Meyerweb, MVRWC, RealFake, Democratic Wings, The Fat Guy, Laugh at Liberals, Freespace and others have all written about it. Heck, there’s even a blog with the name LiLpoH (abbreviated out). For many it is a piece of history that should exact an effect in every life as an American.
Over time this cornerstone on which the United States of America was founded on has slowly been eroded from the hearts and minds of Americans. Today there are just too many caveats to the statement. It appears that over time we have lost our way. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems when you subject it to the scrutiny of the law.
For words so impacting on our society you could imagine that these words are written in several documents that have guided this country. That’s where you’d be wrong. Both the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the documents that make up our laws make no mention of the phrase. The closest we can come is section one of the XIV amendment in the bill of rights:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Okay, that’s close to what we’re looking for; Life, Liberty and Property; but it’s not the whole deal. Happiness doesn’t seem to play into law.
That’s exactly what has been happening though. Through the use of law these unalienable rights appear to be slipping away and eroding right before our very eyes. These words have become watered down versions of themselves with no more potency than a near beer. They still contain the flavor of content, but no ability to effect change or guide policy. Allow me to explain in detail:
Everyone has the right to life. Everyone is “endowed by their Creator” with the unalienable right to life. This quandary is quite possibly the simplest to define if not for the two opposing sides in this battle.
Does a murderer have a right to life? Much data has been gathered about the death penalty and most of it indicates that it does nothing to rehabilitate or discourage any future crime. Many times it has proven to end the life of an innocent. The only function it serves faithfully is to end the life of someone that has been deemed unable to be rehabilitated, or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be for. Many courts have used if for “an eye for an eye” decisions that would make the grieving family of the victim(s) feel better but do nothing else. Is this really showing your right to life appropriately?
Does a fetus have a right to life? Where does one’s blob of cytoplasm end and life begin? How long will we keep fooling ourselves into believing that it’s okay to end this life, or potential life, so long as it hasn’t taken its first breath? It has been proven that a fetus has nerve endings and can feel by the end of the first trimester. Is this considered life? Is this considered a living, feeling human being or still no better than a dog or other household pet as some would lead you to believe?
Many people will argue that it is choice and therefore protected by the next two words: Liberty and Happiness. There’s a reason that the word LIFE was put first. It’s the word we should most cherish. It’s the one we should give the most consideration above all else. “Choice above all” infringes on others unalienable rights to all three.
This is where things can get a little confusing. What is liberty? Is liberty the freedom to to whatever the heck you want or does it have to be within reason? Where do these rights come from? How can I protect my liberties?
Right now we have a good example of diminishing liberties. It’s called the Patriot Act. Some say it is a necessity if we are to maintain security in the United States. Others believe it’s a rehash of the McCarthy act. Although we haven’t had the hysteria related to McCarthyism it has drawn national attention to what powers our government actually holds over us. How much control is too much? Where is our happy medium between security and liberty?
The other piece I’d like to put in here has to do with state’s rights vs. federal rights. Again, this is a gray area that really should not be. This used to be clearly defined in the past as anything that crosses the border from one state to another gets covered under federal rights, while anything within a state is classified under state law. That all changed when some asshat judge decided it would be cool to give federal control over in-state issues. Now I sit wondering why we even have states anymore. Why not just give all of the power to the government and take it out of the hands of the individual states? Who needs the local government anyway? We should all have big brothers hand controlling every aspect of our lives. Can you see my cynicism in this?
There is a reason for states rights and for the maintenance thereof. By allowing the federal legislation to intermingle with that of a state’s you have effectively taken away the liberties that each state enjoys. It’s no better than centralized communism.
To be more correct, “The pursuit of happiness. This is one of those perception issues. This is also where I’m probably going to get into the most trouble. So, where does happiness come from? Does it come from intrinsic or extrinsic things? In other words, is happiness something you can buy and touch or is it something on the inside?
I would suggest that it is both of these. Happiness can be derived from both your physical pleasure sensors and how you feel about things. So, what can I make from this that might torque people?
Here’s a list of controversial “feeling” pleasures:
Now here’s a list of controversial “feel good” pleasures:
Yes, I know some of you may not be happy that I lumped holiness with the other controversial feelings but I shall explain. Many people have a problem with those that speak and feel of religious feeling. It makes them uncomfortable for some reason as as such people try to turn the tables by banning religion, just like people try to get of lust, vindictiveness and malice. They are all controversial items of Happiness.
To dig this pit a bit deeper, I have a hard time seeing how anything listed above should be disallowed. What? How could I say that we should let people shoot up on the streets? Should we have prostitutes on every corner now? What’s up with that?
Okay, let me explain. As long as there is no infringement of anyone else’s unalienable rights why should it be any of our businesses what you do in the privacy of your own home. That’s the trick: in the privacy of your own home. Many of the things noted above are considered adult behavior. Subjecting minors, heck, anybody to questionable adult practices is an infringement upon someone else’s rights.
That doesn’t answer the question of sustainability though. I’m talking about those people that will become addicted to THC, barbiturates, uppers, downers, etc. If we are to open these facilities up to general population it should come at the cost of adequate facilities to rehabilitate those that gain problems. Most people call these sin taxes and they have frequently been funneled away from the programs they were intended for to pay for Congressman Bob’s pet project. The money paid in by the tobacco giants never met the needs of a single smoker. Bob got it all.
I’m sure you can find many more examples of how these three little words have been tried and twisted to suit the needs of today. You can see it in most every piece of major law you find. It always breaks down to a bunch of rhetoric and doesn’t really pay attention to why we founded this country: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.