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America is based on idea we aren’t subservient to kings. That doesn’t mean we are all kings.
PERSPECTIVE
declaration

Got a headache yet?

Do you find yourself flinching occasionally even though you thought you were used to the noise?

Or perhaps you worry the jarring noises you keep hearing will ignite a firestorm no one can control?

Don’t worry, right?

The frenzy of illegal fireworks launches will dissipate in a few days after reaching a crescendo on the Fourth of July.

But this isn’t about illegal fireworks.

It’s about the rapidly deteriorating state of public discourse whether it is on the national, state, or local level.

It has worsened in the last few weeks, fueled by Supreme Court rulings on issues running the gamut from abortion and guns to the degree government needs to walk the line keeping its tentacles out of religion.

We are only fooling ourselves if we think that public discourse in America over the three concepts we almost all universally in this country embrace — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — was ever a mellow debate.

It wasn’t from Day One.

And it will never be.

The reason is simple. If we don’t fight to keep the flickering flame of personal freedoms lit 246 years ago this Monday burning against the headwinds of history and tyranny, darkness will again descend.

Do not misunderstand.

The brightness we are talking about is not driven by following a specific deity, allegiance to a king, or submission to a tyrant.

Nor at its core is the absolute ability of an individual to do what they please given we are not living our lives isolated on a remote island,

With 329 million people in the  United States and 7.7 billion worldwide, we are woven into the fabric of civilization.

And the cloth a society weaves is only as strong as its thinnest point.

That means those we regulate to second-class status or even lower ultimately will rip apart the fabric that was sworn together.

The idea that individuals are not subservient to the government is what led to the founding of the United States if America.

Was it perfect out of the gate? Far from it.

The work in progress we call America is based on one indisputable fact.

Everyone can not be king.

That means we need to find the right mix of individual freedom and order needed to maintain a civilized society.

The concept is simple.

If one dare quote the Supreme Court is its clear why freedoms can’t be absolute given we have to interact with each other as well as be governed.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1917 wrote for a unanimous court in a ruling that found distributing flyers opposing the draft in World War I was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

Holmes wrote: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theatre and causing a panic . . .  The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

That in a nutshell sums up how this nation is supposed to work when it comes to the right mix of protecting and tempering individual rights.

First, you will notice it is no longer illegal to peacefully protest the draft whether it is by handing out flyers or in person.

Congress, in fulfilling the role and powers granted it in the constitution, has seen to that.

But the more important concept is the fact individual freedoms are not absolute.

Free speech isn’t absolute. You can indeed be held liable — criminally and otherwise — if you falsely yell “fire” in a  crowded theater and it causes a panic even if it doesn’t lead to injury or death.

The right to bear arms isn’t absolute. Congress and states have adopted laws that hold up in court that condition the right by banning ownership by convicted felons, restricting ownership below specific ages, and to keep them out of the hands of the mentally unbalanced among other reasons restrictions.

The freedom of religion isn’t absolute. One would not be able to practice a religion that requires human sacrifices.

How the constitution is applied keeps evolving because the world is evolving.

That doesn’t mean the basic foundation of rights spelled out in the constitution can somehow be wiped out completely.

Yes, the founders never envisioned a day when muskets would be replaced by AK-47s.

But they also did not see the day coming when horses would be replaced by 3,000-pound automobiles.

Stripping Americans of the right to travel because we can now go 700 miles in a day as opposed to 7 miles is a ludicrous concept.

Yet it is no more ludicrous than surgically removing the entire right to gun ownership on the assumption it was tied 100 percent to King George’s heirs possibly returning to America’s shores one day to retake the country by force and the United States not have a standing army.

People then — and now — had reasons to protect house and  family from the criminal element.

That lawmakers we elect have passed laws to elected changing times and judges they appoint have weighed them to make sure they don’t absolutely strip the people of their rights.

This is not a cut and dry process.

It never was.

And it never will be.

There will always be shouting, protests, and such. That is the way America has worked for 247 years.

And while some believe it has become more poisoned because of the party they are not a member of or if they are independents that political parties have destroyed reasonable debate, it isn’t the reason.

Read history. There have been truckloads of ill dumped by all party animals, political zealots, and those convinced  in their  own mind that they are the messiah so therefore what they believe is only what matters.

The progression of instantaneous media — radio, then TV, and now social media — to the point anyone can fill millions of screens in seconds with inflammatory, false, bigoted or self-serving messages has made public discourse these days as grating as illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July.

America is based on the idea we aren’t subservient to kings.

That doesn’t mean we are all kings.

Instead, we engage in give and take, pushback, heated debate and — heaven forbid — compromise to govern and therefore live together in one nation.

 

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com