The purpose of the Constitutional Convention was to establish the concept that government must protect individual rights, and that government must consent to a limited role. And collectively, the citizens must consent to laws and regulations by which they are bound.
I just returned from a national board meeting wherein an African-American board member and a Native American board member explained to me, advocating that the Constitution protects the rights of all citizens and races of people is problematic in that you have to explain certain milestones in history. Specifically, the question is: how did freedom, protected by the Constitution, work out for certain minorities at certain times in our history?
“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.” Thomas Jefferson believed that individual rights came from a Creator. I agree. He also believed that individual rights were natural rights, meaning that, regardless of intelligence, ability, or race, we each and everyone have equal natural rights.
The citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, are experiencing great social conflict because society in its entirety does not trust that their natural rights are being protected. If one group of people exercises power over another without that group’s consent, then human dignity is diminished. The reality is that there is no overt effort by one group of citizens to oppress another group of citizens in Ferguson. Yet there is a frustration in the application of due process of law.
It is necessary that we recognize that the system at times may not, by and within itself, produce a fair and just standard. The conversation necessary must go all the way back to the birth of our nation. Our Founding Fathers’ efforts were to seek the reconciliation created in trust that we are all equal in our natural rights. We learn from our mistakes, and then determine how to proceed. What is critical to this conversation is that we recognize every individual has individual rights endowed by their Creator that are unalienable and, rather than argue about how to protect our individual personal liberty, we must start with how to protect our fellow citizens’ liberty first.
The Constitution is the right idea and the right document. Learning from our mistakes and thinking through better applications are the answer. Respecting the fact that our individual rights are no greater than anyone else’s individual rights, and truly committing ourselves to protecting our fellow citizens’ rights is the foundational element of advancing human dignity.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that our natural rights came from the Creator and are eternal rather than having been established from the premise of a cold and impersonal universe. I am thankful for our Founding Fathers, our country, our Constitution, and our opportunity together to advance human dignity.
My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.
What do you believe?