Constitutional Rights, rant 1

If I hear one more person tell me that their first amendment rights are being some curtailed in some way because there were consequences for what they said in public by a private individual, I’m going to have to smack someone. Literally.

As a constitutional scholar, it’s frightening to me how little the general populace of this country knows about their Constitution. It’s only slightly less frightening than the number of people willing to ignore the parts of the Consitution they don’t agree with while raising the roof when about the ones they think are special.

I’d love to blame it on the public school system, but privately educated numbskulls don’t seem to understand it either.

The amendment most often misunderstood, improperly applied and incorrectlyl invoked is the first amendment…free speech in particular. To put it simply, in deference to those who don’t truly understand it, you have the right to freely express yourself through multiple mediums without any government reprisal, provided you don’t incite violence, participate in sedition, slander, reprint copy-written material, or violate a time/place/manner restriction (what they use for “free speech zones”). 

What you don’t have the right to do is express yourself on someone else’s private property unless they give you permission. You don’t have the right to unrestricted free speech as a minor. You also don’t have the right to be free from consequences where the general public is concerned.

You only have guaranteed freedom of expression with regards to the government. Not to private individuals or groups. Those individuals and groups have every right to try to make you shut up, revile you for your ideals, and even to sue you in some instances. They can stop doing business with you. They can fire you. They can refuse to hire you because of things you said in public they don’t agree with. All perfectly legally and without in any way abusing your rights.

The 9th Amendment to the US Constitution is also one of the most confusing, controversial and misunderstood amendments to the Constitution. It is also one of the least referred to amendments in decisions of the Supreme Court. This amendment reserves all rights not listed in the Constitution to the people.

What that means is, that if it isn’t specifically listed in the Constitution or its Amendments, then the federal government does not have the right. What it also means is that if it isn’t listed in the Constitution, then that right belongs to the states, and the people. 

So for example, you absolutely have the right to stick Cheese Whiz up your nose if that’s what you want to do, and the federal government can’t do a damn thing about it (other than, apparently, tax you to stop you). 

But…because that right is also left up to the states, they could make a law making it illegal to put Cheese Whiz up your nose, and they would not in any way be violating the constitution. 

There are 25 other Amendments to the Constitution. These Amendments either grant powers to the federal government that weren’t enumerated within the Constitution, or they place guarantees on rights held by the people so that they may not be curtailed by the states as well as by the federal government.

This document is the basis for everything we have guaranteed to us by law. The problem with people not understanding it, and not really caring that they don’t understand it, is that if you don’t understand your rights, you will lose them. Slowly…sometimes willfully, but most often just the actions of well meaning men and women doing what they think is right, and not taking a look at the overall effect of what they’re doing. 

Every government in history has followed the same pattern. They all move steadily towards tyranny, and then eventually collapse either in anarchy, as the victim of a nation with it’s shit together more, or a revolution. The only thing that holds that off is vigilance by the population holding their government accountable to the law.

Regardless of what many people think, rights are guaranteed solely by the consent of the populace. You may believe that God gave man certain basic rights, but they are only protected by the people and the government they allow to exist, and only exist if they are protected.


2 responses to “Constitutional Rights, rant 1

  1. I disagree with the “cheeze whiz” argument. Ostensibly the State could make legislation that you can’t put Cheeze whiz up your nose, but that legislation, if challenged would most likely be struck down as unconstitutional given our first amendment right to freedom of expression.

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