Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Spirit of America

I've said before in this blog how much I appreciate and respect my Dad. He's a great guy! After serving 20 years in the Air Force, he retired and took a job as the Chief of Police in a small South Dakota town. (Once he used his police car lights to pull over his eldest child--me--as I rode my 10-speed bike down one of the town's main roads. At the time, this 17-year old girl wanted to die of embarrassment, and just knew she was the victim of police harassment. He just laughed and thought it was a huge joke. Now I agree . . . and my kids wonder where I get it from.) Anyway, in 1976, the local small-town paper published the following essay my Dad wrote to celebrate the Bicentennial. Funny how something written 22 years ago still resonates . . .

The Spirit of America

During this Bicentennial year, the people of this country have been hearing vast amounts of praise about our ancestors and how they, through their infinite wisdom, made our nation what it is today. Although our forefathers did initiate this system, I feel that it has been a continuing process on the part of all Americans that has made our country the bulwark of freedom that we now enjoy. The fundamental philosophy of the individual freedoms we now take for granted was not an instant process but rather one that has evolved over the past 200 years.

While it is true that our country’s basic documents, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, spelled out what was desired in the area of personal freedoms, it took many years of constant refinement and hard work by legislators, judges, scholars, and others to make the system truly work. Even today, our judiciary and legislators are still refining portions of the interpretation of the Constitution by judicial opinion and legislative actions. This function is meant to constantly improve the system of personal freedoms that was first declared by our country’s founders.

The people of our nation enjoy more personal freedoms than any other country in the world. Basic freedoms that we take for granted could never even be envisioned in most other lands. A limited comparison will clarify my point.

This country employs no system of mandatory identification or identity cards, producible on demand by any public official. We need no travel permit to go to Rapid City, Chicago, or New York – stamped and validated along every stop. We have no barricaded borders between states, no concertina wire, or no checkpoints to track our travel. We can buy merchandise of our choosing from a retail outlet of our choice, based solely on our individual economic status, without a ration card or official permission. We do not have to wait weeks, months, or yes, even years for basic items such as refrigerators or automobiles.

We have no system of Secret Police to track and report our every move. Electronic eavesdropping or an encouraged system of “Neighbor Watching” is not our national policy. We are not guilty until proven innocent in our system of justice. We have safety in the confines of our home, never fearing a knock on the door, only to be taken away on a trumped-up charge and jailed without a public trial.

We can openly and without fear of retribution, criticize our leadership at every level. We can agree, disagree, or publicly comment on policies or procedures under which we live. If we dislike a program – local, state or federal, we can collectively change it through a ballot box or referendum. We can vote for our leadership without fear of retribution or retaliation.

We have guaranteed freedom of religion, free from any form of religious prosecution, contrary to systems in many other countries. We also have the right to protect our lawfully owned personal property, free from debtor’s court without due process of law. We are protected in our persona, property and beliefs by the consensus of the people, following the dictated rights as set down by our framers of the Constitution.

Yes, we do have laws, ordinances, and restrictions. We, as individuals, must conform to a set of rules. It could never be any other way. What makes our system unique is that those people, who formulated our nation, gave us the legacy of personal and individual dignity. Each person, no better or no worse than his neighbor, has the right to be treated equally under the law. Our rule book, the Constitution along with the Bill of Rights, guarantees each of us a fair shake anywhere and anytime. Freedom of choice, expression and dignity, so easily assumed, are basic to our way of life.

Yet for all of our basic guaranteed freedoms, we still have those who question our system or attempt to circumvent its meaning. Those people have the right, as we all do, to express their desires as long as they do so with within the law. Those that break the law, for whatever reason, must pay the penalty. Some seem to forget that respect for others, their property and person, must not be violated.

Let us reflect from time to time on our basic freedoms. We have a wonderful time-tested system, proven capable of working over the past 200 years. Let us change it only for the better, never taking away or detracting from what our heritage has given us. Take time to read our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and really feel how fortunate we are to live in the United States of America.

1 comment:

Autny2 said...

Our Dad, shows he is a true patriot and his integrity and wisdom shows through in his every act (not only in raising, highly intellegent, tallented children, LOL)
Dad, if you didn't know already, you are now, and have always been, my hero. You are a great father, grand-father and (of course) great-grand-father. I am proud to call myself your daughter.